Tri-Agency (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarships Master's (CGS M)

Information on this page is subject to change pending updates from the Tri-Agencies.

This web page relates to the fall 2019 Tri-Agency Canada Graduate Scholarship Master’s (CGS M) competition and the University of Waterloo’s internal administration of the program.

Scholarship overview

The objective of the Canada Graduate Scholarships Master’s (CGS M) Program is to help develop research skills and assist in the training of highly qualified personnel by supporting students who demonstrate a high standard of achievement in undergraduate and early graduate studies.

The CGS M scholarship provides non-renewable financial support of $17,500 paid across three full-time academic terms to high-caliber scholars who are engaged in eligible master’s or, in some cases, doctoral programs in Canada. Recipients of the CGS M who choose to hold their award at Waterloo are also eligible to receive the President’s Graduate Scholarship.

Up to 3,000 students in all disciplines are supported annually through this scholarship program that is jointly administered by Canada’s three federal granting agencies:

The selection process, payment and management of awards occurs at the recipient’s university under the guidance of the three agencies.

Each year, eligible Canadian institutions receive a CGS M allocation corresponding to the number of students to whom they can offer scholarships; these allocations are divided by broad fields of study: health, natural sciences/engineering, and social sciences/humanities. For the Fall 2019 competition, Waterloo’s allocations are as follows:

CIHR = 5                  NSERC = 58                   SSHRC = 38

Important application dates at Waterloo

Transcript request deadline

Undergraduate and graduate students who are applying for the CGS M scholarship may order their Waterloo transcripts (ONLY), at no charge, using the CGS M applicant transcript request web form (Graduate Studies forms website). The deadline for applicants to submit a Waterloo transcript request is Friday, November 22, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. (EST). Students are responsible for compiling all of their transcripts and uploading them to their CGS M application in the Research Portal prior to submitting their application.

Students are unable to submit their application until all transcripts are uploaded to their application.

Application deadline

Eligible students are required to submit their application via the Research Portal by December 1, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. (EST). As this is a Sunday, applications must be submitted by the following Monday before 8:00 p.m. (EST).

Note: As the deadline date approaches, processing delays may stem from a high volume of users on the Research Portal, which may prevent the timely submission of the application. Requests to submit late applications will not be accepted under any circumstances.

Being considered at Waterloo

The three agencies have created a harmonized application, regulations, instructions and application portal for the Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS) Master’s Scholarship that can be found on the official tri-agency website

Eligible students must complete and submit the application through the agency portal by the firm deadline of 8:00 p.m. EST on December 1, 2019. Applicants may only submit one application in each year to either CIHR, NSERC or SSHRC.

Students may identify a maximum of three institutions where they would like their application to be considered. The scholarship is not portable from one institution to another – applicants must submit their application to the institution at which they intend to hold the scholarship.

Given the limited quota of awards available (refer to above), Waterloo is required to be strategic in determining the selected recipients and as such the selection process within Waterloo tends to be quite rigorous.

In order to provide guidance to potential applicants, GSPA has analyzed the characteristics of successful applicants from the previous years. Students who are considering applying for a CGS M should vet their current academic achievements against those described here to assess their competitiveness in this competition.

As an example, over the past few years, successful applicants often had averages higher than 85% in each of their last two years of full time academic study and also held prior competitive merit-based scholarships. Depending on the program, applicants also tended to have some academic output– a refereed publication, a refereed conference publication, or a non-refereed / poster presentation.

Applicant pool can vary from year to year so, if you are eligible and feel your application will be competitive, apply!

Critical steps in the application process

1. Confirm eligibility

  • Applicants must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada in order to apply. It is the applicant’s responsibility to confirm that the minimum eligibility criteria of this award is satisfied before they begin the application process by reviewing the complete eligibility and selection criteria on the official CGS M website.

2. Apply for Admission to a Graduate Program at Waterloo

  • Prospective students who are interested in holding their CGS M scholarship at Waterloo must apply for admission into a graduate program by February 1, 2020. Applicants are not eligible to receive or accept a CGS M offer from a university where they are not enrolled in or have not applied for admission to an eligible program of study.

3. Transcripts

  • Up-to-date official transcripts from all current and previous post-secondary institutions (including transcripts from institutions where you completed an exchange term) are required as part of the application in order to determine whether you’ve achieve a first class average in each of the last two completed years of full-time study. Applicants who do not include a complete set of required transcripts will be deemed ineligible.
  • Eligible undergraduate and graduate students who are applying for the CGS M scholarship may order their Waterloo transcripts (ONLY), at no charge, using the CGS M applicant transcript request web form (Graduate Studies forms website). The deadline for applicants to submit a Waterloo transcript request is Friday, November 22, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. (EST). Students are responsible for compiling all of their transcripts and uploading them to their CGS M application in the Research Portal prior to submitting their application.
  • Students are unable to submit their application until all transcripts are uploaded to their application.
  • Students requiring international transcripts:
    • As a condition of graduate program admission to Waterloo, students must provide their final official transcripts from previous institutions to Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA). Providing these have been received, GSPA will certify transcripts from international universities ONLY where a student is unable to obtain copies due to situations where the country is in a state of war, political upheaval or other type of disorder. If you are in this situation, please complete the CGS M applicant transcript request web form (Graduate Studies forms website) listing the previous institutions that you require transcripts from.

4. Read the application instructions

  • Detailed application instructions regarding the application process, including how to create a Common CV (CCV website) can be found on the tri-agency website. Details include how to complete the application in the portal, how to ensure the application falls within the mandate of the correct agency, the number of referees required, presentation standards for free form documents, transcripts, etc.

5. Select and contact referees

  • Applicants must contact two potential referees as soon as possible, but no later than three weeks prior to the application deadline.
  • Applicants must provide potential referees with the Instructions for Completing the Reference Assessment Form that includes the Selection Criteria for the CGS M competition.
  • Referees will upload their letters electronically through the application portal; applicants will not be able to see the letters but will be able to see that the status is complete. Final submission of the application is not possible until the letters have been uploaded. Further information regarding reference assessments can be found in the Application Instructions (CGS M website).
  • Tips for Selecting Referees and Reference Letters
    • Applicants should select referees who know them well and are capable of making an informed assessment from an academic perspective (i.e. past or current supervisor)
    • Applicants should be up front and ask the potential referees if they have the time and are able to provide a supporting assessment that will speak to all aspects of the particular strengths of the application
    • Applicants should provide the referees with a package of information that will assist them with writing the appraisal. This package should contain:
    • current curriculum vitae
    • transcripts
    • a list of research contributions; applicants are encouraged to request referees to address the importance of their publications and contributions in their assessment (e.g., highlighting that a paper is published in a journal with a high impact factor; identifying that a paper has been widely cited; research that has received recognition outside of the academy, research that has applied outcomes that have positively influenced society, governance, industry or other sectors, etc)
    • a copy of the research proposal/program of study, and
    • a list of community involvement or other extracurricular activities that demonstrate leadership qualities

6. Research Proposals

  • The proposed research project must be eligible within the mandate of the agency selected in the application. To confirm the proposal falls under the correct agency, applicants should refer to Selecting the Appropriate Federal Granting Agency (Government of Canada website).

7. Create an account within the research portal

8. Create a Common CV account

  • To prepare a CCV to upload into the application during the e-submission process, applicants must have a CCV account which is created on the Common CV website. If the applicant has already previously registered for a CCV account, they do not need to re-register. The CCV will have a CGS M template that will focus only on fields that are pertinent for graduate student level experience. Additional information can be found in the Instructions for Completing a Canadian Common CV (CGS M website). 

9. Submit the application in the Research Portal

  • Once all steps have been completed, applicants must submit their CGS M application via the research portal.
  • It is recommended that applicants do not wait until the last minute to submit their application as delays may occur as a result of a high volume of users in the portal.
  • If Waterloo has been identified as one of the three institutions where the applicant wants their application considered, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs will be able to access the application from the online application system. 

Waterloo's administrative process

  1. Applicants complete an electronic application through the research portal and submit it by 8:00 p.m. (EST) on December 1, 2019.
  2. GSPA will retrieve the applications from the research portal and provide them to the proposed department to confirm eligibility and completeness.
  3. Departmental committees will conduct a ranking of the applications received to determine which applicants should be highly considered for scholarship offers at the institutional level.
  4. Based on the institutional quota, the institutional selection committee* will adjudicate the applications and determine which applicants are to be offered a CGS M at Waterloo (results and offers will begin to be released starting April 1, 2020).

*At Waterloo, the institutional selection committee is comprised of the Associate Vice, President, GSPA (chair), both of the Assistant Vice-Presidents, GSPA, and the six Faculty Associate Deans, Graduate Studies (AHS, ARTS, ENG, ENV, MATH, SCI), or designates as appropriate.

NOTE: All reviewers for this competition must agree to Waterloo's privacy, confidentiality and conflict of interest guidelines.

Waterloo timeline

Visit the Waterloo timeline for details on the CGS M.

Helpful resources

Questions about Tri-Agency scholarship competition process at Waterloo may be directed to the following staff in Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs:

CIHR - Laura Frazee

NSERC – Miranda Bilotta

SSHRC - Elena Machado

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September 2019