Scholarship applications take a little time and effort, and require a bit of organization.
But in the end, the financial rewards can make or break a student’s chance at success.
“They changed my life,” said UFV student Lois Piccioni. “Scholarships paid for the first two years of nursing school for me.”
As she finishes up her third and final year of nursing school, Piccioni has some advice for high school students.
One of the most important steps to success is to build relationships and portray yourself in a good light, she said. Good relationships lead to good references, a key component of most scholarship applications.
“Build relationships with your teachers, your principal, your pastor,” she said. “And act responsibly if you want to be respected.”
Volunteering or working is a requirement for graduation, offering the perfect chance to make a connection for referral letters. And Piccioni advised not to put off asking for one.
Secondly, she wants Chilliwack grads to know that not all the scholarships go to the top students of the class.
“I had good grades, but not the best grades,” she said, but was still able to secure almost $10,000 in scholarship money. From $500 bursaries to School District Awards for music and leadership, it all added up. Her school counsellor was a huge help, and encourage her toward the most important scholarship habit of all — apply for everything.
“Apply for everything you could possibly be eligible for,” she said.
And once you get those first year scholarships, don’t give up. Piccioni had earned enough to cover two years of schooling, but admits it was hard to devote the time to researching scholarships for continuing years, while taking university courses. But those scholarships are there and ripe for the picking.
“There is money being thrown away,” because it’s not being applied for, she said. “All it takes is a little elbow grease and a few goals, and you might end up with a little extra cash to help pay for school.”
Estimates of how much scholarship money goes unmatched in Canada vary wildly depending on the source, but all estimates are in the millions. As Piccioni said, why let it go to waste?
“Really, you went to school for 12 or 13 years,” she said. “Don’t let it be for nothing. Why not try to get paid for it?”
There are ways to make those dollars stretch once you get them, too.
“Live at home, if possible,” she said. “And work part time, preferably with an employer who knows your priority is school.”
Keep transportation costs in check by networking and carpooling when possible, she offered, and make sure you stick to a weekly budget for things like coffees and entertainment. Finally, check out the online, used buy and sell websites for your school, and save a bundle on textbooks.
All that hard work in Grade 12 is paying of for Piccioni now. She’s at the stage in her post secondary education where she’s heading toward her new career. She’s already worked as an ’employed student nurse’ at the Abbotsford Hospital, and is beginning the process of applying for her preceptorship, which will run from September to December this year.
After that, she’ll be ready to look for work as an official registered nurse, a field where she is seeing “opportunities everywhere.”
She’s had the opportunity to thank the people who made her success in school possible. As a former Leader of Tomorrow, she was invited to speak at a thank you dinner for the Chilliwack Scholarship Committee’s donors.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “They were so proud of us. It’s so honorable to receive a scholarship, it is such a proud moment for students, donors, teachers, and parents. It doesn’t take too much either. Get involved in a school club, ask a teacher for help, get your name out there and just apply. This community wants to support young people achieve their post-secondary goals.”
Time running out
The deadline has passed on some scholarships, but there is still time to apply for many financial awards within the community and from larger organizations.
Sharon Bernard, vice-principal at Chilliwack secondary school, said it’s crucial for kids to get familiar with the scholarship process. Students are given help throughout Grade 11 and 12, and encouraged to do the things that the scholarship committee looks for. It’s an avenue that every student should at least try to travel, she said.
“The biggest issue is that the term scholarship implies you have to be brilliant to get money,” she said. “But the vast majority of them ask for things other than academics. Mostly they are looking for good students and kids who are giving back to the community.”
She said there isn’t one student who couldn’t benefit from a financial boost.
“All kids are in some form of financial need,” she said. Earning a scholarship or bursary takes a bit of stress off even the strongest academic students, allowing them to succeed.
“There’s a lot of stress that leaves, once you take away that burden of ‘how am I going to pay for this?'”
Tips to scholarship applications:
– Read the criteria
– Be thorough when completing applications
– Choose references with care
– Make a strong personal statement
– Meet all deadlines
– Research opportunities
Websites to visit: