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Why you should always apply for scholarships and bursaries

Someone using a laptop which has the word Scholarship displayed on it. The person is holding a piece of paper with formulas on it.
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Affording a post-secondary education isn’t always easy. In order to cover the cost of their schooling, some students may work part-time jobs while they study or take out loans. But these options can come with their own added stresses, as some students may struggle to manage school and a job, or otherwise be left with massive debt once they graduate.

That’s where scholarships and bursaries can help. Scholarships are merit-based awards that recognize a student’s academic achievements or commitments to their communities at large. Bursaries, meanwhile, are based on financial need, provided to students who demonstrate a need for financial assistance.

In both cases, these awards differ from loans in that they do not need to be paid back.

“It allows for students to find a way to get support through paying for their education without walking away from school with a truckload of debt,” said Carole Goettling, the Associate Registrar of Financial Aid and Student Awards at Fanshawe College.

Fanshawe graduate and former Navigator contributor, Kate Otterbein, applied for several scholarships and bursaries while studying at Fanshawe, and said the money she received from those awards helped her greatly in affording her education.

“Scholarships and bursaries played a big role in me getting through college financially,” Otterbein said. “It’s expensive to be a student. But the extra $500, $1,000, even $2,000 goes a long way to help pay for supplies, rent, groceries, whatever.”

According to Goettling, it’s also easier than ever to apply for scholarships, particularly at Fanshawe, with less donors now requiring essays as part of their application processes.

“Usually there is a selection committee that our students who stand out in the classroom or stand out in the community that we’re aware of and we’re able to select those students based on that,” Goettling explained. “There’s usually not a whole lot more than just applying. There’s not the big essays that you used to have to write in most cases.”

Still, the application process may seem daunting, especially if students feel they don’t fit every requirement listed for a merit-based scholarship. Otterbein faced this dilemma with several scholarships, but made the choice to apply regardless.

“[Scholarships and bursaries] allow for students to find a way to get support through paying for their education without walking away from school with a truckload of debt.”

“There were scholarships where I didn’t think my work was top tier or wouldn’t beat out others’ work, and that didn’t meet all the requirements,” Otterbein said. “But in one or two cases, I still ended up winning.”

Goettling encouraged students to always apply, stating that “all it costs is your time” to try.

“Thinking you’re not good enough or you don’t meet their criteria…you don’t know who else is applying, if anybody at all,” Goettling said. “And if you’re the only person who applied and you meet the minimum criteria, you might be in at the top of the category. But if you’ve met the criteria that we have to use to give out the award, you’re in. So, take the time to apply.”

Otterbein echoed that sentiment.

“I highly recommend anyone apply for all the scholarships they can because what do you have to lose? Nothing. But you can gain so much and get rid of a lot of financial stress.”