Scholarships 101

Susan
Susan Flanagan
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I want to tell you a secret: there is free money out there waiting for your children. This time last year, I had no idea. But then it happened to us. In March, after my son applied to MUN, he got a letter in the mail saying he had received a Memorial University Entrance Scholarship. This was well before final Grade 12 exams were even on his radar.

I remember him passing me the letter, absolutely no emotion on his face. I, however, was over the moon. The scholarship would cover his first year’s tuition, plus some — meaning he didn’t yet have to dig into the meagre RESP my husband and I had put away for him.

But how could he receive a scholarship before final Grade 12 exams were even written?

The letter was on official MUN letterhead, but then again, letters from Readers’ Digest Sweepstakes look pretty official, too.

We had no need to worry, however. The money just magically appeared in my son’s university student account — no red tape or forms to fill out. (The money also magically got withdrawn from the account come registration time.)

So now it’s scholarship time for No. 2 son, who is in Grade 12.

If it’s your first time, as it was for me last year, your best bet is to talk to everyone you know who has already been through the process and attend any information sessions offered at your child’s high school. You don’t want to miss out on free money.

I know what you’re thinking: shouldn’t this be the job of No. 2 son? I’m no helicopter parent — I’m the first one to let my children fend for themselves, but something as important as free tuition cannot be left in the hands of hormone-addled teenagers. Managing your child’s scholarship portfolio requires at the very least a scholarship account manager; at best, a private secretary. That person happened to be me.

This time last year, when I attended my first scholarship information session at my son’s high school, I made copious notes on which scholarship applications were due when, and what was required of each. I visited websites and got more details about the ones I figured my eldest had a shot at. I ended up dividing the scholarships up into three basic categories:

 

1. Automatic scholarships based on marks, no application required

Automatic scholarships offered by the provincial Department of Education include the Junior Jubilee worth $2,500 (92-96 per cent average in the five subjects), the Electoral District scholarship worth $1,000 (three highest averages in each district) and the Centenary, worth $1,000 (52 awarded each year).

Here’s what the website says about Memorial University Entrance Scholarships:

“High school applicants from the Newfoundland and Labrador high school system are automatically considered for many of Memorial University’s entrance scholarships. There are an unlimited number of entrance scholarships which are awarded solely on the basis of a student’s admission average ($1,000 for 85 per cent-89 per cent, and $2,000 for 90 per cent and above).

“Newfoundland and Labrador high school applicants are also automatically considered for $3,500 scholarships awarded on the basis of a student’s admission average. These scholarships are limited each year.”

 

2. Intensive applications with sealed letters of reference

This next category requires a lot of commitment on behalf of the parent and student. Requests for sealed letters of recommendation have to go out in ample time to allow people time to produce them. Then, students have to gather up these letters, marry the sealed envelopes with the rest of the application and make sure it arrives before deadline.

This year, my son’s application for the NL Hockey Association was not considered because it sat all filled out and ready to go in a stamped addressed envelope, complete with reference letters, in a locked office at a rink while the pages on a calendar turned and I tried in vain to get it out.

When I finally found someone to go rescue it, it was too late and couldn’t be considered. Those kind enough to write reference letters wasted their time. They could’ve been at the spa.

The Loran Award, worth $75,000, has a deadline of Oct. 19, (Yikes! That’s tomorrow.) and involves submitting a tedious application to the high school guidance counsellor who will then recommend the three strongest candidates from that school. If a student decides to apply independently, the deadline is Oct. 26.

One hundred and twelve of these scholarships are awarded each year in Canada. There is heavy emphasis on community involvement.

“No applications will be accepted after the posted deadline regardless of the postmark date,” states the website.

The Terry Fox Humanitarian Award, worth $28,000 over four years, is due Feb. 1. It requires three letters of recommendation from groups other than teachers, proof of community service, as well as involvement in amateur sport and fitness. It is geared toward applicants who have had to overcome obstacles.

Other examples of scholarships in this category include The Blyth (application deadline Oct. 15) for study at Cambridge in England and the TD Canada Trust scholarship (applicant has to show real initiative in community leadership).

 

3. Less stringent applications

There are less demanding, but that’s not to say they are not worthy of consideration.

For example, there are scholarships for Wendy’s Restaurants, children of Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers, and fisheries scholarships.

Basically, you should check out your work’s website to see if a scholarship is offered. There are scholarships based on need and scholarships for those who haven’t received any other scholarship by September after finishing Grade 12.

Another interesting thing I learned at a scholarship info session is that if you read in the paper or on the school website that so and so has $250,000 in scholarships, that’s what the student has been offered, not what he can receive. He usually has to pick one scholarship and leave the others.

So, in the next few months, as my eldest wades through dozens of engineering scholarship applications and my second hopes to have better luck with the minor hockey scholarship, I will be investing my time in the pre-school surprise baby, ensuring he has the best odds when he reaches Grade 12.

So far I am thinking of signing him up for cadets and applying for his Chinese citizenship. I am also thinking of filling out applications for my husband and me to work at Country Ribbon and am looking at real estate in Arnold’s Cove.

You never know how these things might benefit him in Grade 12.

 

Susan Flanagan is a journalist and mother of five living in St. John’s.

She can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca.

 

What you said

Weighing in on the crossing guard debate, Mary writes:

“A couple of years ago while operating a business on Water Street, there were many times when I was very frustrated by the enthusiasm of the parking ticket enforcers. At that time, the city ran an ad in their weekly section seeking applications for people to issue parking tickets and for crossing guards, to keep our school age children safe.

“I was more than shocked to read the salaries for each position. The ticket enforcers would be paid over twice the crossing guards’ salary: the former would be paid over $20 per hour for a full week, and the Guards would be paid around $10 per hour for three hours a day. This said to me that our city hall placed a much higher value on the money generated by the issuing of tickets than on the lives of its young citizens, and the value of the person hired to keep them safe.”

 

More feedback on full-day kindergarten

Mary writes: “I don’t agree with all day kindergarten for 4 and 5-year-olds. Childhood is the only time in our lives when we can play without guilt or justification.

“Learning is lifelong and not just in structured classrooms or in front of a computer or TV. I do agree, however, that the rotating half-day schedule needs to be looked at and also the possibility of introducing ‘enrichment’ for those who want it and ‘help’ for those who need it. This could be offered in the last part of the school year after the classroom teacher has had a chance to get to know the children and their needs.”

Fredris, a mother of four and a grandmother of seven says: “… these days the schoolyard is full of grandparents; my oldest grandchild is 28 now (but when my grandson was in kindergarten) my husband and I were self employed so (we) could pick up our grandson and look after him — mostly he came to work with us.

“I have friends who are in their 70s now who have to adjust their card games and curling, etc., to fit around the (school) schedule of their grandchildren (and) also have to bring them to dancing, swimming etc. … I didn’t mind helping and my friends don’t mind, but really should the grandparents still have to give up their time? It would be so much easier on everyone with full-time K.

Organizations: Department of Education, NL Hockey Association, The Blyth Cambridge TD Canada Trust

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, England Country Ribbon Arnold Water Street

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