Youth Canada

What Major Canadian Scholarships are Available?

4-09-2008 by Joshua Liu

What Major Canadian Scholarships are Available?

The following article is cross-posted from - a blog with entertainment and advice for budding physicians.

It’s amazing how much free money is out there for graduating high school students if you just look. Although there are literally hundreds of scholarships out there for Canadian students, I will be focusing this article on the background for some of Canada’s largest scholarships. That is, scholarships with a value of at least ~$5,000 x 4 years (this means $5,000 per year for 4 years = $20,000 in total). The main reason I am doing this is because these are obviously the most difficult to win (because so many students apply) and have the most intensive processes (which would probably require more advice).

The great thing about one of these major scholarships is that often if you just win one (or two), you have your entire undergraduate education paid for. How amazing would that be?

The focus of the article is just to introduce you to Canada’s largest scholarship programs. Knowing what scholarships to apply to is the first step - and unfortunately, many students don’t even get this far. There are many deserving students who do not know about these scholarships, so it’s my hope that you’ll now have the opportunity to give many of them a shot.

Advice on applying for these scholarships will be provided in future articlesThis article is simply an introduction to help you learn about the great opportunities out there.

Major Scholarships are Almost Always Application-Based

There is an unfortunate stereotype in a vast number of schools that scholarships are completely mark-based. It’s true that most universities hand out automatic entrance scholarships only based on grades (i.e. all graduating high school students who go to York University with a 95% average will receive a $3,000 x 4 years scholarship automatically). There are also some fairly large scholarships that are completely mark-based (e.g. York University hands out President’s Scholarships worth $5,400 x 4 years to the 18 students with the highest entrance averages).

What most students don’t realize (because they don’t look!), is that York University’s largest entrance scholarships are not mark-based. And this is true for almost every university.

Most Canadian Universities have their Own Major Scholarships

The largest, most prestigious scholarships at most universities are in fact application-based. These scholarships not only require high marks (usually 90+ averages), but require a list of your awards/accomplishments and extra-curricular/volunteer activities, and often essays about leadership, volunteerism and/or creativity.

The reason why major scholarships are not completely mark-based is because universities (and private organizations) recognize that marks are not the only factor for future success, both in the academic world and outside of it. Marks only take you so far in life, and once you are out in the real world, you are rarely asked for your marks. Therefore, other qualities like leadership, communication, teamwork, and character are important. In addition, high school averages vary from school to school, with some schools being much tougher than others.

Here are some examples of major university scholarships:

York University - Governor’s Awards of Distinctions

University of Western Ontario - National Scholarships

Queen’s University - Major Entrance Scholarships

University of Toronto - National and Arbor Scholarships

These are just a few of the many out there. Make sure you check the websites of the universities you are applying to (in particular, the website’s finance/scholarship sections) and find out if there are any scholarships you can apply for - remember, these aren’t automatic, so if you don’t apply, you aren’t considered!

Major Scholarships from Non-Post-Secondary Institutions

There are also major scholarships handed out by private organizations/businesses, including the ones described below, which are considered some of Canada’s largest and most prestigious scholarships. Because these scholarships are provided by private organizations/businesses and can be used at any accredited post-secondary institution, you are competing with thousands of students across Canada, making the process very competitive and fairly intensive. Here they are:

TD Canada Trust Scholarships for Community Leadership

Worth up to $60,000, the TD Canada Trust Scholarship for Community Leadership awards 20 young Canadians who have shown strong leadership and commitment to their communities. Unlike other scholarships, academics are not as significant (75+ average). They are looking for students genuinely passionate about improving the community and world around them, and have clearly demonstrated this.

I am actually a 2006 recipient of this scholarship, so it should be no surprise that I am promoting it first. But to be honest, I am very happy with the TD Canada Trust Scholarship program, and would encourage anyone and everyone to apply.

The breakdown of the scholarship is up to $10,000 per year for your tuition, a $5,000 cheque a year for your choice to use (I used it to live on campus for two years), and an offer of summer employment at TD Canada Trust during your summers (this is optional).

The application process involves a 500 word essay about your community leadership, three letters of reference regarding your community involvement, and one letter from your school. Quite a lengthy application but definitely doable and worth trying. ~60 finalists are invited to interviews, and 20 are ultimately selected as scholarship recipients.

Since the 60 finalists are selected out of an applicant pool of 3500+ based on only the application, this scholarship is heavily interested in what you have done so far as an indicator of what you will do in the future.

Loran Award

Formerly known as the Canadian Merit Scholarship, the Loran Award is worth up to $75,000 and handed out to 30 top students every year. The organization also hands out one-time awards of $2,000 and $3,000 to provincial and national finalists, respectively.

Applicants require a 85+ average, and must demonstrate character, service and leadership. There are two pools (sponsored and direct), which you can read more about on the website. Essentially sponsored candidates are recommended by the school (up to 3 candidates per school), while direct candidates apply on their own. Both pools are evaluated separately, and a specific number of national finalists are selected from each pool.

As mentioned before, unlike the TD Canada Trust Scholarship, the Loran Award is less application-based (at least for the sponsored-pool). For sponsored-applicants, there are two possible levels of interviews. First you are interviewed regionally (if you make it that far), and then if you do well, you move on to the national level interviews.

In my opinion, it seems that the Loran Award is more concerned with the potential they see in you during the interviews, whereas the TD Scholarship is more accomplishment-based.

Millennium Excellence Awards

This is the final major scholarship I will be mentioning in this article. The Millennium Excellence Awards recognize Canadian students on the basis of leadership, good citizenship and community service, innovation, and academic achievement. It requires an application with essays, and some of the finalists will have a short phone interview in the spring.

There are three levels of scholarships handed out to students: National ($20,000), Provincial/Territorial ($16,000), and Local ($4,000).

The great thing about this scholarship program is that significantly more students are awarded than with other major scholarship programs (over 1,000 students will be award recipients!).

What to do next?

The most important thing to do at this point is to read up on the different major scholarships available (starting with the ones mentioned here is probably a good idea). Make sure you visit the websites of the universities you are considering, and see what major scholarships they have are available.

Once you figure out which scholarships you want to apply to, begin preparing your applications, asking your references for their support, etc.

Also, keep a calendar or list of the different deadlines. With so many scholarship applications on your plate, it’s very easy to forget the due dates for the applications - don’t let this happen to you!

Good luck!

JOSHUA LIU is currently a Biomedical Sciences student at York University. He is the founder of SMARTS: the Youth Science Foundation Canada's national youth science network, which connects over 300 young people and 200 schools today. He also currently sits on Shad International's Board of Directors. Joshua has spoken as a presenter, panelist, and keynote at numerous student conferences. He was named as one of Canada's "Top 20 Under 20" in 2005, and is a recipient of the TD Canada Trust Scholarship for Community Leadership.

For more articles like this one, check out Joshua's blog at

Image courtesy of photographer "Disney Dan" at