How important is a scholarship application?

“It’s like going for a job interview,” says Sharon Tracy, Manager, Financial Aid and Scholarship/Bursary Plans at Seneca College.

Scholarships are non-repayable awards given to students to recognize the high level of excellence they’ve achieved. Some scholarships are automatically part of the admissions process for a college or university, while many others require separate and criteria-specific applications.


Tracy says applications are an opportunity for students to “sell themselves” in order to stand out and benefit from the financial assistance that comes with an award.

Many scholarships are based on more than academic achievements; they also require school and community involvement, or leadership qualities. When applying for scholarships you probably won’t have the opportunity to meet whoever does the evaluating, so your application must reflect you as best as possible - from your interests to your accomplishments, your work and volunteer history to your extra-curricular participation. Be aware of the clarity of your handwriting, spelling and general presentation; but most importantly, be sure to answer questions fully and in a focused way.

To help transform experiences into thoughtful writing, try creating an inventory of strengths and write examples that illustrate each one. Scholarship applications typically ask about your personal experiences, whether that means overcoming obstacles or showing initiative. Rather than waiting until your applications are due, start now and add to your record on an ongoing basis. This can help you to be more reflective of your experiences and less likely to overlook anything important.

Well-developed writing will interest and involve the reader. If you are allowed 1,000 words to describe why you are the best candidate, use all of them to your advantage. Tracy says, “If we have two applications for scholarships and they’re of equal merit, then it is the one who provides additional information to support their application that will tip the balance in their favour.”

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