Many grants available to finance education

Dear Working Wise: I have been accepted into university this fall, but I’m fretting about how I’m going to pay for it. I know there are scholarships and bursaries, but I don’t think my grades are good enough to win them. What can I do? — Starving Student

Dear Working Wise: I have been accepted into university this fall, but I’m fretting about how I’m going to pay for it.

I know there are scholarships and bursaries, but I don’t think my grades are good enough to win them. What can I do? — Starving Student

Dear Starving: Higher education is not getting any cheaper, but there are thousands of scholarships, awards and grants available to help you finance your education.

Many scholarships are awarded on academic achievement while others are awarded for athletic involvement, leadership, community service, area of interest and the school you are attending.

Bursaries are awards based primarily on financial need, but may also require additional criteria, such as community involvement or proven leadership skills.

You can increase your chances of winning an award — and be able to pay for both school and food — by following these five steps:

1. Search — Where can I find scholarships and bursaries?

• Visit the ALIS Scholarships website at http://alis.alberta.ca to find various scholarships and awards;

• Check out the school you plan to attend for possible scholarships and entrance awards;

• Search online using a free search tool like Student Awards www.studentawards.com;

• Talk to your parents and/or relatives — they may be members or employees of clubs, organizations or businesses that offer academic awards to family members;

• Talk to your high school guidance counselor.

2. Apply

• Check the application to see if you meet the requirements;

• Complete the application form and keep a copy for yourself;

• Apply early — late applications are not usually accepted;

• Follow up with the award sponsor before the deadline to make sure your application was received;

• Keep extra letters of recommendation and transcripts on hand to save you time when you apply for the next award.

3. Write the essay

• Write the essay — if an essay is a requirement, it may be the deciding factor;

• Read the instructions carefully, and seek advice from a family member, friend, teacher or counsellor;

• Use clear and concise language and avoid the use of slang;

• Review your essay, read it aloud and refine it;

• Proofread! Better still, have someone read and proofread your essay;

• Keep a copy on file — with a few changes you may be able to use it for another scholarship.

4. Get the money

• Make sure you meet all the conditions to receive the money (e.g., full-time enrolment, maintaining residency, institution you are attending, etc.);

• If you move, advise the scholarship donor of your new address;

• If you are required to attend an awards ceremony, luncheon, etc., be there, be gracious and dress appropriately;

• Thank the donor when it is appropriate.

5. Maintain your scholarship potential

• Keep your marks, athletics, leadership and volunteer work at an outstanding level and continue to look for scholarships as you progress through your studies;

• If you have high financial needs, look at bursaries available for your unique situation; for example, if you are a single parent, you may be able to apply for a bursary to assist with your higher costs.

Good luck!

Working Wise is compiled by Charles Strachey of Alberta Employment and Immigration (charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca) for general information.