Scholarships, Bursaries and Grants

Introduction: What are scholarships, bursaries and grants?

Scholarships are non-repayable awards that are often based on merit, including grades, extra-curricular activities, and other skills/experiences. They may also be based on essays and other submissions, or personal characteristics. Sometimes, applicants must also have financial need.


Bursaries and Grants are non-repayable awards that often require students to have financial need and usually include other eligibility requirements such as program of study.


No official study has been done, but online scholarship databases estimate that $5 million to $15 million worth of non-repayable funding goes unclaimed.


♦ Watch the report on CBC’s The National

Information for high school students

High schools usually automatically consider students for awards based on academic, community, and athletic accomplishments at graduation. See your guidance counsellor to learn more and find out if you are eligible to be nominated for external funding opportunities.


Information about funding offered by the government and other organizations can be found below. You can also search for funding opportunities on the internet (learn more below). 


In many cases, you will not be able to apply for funding until your final year of high school. However, you can start looking earlier to find out the eligibility requirements and fulfil the necessary requirements before your final year.


You can keep track of potential opportunities by using this scholarship spreadsheet.

Information for new and continuing post-secondary students


Post-secondary institutions, student unions/associations, and some external organizations usually automatically consider new and continuing post-secondary students for some merit-based awards, often based on grades.


♦ In some cases, you do not have to apply and will be notified if you have received any awards.

♦ At some institutions, you may have to "opt-in" or fill out a single application form to be considered for a number of financial aid opportunities. Follow up with the financial aid office at your post-secondary institution to clarify what you need to do.

♦ Be aware of how breaks in your studies, changes between full-time and part-time status, switching programs, and other changes will affect your eligibility for some funding.


Some funding opportunities require you to apply, including some that are offered by your post-secondary institutions, provincial and federal governments, non-profit organizations, and private organizations. The availability of funding and the criteria of awards are often different for full-time and part-time students.


Information about funding offered by the government and other organizations can be found below. You can also search for funding opportunities on the internet (learn more below)and/or visit the financial aid office at your post-secondary institution. For international students, visit the international centre at your post-secondary institution for information about financial aid opportunities.


You can keep track of potential opportunities by using this scholarship spreadsheet.

Federal government funding: Canada Student Grants

When applying for Canada Student Loans (or joint provincial-Canada loans), all students are considered for Canada Student Grants. It is possible to receive grants without having to take out loans. Students must have assessed financial need and can receive more than one grant at a time. The following grants were available in 2014-2015:


Full-time students: $375 each month for students from low-income families, $150 each month for students from middle-income families, and $200 per month for each child under the age of 12.

Full-time or part-time students with permanent disabilities: $2,000 per academic year to help cover the costs of accommodation, tuition, and books and/or up to $8,000 per year to pay for education-related services and equipment (e.g., tutors, interpreters).

Part-time students: Up to $1,800 per academic year for students from low-income families. Part-time students with dependents may be eligible for $40-60 per week.


In 2011-2012, over 300,000 students received grants worth $647 million (including $10 million to support part-time students). See the Canada Student Loans Program Annual Report.


Visit the CanLearn website for more details and learn more about government student loans here.

Provincial and territorial government funding


Provinces and territories also offer non-repayable funding. Students are automatically considered for some types of funding when they apply for a government student loan.


♦ For example, students in Ontario can receive a grant for 30% off their tuition if they meet a list of criteria (e.g., parental income is below a certain amount). Students are automatically considered if they apply for a student loan or they can apply for the grant separately. Find out more about the criteria and application process here.


For information about funding in a particular province or territory, visit the regional student aid website.

Federal funding for apprentices and journeypersons

The following funding was available in 2014:


♦ Apprenticeship Incentive Grant (AIG): $1,000 per year, up to $2,000 for registered apprentices, after completing one or two years or levels of their program in a Red Seal trade.


♦ Apprenticeship Completion Grant (ACG): $2,000 for registered apprentices who completed their training and journeyperson certification in a Red Seal trade on or after January 1, 2009.


Apprentices may also be able to receive income support through Employment Insurance (EI) while they are doing their in-school training.

Provincial/territorial funding for apprentices and journeypersons

Many provinces/territories offer funding opportunities for apprentices and journeypersons.


For example, here are some funding opportunities available in Manitoba:


♦ A bursary of $1,000 for final year apprentices.

♦ Two types of Apprenticeship Endowment Fund bursaries through the Winnipeg Foundation for prospective or current apprentices.

♦ The Government of Manitoba encourages participation in High School Apprenticeship Programs (HSAP) by offering tuition exemptions in post-secondary technical training for every 220 hours of practical training as an HSAP apprentice.

♦ Find out more at the Apprenticeship Manitoba.


For information about funding for apprentices in each region, choose your province or territory below:


Alberta             British Columbia                Manitoba                   New Brunswick               Newfoundland  & Labrador          Northwest Territories     


Nova Scotia              Nunavut              Ontario                Prince Edward Island                    Quebec                Saskatchewan                 Yukon

Funding for Aboriginal students

Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP): Offers assistance for tuition, living costs, and travel costs for Status Indian and Inuit students in post-secondary programs.


University and College EntrancePreparation Program (UCEPP): Similar to PSSSP, except designed to help Status Indian and Inuit Students who are in an entrance program in order to meet the requirements of a degree or diploma program.


♦ Both PSSSP and UCEPP are managed through students’ home communities.


Use the Aboriginal Bursaries Search Tool to search a database of 777 bursaries, scholarships and incentives across Canada.


Indspire offers bursaries and scholarships for indigenous students, including:


♦ The Legal Studies for Aboriginal People Program: Provides bursaries to Métis and Non-Status Indians who want to attend law school.


Some training programs are also offered for Aboriginal Peoples, such as the Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Program  and the Aboriginal Training Program in Museum Practices.

Funding for graduate students

The Faculty of Graduate Studies website at your post-secondary institution will have information about opportunities for internal funding (offered by your institution) and external funding (offered by outside organizations).


♦ Some funding you will be automatically considered for when you apply to your program and some you will have to apply for separately. You may have to apply before you have been accepted into and/or chosen a program.


♦ Your department/program may have more specific information about funding. This may be on their website, distributed to students via e-mail or mail, or accessible through their office.


♦ The Tri-Council funding agencies (CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC) of the Government of Canada offer funding opportunities to graduate students. Here are guidelines for choosing the correct federal granting agency for your area of study. Applications are due as early as the fall prior to the year you begin your studies.


◊ Look for workshops at your post-secondary institutions on applying for these awards.


◊ Ask a professor in your field to look over your application, they will know what the agencies look for in the selection process.


◊ Graduate scholarships often have early deadlines and require extensive application materials (e.g., reference letters, a research proposal).

Internet resources for scholarships, bursaries and grants

♦ Online databases allow you to search for funding opportunities. Sometimes, free registration is required and you can enter information about yourself and your program of study to get matched with relevant awards. Some popular sites include:



Scholarships Canada

Maclean’s Scholarship Finder

Scholarship Connections

International Scholarships, for international students and Canadians studying abroad

♦ The financial aid office at your post-secondary institution and your student union/association website will have information about funding opportunities on their websites.

♦ For international students, the international centre at your post-secondary institution should have information about financial aid on their website.

♦ Check your parents’ employers’ websites and the websites of any clubs, teams, groups or institutions you are a member of. They may offer scholarships and awards to post-secondary students.

Tips for award applications

♦ Pay attention to details. If you miss something, you may be disqualified.


◊ Only apply for awards that you are eligible for. If you need clarification, contact the award distributor.


◊ Complete all required parts of the application and carefully follow instructions.


◊ Meet deadlines and submit your materials as instructed.


♦ A good application needs to be easy for the selection committee to understand.


Appearance: Make sure your submissions are organized and professionally formatted.  


Style: If you are asked to write something, both the content and grammar/style will be evaluated.


◊ It can be helpful to leave it for a few days and review it with fresh eyes.


◊ Ask at least one other person to look over your written work.


♦ Customize your application to the award. Although you can re-use certain elements in multiple applications, do not simply copy and paste.


◊ Use the scholarship description and the mission statement of the organization to guide your application. Talk about what you have done and plan to do that relates to what they are looking for.


♦ Use concrete examples to describe your skills, experiences and potential.


◊ Never be dishonest in your applications.


♦ Describe your long-term goals. You may be undecided about what you want to do with your life; however, selection committees are interested in your long-term objectives.


◊ If you have some ideas about the future explore one or two of them further and present them as potential long-term goals.


◊ Depending on the scholarship, there may be some requirements for receiving the funding, such as taking a minimum number of courses. However, you are not bound to your future plans beyond the period of the funding.


♦ Visit the career centre at your post-secondary institution for more advice and information.


♦ Never pay to apply for an award and be wary if you are asked to give a large amount of personal identification information.

When are scholarships, bursaries and grants offered?

♦ Awards are offered throughout the year, so keep looking.

♦ Start early, many awards have deadlines prior to the year in which they are granted. Search for opportunities as soon as you can, even before your last year of high school.

How many awards should I apply for?

♦ Apply for as many awards as possible that you are eligible for.


♦ It is very difficult to know your chances of getting award because you will not know how many people have applied or the quality of applicants.


◊ Therefore, avoid assuming that you do not have sufficient skills, experiences, grades, etc. to receive the award. Scholarship applications require time and effort, therefore many students will not take the time to try.


◊ Smaller awards often have fewer applicants, so you may have a better chance of getting them.

♦ The more awards you receive, the more attractive your application will look for future awards.

♦ Use this spreadsheet to keep track of awards and deadlines.

Are award applications worth the time?

Applications will take time and effort, however they are a great alternative to working long hours or taking out a loan. Compare the value of an award to the amount of time you would have to work to make the same amount.


♦ To make $500 it would take you about 50 hours of work at minimum wage.


♦ If it takes you 10 hours to complete and submit a $500 scholarship application, you are potentially making $50 an hour.

♦ Scholarships are not subject to taxes, potentially allowing you to save up your tax credits for the future.

♦ Even if you do not receive the funding, completing an award application is a good learning experience:


◊ The skills you develop in putting together award applications can transfer over to applying for other funding, job, and volunteer opportunities.


◊ Writing about your goals in applications can help you in your education and career planning.


◊ Describing your experiences and skills may also make you aware of what areas you would like to improve on, such as your Grade Point Average (GPA) or your work experience.

Fitting scholarship applications into your schedule

♦ Dedicate a short amount of time weekly to search for awards and work on your applications.


♦ If you are in high school, you may be able to use essays completed for scholarship applications as a substitute for assignments or extra-credit in certain classes, ask your teachers.

Tips for reference letters

♦ Find out if the scholarship has any specifications about referees (i.e., the people who provide references). For example, they may have to be academic instructors or have known you for a minimum period of time.


♦ Choose referees that relate most to the scholarship and its selection criteria. You do not necessarily want to use the same references for every application.


◊ If a component of the selection criteria is academic, get at least one letter from a teacher or professor.

◊ If a component of the selection criteria is extra-curricular activities, get a reference letter from a coach/group leader/volunteer coordinator etc.

◊ Do not use family members or friends as references.

◊ If a potential referee tells you they do not think they are the best person to provide a letter of support, this may be a sign that you will not get a strong letter from them. It may be best to find someone else.


♦ Give your referee up-to-date information about your activities and accomplishments. This will make it easier for them and will result in a stronger letter. You may want to provide them with:


◊ A resume or CV


◊ A personal statement that includes information about your area of study, research interests (if applicable), and career goals

◊ Your academic record

◊ The selection criteria for the scholarship

◊ The required format of the letter (if any)


♦ Be sure to tell your referee the deadline for submission and where it has to be sent.


◊ If possible, give your referee at least 4-weeks notice.

◊ Send a reminder to your referee 2 weeks before the due date and follow-up to make sure it has been submitted.

◊ It may feel like you are nagging your referees, but reminders and follow-ups are absolutely necessary. In the end, you are accountable for your application materials being submitted.


♦ If you follow the tips above, the submission of reference letters should go smoothly.


◊ If a referee is not responding to your reminder and follow-up e-mails, do not assume they are still submitting a reference! Try to contact them by phone or in person. If necessary, find another reference. This is why a 2-week reminder is a must.


◊ If you know or suspect a letter will be late, notify the scholarship provider as soon as possible and find out if it will still be accepted. Reference letters are sometimes given extensions as long as they are received before the materials go to the selection committee.


◊ If you are providing contact information for references in your application, you must let them know beforehand so that they can expect to be contacted.