Students not applying for scholarships causes money to go to waste

Post secondary students strapped for cash have the option of applying for scholarships but statistics suggest millions of dollars in scholarship money goes unclaimed.

Mount Royal University broadcasting student Rylan Strachan has made a point of applying for support, and says scholarships have helped substantially.

“The scholarships saved my butt completely. I had no idea how I was going to afford this first semester and then I got an email about halfway through the summer saying ‘hey your semester’s now paid for.’”

Strachan believes all students should be taking the time to apply for scholarships, awards and bursaries just to avoid adding to their debt.

Being a post secondary student can be financially straining. According to The Impact of Student Debt, a yearly report put out by the Canadian Federation of Students, the average student debt load among Canadian post secondary students is $28,000. This does not include medical students who graduate with an average debt load of over $100,000.

Scholarships are payments meant to help out students on an award basis, mainly for academic achievements.

According to Lynette Runions, manager of Student Awards and Financial Aid at Mount Royal University, students may be getting the wrong idea when they hear the word ‘scholarships.’

“I think sometimes students hear the word ‘scholarship’ and they think they have to have really high grades,” she said.

“On our application they apply for online, it’s scholarships and bursaries and awards. So you may not have a really high GPA but maybe you have financial need and that is where you’d apply for those, as well, and they look at different things.”

While all of the 1,000 scholarships provided by Mount Royal University often get claimed every year, some other Canada-wide scholarship websites such as ScholarshipsCanada and Yconic have millions of dollars going unclaimed every year. A poster that can be found in Mount Royal’s hallways advertising how much money Mount Royal University has for scholarships, bursaries, and awards. While most of these are claimed, scholarships across Canada have millions of dollars going unclaimed. Photo by Cheryl Russell. 

Yconic is a database aimed at helping students find scholarships, bursaries and awards in Canada, the United States and abroad. A couple of big-name companies that have partnered with Yconic include Tim Hortons, Microsoft and RBC, according to its website.

“We are a private organization that is partially funded by a board of directors. We generate revenue via the brands we partner with. We only partner with brands that share our passion for authentically helping youth and are willing to invest in our student community ie: through a Money for School opportunity, scholarship, contest, etc,” said Jennifer Falzon, director of marketing at Yconic, in an email to the Calgary Journal.

Annually, Yconic sees an average of 145,000 new registrants, with the number fluctuating each month.

“It ultimately boils down to a lack of awareness of what scholarship opportunities are available,” she said.

Falzon says that a 2015 survey by the London Free Press found that approximately $5 million of scholarships go unclaimed each year.

“I’d recommend [students] educate themselves about the types of scholarships, bursaries and awards available and apply to as many as possible. There are a lot of scholarship myths out there that prevent students from bothering, including that they are only available to straight-A students or top athletes, available for first year only, or only available at the start of the school year. None of this is true,” she said.

Some websites, such as ScholarshipsCanada or Yconic, will do the work for applicants by finding out which scholarships or awards they qualify for, according to how applicants set up their profiles.

This year, Mount Royal University has $3.7 million available in scholarships and bursaries.

“We do advertise some of those external ones but they have so many so that there are some that they can’t always give away,” added Runions.

Many scholarships and bursaries don’t require high grades; some look at extra-curricular activities that students are involved in and base their decision on those particular details.

“We’re looking for sports, for anything in arts, anything you do in church, anything you do in the community, anything you do at Mount Royal, volunteer, service, music, all those things we’re looking for,” said Runions.

“I mean, unless you love going into debt and giving the school lots and lots of money, scholarships are a no-brainer. If you put in the effort to get the grades then reap some awards.” – Rylan Strachan.

Student Rylan Strachan says the process can be time consuming but is straightforward and efficient.

“It takes about an hour or so and you go through the Blackboard site and they walk you through a bunch of questions and general information and it tells you every application you’re eligible for and then you kind of just sign off on it and just send it in.”

Strachan was successful in receiving the Corus Entertainment scholarship and the Toby Trowbridge Memorial scholarship, which paid for his Fall 2015 semester.

For Winter 2016 semester, he was successful in receiving the Jason Lang scholarship.

While scholarships may look intimidating, it isn’t the only reason why students aren’t applying. Some scholarships ask for particular steps such as a well-worded essay, proof of extra-curricular activities or an résumé.

“Sometimes they think it’s going to take too long cause sometimes you do have to add things but the more time you spend on it, probably the better your chances are,” said Runions.

Thumbnail courtesy of Yconic Canada. 

crussell@cjournal.ca

The editor responsible for this article is Ashley Materi, amateri@cjournal.ca