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The ins and outs of international student scholarships

For international students considering attending a Canadian university, the possibility of scholarship money is just one more reason to head abroad.

Take, for example, the University of Windsor – a popular Ontario school that offers a range of scholarships tailored specifically for international students. Though none of the awards come close to offering a ‘full ride’ (a 100 per cent scholarship), they can certainly help to cover some of expenses involved with studying abroad – aiding in the purchase of text books, for example, or helping to keep living expenses down. And as Windsor’s International Student Centre director, Kim Moore, explains, there is no “secret key” to getting them – just study hard, and keep up your grades. Other than that, the process is pretty straightforward.

“First,” Moore explains, “the student must be registered full-time, and coming to the University of Windsor directly from secondary school. Although transfer students are not considered for entrance-specific scholarships, all our students can be considered for in-program scholarships and bursaries once they have completed their first full semester. Apart from that criterion, our scholarships are awarded solely on official academic results.”

Although each Canadian university varies in the scholarship types and amounts it offers, Windsor is a good example of what is possible. So, to get a better idea, here are a few examples of the scholarships available for international University of Windsor applicants – along with some of the specific grade point requirements. Please note that all monetary amounts are listed in Canadian dollars.

$4,000 renewable entrance award
for international students

These University of Windsor renewable entrance awards are valued at $4,000 ($500 x 8 terms) and are available to international students entering first year of any program. As they are ‘assigned’ awards, qualified students will be notified before their studies begin.

$8,000 renewable entrance award for international
students in business administration

These awards are spread out over 8 terms, and valued at $1,000 per term for eligible students.

International Entrance Scholarships

These scholarships are awarded at different levels, based solely on academic achievement shown by incoming international students:

• $1,000 for students with an admit cumulative average of 80 to 89.9 per cent.
• $2,000 for students with an admit cumulative average of 90 to 94.9 per cent.
• $3,000 for students with an admit cumulative average of 95 per cent and above

Additionally, there are a number of special awards equally applicable to international students, including a $1,000 scholarship for women in engineering (a special award with no specific admit average required), and the outstanding scholar award, which requires the recipient student to maintain an 11.0 cumulative average at the end of the semester. More details on this second award can be found at www.uwindsor.ca/outstandingscholars/award-amount.

But it’s not just universities themselves where international hopefuls can look for scholarship opportunities. If you’re eager to scope out what else is available, be sure to do an internet search, and particularly focus on scholarships awarded by private foundations (such as a Fulbright or Rotary International scholarship), as well as government bodies present in both the host country, and in your own (examples being the British Council and your own Department of Education). Wherever you look, just be careful to first check the eligibility requirements – many awards have quite specific restrictions when it comes to nationality, course, and age.

Before you get too busy looking up the different sources for scholarships, however, here are a few more general tips, just to keep in mind and help you through the process:

1. It’s not going to cover everything. This one is important. For the most part, international university scholarships are generally awarded in quite small amounts – to help cut the costs, not cover them completely. So, while that rare, ever-illusive ‘full ride’ award does technically exist (somewhere out there!), keep your expectations realistic – and realize that even ‘full ride’ awards don’t actually cover everything. You’ll still need money for your flights, visa, food, books, living expenses, and ‘fun’ student experiences. So, repeat after me – don’t expect to study for free. That said…

2. Every little bit helps. Even if a grant seems small, it’s still worth taking the time to apply. After all – it’s free money! And each award equals one less thing you have to worry about paying for once you arrive in country. So, based on that piece of advice…

3. Apply for as many awards as you can. Sure, it takes time – but the more awards you apply for, the higher the chances are that you’ll see some benefits! So write out a list of all the scholarships you’re eligible for, along with the deadlines, and double-check that you have all the correct documents ready ahead of time. Also keep in mind that each scholarship has its own, unique application procedure, so be sure to get as much information as possible. Write, call, or e-mail the provider of the scholarship to ensure you have full, up-to-date details on what will be expected of the successful applicant. If the scholarship entails a particular project, find out its full objectives and intended methodology. And if the award is being granted by a private organization, gather as much information as you can about the company or enterprise, paying particular attention to its philosophy and goals. Keep in mind – you can never have too much information, and a well thoughtout, tailored application makes the best impression.

4. Avoid scholarship scams! Each year, hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of students and parents are caught out by scholarship scams. To avoid this happening to you, never pay for a scholarship search. All the information you need should be available to you for free, and you should never have to pay a fee to apply for a scholarship. There is also no such thing as a ‘guaranteed scholarship’ – so avoid any company or agent who tells you otherwise. Unfortunately, there are some dodgy individuals who just take students’ money and disappear – but don’t let this happen to you!

5. And finally – be confident! Don’t be shy to show off. Although there is something called over-doing it, you shouldn’t hesitate to include important experiences and/or talents in your application. Particularly try to focus on anything that will make you seem more ‘human’ or ‘personal’ to the judges (instead of just another piece of paper on the pile in front of them). This might entail some special research or volunteer experience you’ve had, or even some scientific interests that you’ve followed up with in your free time. This doesn’t, however, mean that you should write a five page CV when a two page one would suffice. The main thing to remember in balancing the fine line between ‘showing off’ and ‘overkill’ is simply to keep in mind that the key is quality, not quantity.
– Arwen Kidd

• Arwen Kidd currently serves as Communications Director for the Canadian University Application Centre and its parent organization, Higher-Edge. A Canadian university graduate herself, Arwen has spent most of the past five years working and travelling overseas. Among her credits are various documentary film and photo journalism projects in Eastern Europe, Australia and West Africa. Arwen is currently based in Liberia.

Posted: Apr 2, 2012

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