“Show me the money!” – scholarship competition season

Funding your graduate education

To say that applying for a major scholarship is a team effort would be a definite understatement! Granted (no pun intended), it is your credentials, accomplishments and potential that are being evaluated when your application is reviewed but getting it to the point where it is ready for committees to evaluate requires a combination of efforts. The team includes you, your department co-ordinator and graduate officer/associate chair, your supervisor, referees and staff in Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA). In this blog post, I’ll go through specifically what the GSPA awards program team does to support and manage the scholarship competitions – giving you a bit of a behind-the-scenes peak into the process.

Starting in June, the awards team launches the major graduate scholarship competitions through various communication channels (emails, e-news, website updates). Since the major external graduate scholarships do not all have harmonized application requirements or processes, our scholarship program experts need to interpret agency memos and websites and in turn translate that into internal Waterloo websites, timelines and instructions for potential applicants and administrators. Our goal is to ensure that you have the resources and instructions needed in a clearly laid out format that also includes detailed timelines, so you know at any point, what stage your application is at (and to provide you with assurance that it hasn’t gotten lost in the cosmos!).

We know that applying for scholarships, especially if it’s your first time, can be daunting – navigating acronyms (CGS MSFSS (Canada Graduate Scholarships – Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplements) – try saying that 5 times really fast!), jargon, application portals, CCVs ((Canadian Common CV) (oops, there’s another acronym)), referees (no, we’re not playing hockey), research statements, deadlines (institutional vs agency). It’s overwhelming, right? Rest assured – our team is on standby to provide assistance. Our team coordinates and provides access to supportive resources that include webinars where you can hear from academics who share their tips for putting together strong research proposals and picking the best academic references, live chats where you can ask your administrative application questions, and also access to experts in the Writing and Communication Centre who can provide pointers for writing a strong research proposal.

In order to determine which applications get forwarded to the next stage, your application may go through several rigorous cycles of review – peer review, department and faculty review and finally institutional committee review – all before even a select number are either offered a scholarship or get forwarded on for national level adjudication. If your application has been selected to forward to the national level (congrats on making it this far!) and there’s feedback from our committee to pass along, we’ll be sure to do that to improve your chances for success; we’ll release your application back to you, set new deadlines for you to resubmit and answer questions along the way.

So, although it may seem overwhelming, remember you have a team behind you who is cheering you on and happy to help. We encourage you to check out these prestigious competitions and, if you’re eligible, submit an application! You never know – you could be successful, and it’ll look great to have something else to boast about on your CV!