Hello, FIRST community! While there may be a variety of ages reading this issue, this article is aimed at those who will be graduating high school in the upcoming years! One major question you may have about the post-secondary application process likely involves scholarships. Multiple FIRST Canada youth council members have won major scholarships to help finance their education. Below is the advice of Armaan S., a youth council alumni who won the McMaster, Western, and UofT Schulich Leader Scholarship, McMaster FIRST Scholarship, and Waterloo Colonel Hugh Heasley Engineering Scholarship.
How did you tackle writing scholarship applications? Did you have a certain process for essays, short answer questions, etc.?
First, I would list out every topic and idea I wanted to convey that was a good fit for the question and that I had not covered before in other responses. Then I would begin freely writing without considering a word count limitation or even what is most pertinent to the topic. Later I would come back and remove irrelevant sections and work on reducing the word count such that only the best material remained.
If there were interviews involved in your application process, how did you prepare for them?
All the university interviews I attended were on Kira Talent. Through this platform, they gave you practice interview questions, some universities like McMaster had several practice questions while others would repeat from a smaller batch. Just repeatedly practicing with my parents in the room to listen and give me feedback is how I slowly improved. In particular, for the UofT interview, I looked at questions that students had gotten in the past and knew there would be a “thinking” question. So I looked at what kinds of thinking questions past students had gotten and created a process for tackling those questions.
What was your best resource for finding out about different scholarships?
I used a service called GrantMe. GrantMe allowed me to fill in preliminary information about myself and automatically sorted and compiled a list of relevant scholarships to me. It then also gave me easy access to information about the application process/requirements for each scholarship and access to apply. I can tell you right now the majority of the money you will likely receive will come from entrance scholarships which you will automatically be entered for (in most cases) based on your grades and application. Other than that, the three large scholarships I am aware of in Canada are the Schulich Leader Scholarship, the Loran Scholarship, and the TD Scholarship. Besides those, however, there are 100s of other smaller scholarships <$2000 that you can and should apply for.
What did you focus on highlighting in your applications?
I highlighted my leadership positions in 3 major clubs (FRC, FTC, and a student government body). I also highlighted my volunteer and work experience, primarily within FIRST. While I had other experiences and clubs, I chose to focus on only a few where I had a significant contribution in the often very limited space you are given to write about them in essays. Additionally, I talked more about what I did in these organizations/clubs rather than what the club did themselves.
Any last advice?
University scholarship applications can often be very stressful. However, especially when it comes to university applications, getting into a prestigious/competitive university is nothing more than flex, and the true determining factor for success is your own personal aptitude. Certain individuals strive in a big pond as a small fish, others vice versa, think about the factors that are important for you to become successful past postsecondary, like student culture, university culture, co-op opportunities, clubs, financial support, etc.…