Tri-Agency (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarships-Masters (CGS M)

Information and dates may be updated depending on further information received from the Tri-agencies.

The information contained on this web page pertains to the Fall 2017 Tri-Agency Canada Graduate Scholarship Master’s (CGS M) competition and the internal administration and evaluation process at the University of Waterloo.

What are the Tri-Agency CGS M Scholarships?

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 masters 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 2,500 students in all disciplines are supported annually through this scholarship program that is jointly administered by Canada’s three federal granting agencies: The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). 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 2017 competition, Waterloo’s allocations are as follows:

CIHR = 4                   NSERC = 45                   SSHRC = 30

What is the application deadline?

Eligible students are required to submit their application via the Research Portal by December 1, 2017 at 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.

How do applicants get considered?

The three agencies have created a harmonized application, regulations, instructions and application portal for the Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS) Master’s Scholarship which 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, 2017. Applicants may only submit one application in each year to either CIHR, NSERC or SSHRC.

Students may identify a maximum of five 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 four 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.

The summary is that successful CGS M applicants:

  • Nearly always have averages above 84% and become much more competitive with averages above 88%;
  • Have in more than half the cases some academic output – a refereed publication, a refereed conference publication, or a non-refereed / poster presentation.
  • Have in about 50% of the cases held Provincial (OGS/ QEII-GSST) scholarships

What are the critical steps in the application process?

1. Confirm eligibility

Canadian citizens and permanent residents are eligible. It is the applicant’s responsibility to confirm that the minimum eligibility criteria of this award is satisfied before they begin the application process. Interested applicants must review the eligibility and selection criteria on the official CGS M website.

Note 1: Successful recipients must be registered in a graduate program that has a significant research component (e.g. thesis, major research project, scholarly publication, etc). Students registered in a master’s program that is based solely on course work are normally not eligible as they do not include a significant research component.

Note 2: Applicants who are or will be registered in a combined MA/PhD, fast-track (accelerating from a master’s program into a doctoral program without obtaining the master’s degree) or direct-entry PhD program, may be eligible to apply for a CGS Master’s Scholarship provided no more than 12 months of graduate-level study have been completed by December 31 of the year of application.

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, 2018. 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 post-secondary institutions are required as part of the application. 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 Thursday, November 23, 2017 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.

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 3 weeks prior to the application deadline.

Applicants must provide potential referees with the Instructions for Completing the Reference Assessment Form which 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

First time users must recreate 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 that they can create 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 five 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, 2017.
  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, 2018).

Waterloo timeline

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 - Elena Machado

SSHRC - Heidi Mussar

Updated September 11, 2017