How to find and apply to scholarships

excited student sitting in front of laptop with hands in the air
Lindsay Written by Lindsay (she/her), student

Worried about tuition costs? We’ve got you covered! Scholarships are a great way to help pay for your education.

Most universities will offer scholarships for new students as well as for students who are already studying there. At Waterloo, we offer a variety of entrance scholarships for students entering their first year of full-time studies. Students applying to any program will automatically be considered for several scholarships, using your admissions average to determine the amount of funding you’re eligible for.

University of Waterloo databases

University can be expensive but receiving my entrance scholarship in first year helped relieve some stress. The best part was I didn’t need to submit any applications, I was automatically eligible!

You can find entrance scholarships and awards available to Waterloo students using the entrance awards database. This database allows you to filter the results based on award type, program, citizenship, and whether or not an application is required. I wish I had found this database when I was beginning first year as I never realized how many scholarships are available to students!

Once you’re enrolled at Waterloo, the undergraduate awards database is a great place to look. There are numerous awards within this searchable database covering a range of criteria, including ones based on athletics, financial need, volunteer participation, and leadership. Many require an application, while others do not. Regardless, this is a great resource for scholarships and awards. Be sure to search this database frequently throughout your time at Waterloo, particularly in your upper years. is a great website that has over 99,000 awards listed! You can sign up to find scholarships that match your profile and save your info to the dashboard. Some scholarships require an application and may require you to submit an essay, responses to a set of questions, a reference, or transcripts.

Some scholarships have specific criteria, such as field of study or activity involvement needed, in order to be eligible. These scholarships range in value from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, with one of their featured scholarships, called the TD Scholarships for Community Leadership, awarding $70,000 over four years!

Dollar bills in a jean pocket.

Ontario Universities’ Info

The Ontario Universities’ Info website is another great resource that allows you to filter scholarships by university, name, amount, and deadline. Waterloo lists many scholarships on this site, including those for first-year and upper-year students.

When I co-registered with St. Jerome’s University (SJU), it was awesome to know that not only would SJU give me access to scholarships exclusive to them, but also that I could still apply to scholarships and bursaries offered by the University of Waterloo!

Diane, Student

Part-time jobs and parental employers

If you have a job, your employer or your parent/guardian’s employer may offer scholarships that you can apply to! For example, McDonald’s has a scholarship program offered to help support employees paying for their education. Ask your employer to see if any of these opportunities are available and check with your parents/guardians to see if their companies offer scholarships.

Coins spilling out of a jar.

Tips for applying to scholarships

The early bird gets the worm

Deadlines for scholarships vary so it’s important that you begin your search early and set reminders for key deadlines. Starting early ensures you have enough time to complete your application and any additional components needed, like an essay.

You may also need personal or professional references so it’s important to ask these people in advance to give them enough time to write you a reference letter.

Treat it like a job

With so many scholarships available, it can take time to find and complete applications. It can be helpful to set aside time each week to ensure you don’t miss deadlines and that you don’t leave applications to the last minute.

“In high school, I treated scholarships like a part time job. Every weekend I would pick a different scholarship to apply to and it really paid off for me. I ended up being able to fund my first year of university because of it!” – Erin, student


Submit your Waterloo AIF

At Waterloo, some programs require you to complete Admission Information Form (AIF) in order to be considered for scholarships. Even if it's not required, the AIF is highly recommended for all Waterloo programs. The AIF gives you an opportunity to share information about yourself and can be used for scholarship decisions. Completing my AIF allowed me to share information about the various extracurricular activities I was involved in both inside and outside of school such as competitive dance, school councils, and cross-country running.

It was also helpful that I tracked all of my extracurricular activities to ensure I didn’t forget any on my AIF!

Working on a laptop.

Research, research, research

It’s important to spend time researching scholarships that are available to you. With so many scholarships out there, it can be easy to miss ones that would be a great fit for you. I wish I had spent more time researching scholarships when I was going into first year as I didn’t realize how many scholarships I qualified for until I started university.

Edit your application

Your scholarship application may require an essay or response to questions and it’s important to make sure that you edit it carefully before submitting it. You may even want to have a second pair of eyes read it over, such as a parent, teacher, or guidance counsellor, before submitting to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Although finding and applying to scholarships may seem intimidating and time consuming, it’s worth the time and energy spent when it relieves some stress about how you are going to pay for your education.

Follow these tips to help you start finding and applying to scholarships! And remember, always start early. Good luck!