Scholarships 101 | The Kids are Alright | Oct. 18, 2011
I want to tell you a secret. There is actually free money out there waiting for your children. This time last year I had no idea. But it happened to us.
Back in March, after my son applied to MUN, he got a letter in the mail saying he had received a Memorial University Entrance Scholarship. As 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 Memorial letterhead, but then again, 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. (Note: The money also magically got withdrawn from the account come registration time.)
So now it’s scholarship time for #2 son who is now 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, or any other 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 #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 individual 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% average in the five subjects), the Electoral District scholarship worth $1000 (3 highest averages in each district) and the Centenary worth $1000 (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%-89%, and $2,000 for 90% 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. Then students have to gather up these letters, marry sealed envelopes with the rest of 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. It 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 October 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 October 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 February 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 also geared toward applicants who have had to overcome obstacles.
Other examples of scholarships in this category include The Blyth (application deadline October 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
The third category includes the less demanding application forms. 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, 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 and leave the others.
So in the next few months as my eldest weeds 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.
For more info on scholarships, check out the following websites.
Susan Flanagan is a journalist and mother of five living in St. John’s. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Weighing in on the crossing guard debate, Mary writes: “A couple of years ago while operating a business on Water St., 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 $20.00 per hour for a full week, and the Guards would be paid around $l0.00 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 4-5 year olds. Childhood is the only time in our lives when we can play without guilt or justification. Learning is life long 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: “…that these days the school yard 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 seventies now who have to adjust their cards 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.
Pamela, a professional engineer, says "… the issue is not full day kindergarten, but the availability of registered day care spaces (especially for children under 2)… After having my first child I was forced to consider giving up my career as I could not find child care with just 2 weeks left to my maternity leave. I put my child's name on several day care wait lists when he was just a month old, but 11 months later there were still no openings. Luckily within my final week of maternity leave a space opened up and I could return to my career. It is frustrating that I was encouraged to enter and pursue a non-traditional female career (and a lot of the encouragement came from government in the form of scholarships), yet I was nearly forced to give up the years I had invested due to the lack of day care spaces for children under 2. Government needs to either provide 2 years maternity leave or guarantee child care for children beyond the age of 1. Child care providers are an invaluable contributor to our society's well being. We need more of them and they deserve better pay. Government needs to step up to support our children and their care givers so that working parents can continue to achieve their career goals and contribute to our province's economy. BTW, after having my second child I engaged in the Foreign Live-In Caregiver Program to avoid the stresses I previously endured with finding local child care.”
Todd from St. John`s writes: “NL as a have province can afford a full K day. As you mentioned there are too many repercussions and ramifications on learning and family and social aspects to not extend K all the way. Otherwise it defies the logic of common sense.”