They are known as “super candidates,” high school prodigies who scoop up hundreds of thousands of dollars in university scholarships.

Patrick Quinton-Brown, who is starting his first year at the University of Toronto next week, won over $190,000 worth of scholarships. Joshua Liu, a second-year medical student at U of T, was offered over $200,000 in scholarships when he graduated high school.

And it’s not just about marks. These are 18-year-olds who have founded charities, started businesses, undergone research expeditions in the Arctic, spearheaded community programs, and volunteered around the world.

With these mind-blowing amounts handed out to a small group of elite students each application season, does a bright student who is active in their student council and volunteers at a local church even have a shot?

Competition for the big scholarship money in Canada is so fierce among some university-bound high school students that many are strategizing as early as Grade 9 in a bid to cash in by Grade 12.

So is it about the charity, or is it about getting that lucrative scholarship? Or is it both, and is that necessarily a bad thing?

Jane Thompson, executive director of TD?Canada?Trust’s scholarship program, says she’s seen students’ ambitions to snag scholarships rise over the past five years or so.

“But my experience has been that the people who win these scholarships, they are doing the work they do because they couldn’t possibly do anything else. I think if the only thing that was driving them was the idea of a university scholarship, it’s a really hard way.”

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