On the fence about deciding whether to apply for scholarships? The answer is YES, do it! It’s a win-win situation, and here’s why.
Of course, best-case scenario, you win scholarships and get money. The worst-case scenario is you don’t, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t get anything out of it.
Applying for scholarships is a great opportunity to develop self-awareness, which is something that’s beneficial, no matter what. One thing that the scholarship process really gave me was a solid skill base in applying for jobs. It taught me how to sell myself, which helps in interviews, elevator pitches, and even in the hidden job market.
First, I’d like to make clear that once you spend time writing a good essay for your first application, you can use the same essay with some minor tailoring for the rest of your applications. Which means every application will get better, faster, and easier.
When applying, I personally had a very unique and different situation. I learned about scholarships pretty early as I won the Andra Tacaks U of T Scholarship for 20K through Big Brothers Big Sisters at the start of high school. After winning that one, I went cold turkey on scholarships for a little too long. I was in all sciences through high school and then I realized, in the end, it wasn’t for me. When I got involved in the firefighting community, I decided that’s what I wanted to do, so after grade 12, instead of going to university, I enrolled in a 1-year intensive Firefighting program at a college.
I then took the year off to work and earn money for university in the following year. My circumstances actually limited my eligibility for many scholarships because I was out of high school, I already had a year of post-secondary education, and I wasn’t a current student at any institution. So if I can win scholarships, anyone can.
Therefore, if you are in high school, you will have maximum opportunity, and if you’re in the state I was in, it is still very possible to win scholarships! Side note: I applied for undergraduate scholarships, which are the most abundant. But there are still many scholarships in all years all the way up to graduate and doctorate scholarships.
I decided to apply for scholarships because I knew I had the potential to become something great. This does not mean that you have to be perfect, because I am far from that, but you must realize that your imperfections are part of the necessary ingredients that make you special, authentic and a great candidate. So never think that you aren’t good enough to apply. Your journey is your own and it’s never a bad time to start your process no matter where you are in life.
What does it take to have success with scholarships? Passion in every aspect of your life. Which will also be the activities you will include in your application. Of course, I could say hard work, but if you’re passionate about something, that will ultimately come with a good work-ethic without it feeling like “hard work”. It’s important to try to enjoy as much of your journey as possible, so find something you love to do that will also make you look good on paper which could be a myriad of things. Passion is the perfect word because it entails commitment, drive, authenticity, and emotional integrity which are all key to show in your scholarship applications.
Volunteering at my local mission through high school until now, starting a clothing company and integrating it into the non-profit sector, starting an inaugural college Firefit team and becoming a member of the Canadian Armed Forces all in one year sounds like a big sacrifice to others, but it didn’t feel like that to me because I was enjoying what I was doing.
Even if you feel like you are committing to something that doesn’t seem enjoyable but you know it’s what it takes to get you to where you want to be, understand that the path of what could feel like “suffering” is also the same path of fulfillment, growth, and achievement. In other words, put in a little extra work now to save you from a load of work in the future.
My mindset was always that I could suffer now and put in the work, so that in the future I wouldn’t suffer the regret of not pushing myself. Would you rather live a life of “oh wells” or “what ifs?”
Personally, when I hear other candidates applying for the same jobs, or in this case the same scholarships, I tend to get very anxious or discouraged when I see everything someone else has done. You might feel the same way and feel that you can’t compete. But you have to remember the biggest competition is with YOURSELF! You have to look within and see all your positive and negative traits and exploit them and you’ll be surprised at the results you’ll manifest and the potential that you can bring out in yourself, and probably others along the way.
There are also companies and people that can help you. Programs like GrantMe and Scholarships Canada that save you time by assisting you narrow down scholarships that suit your situation. And companies like HigherEdPoints that can help you save money by using friends’ and family’s loyalty points to pay your tuition and repay student loans.
Having support from a community that is also going through or has gone through what you are pursuing is a valuable asset, so ask for help. That being said, it really does come down to you. If you stayed to read to the end of this article you’re probably the type of person who is ambitious about these types of things. Recognize what needs to be done and execute it to the best of your ability. Nobody wants it more or knows yourself more than you.
Back to what I said earlier: stop gazing at others and start looking within. You do have a lot of support from programs, friends, family, whoever it may be. But they’re also the same people who are watching and waiting for you. You can look beside you all you want but it’s only you that can win your battle. People will be willing to help you and drop everything to support you if you show that you’re tenacious enough. This is a theme here, and a theme for scholarship committees, and a theme everywhere. They will help you if you can show you are tenacious at working towards something.
So sometimes you gotta shut yourself into a room of focus in the department of discipline, to open the door of opportunity.
Wing Tse is happy to connect with students looking for support in their own journey. He can be reached these ways: