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The Secret to Winning Scholarships 
It takes time and effort to win a scholarship, but it's well worth it.

With post secondary tuition increasing more than 100 percent in ten years, and the narrowing job market, Canadian students are seeking ways to decrease the financial burden of attending college and university. Sometimes winning scholarships makes the difference in whether a student attends post secondary institution or not. Scholarships are available from many sources, but knowing how to qualify and win is a challenge for most students and parents.

Grade 9 is a good place to start...

More than $58 million dollars is available in Canadian scholarships, and the key to winning free money is through proper planning and taking the appropriate actions at the right time. Some tips for being successful are as follows:

Start early

Grade 9 is a good place to start building academic and personal credentials, yet acquiring a foundation for learning begins earlier in elementary school. The higher the grade average the better your chances are for scholarships.

Get involved

Good grades are important, but scholarship committees have many applicants with outstanding grades. Leadership, involvement, and community service show a student’s willingness to give back to the community. Starting a program that benefits others shows innovative ability.

Find scholarship sources

Finding sources for scholarships is much easier today because of computer technology. Search college, university, and scholarship websites, visit your high school guidance offices, contact community and local service organizations, and your parents’ places of work. These sources are readily available at no cost; however, a source is only as good as the person using it. Seek professional help, if needed.

Showcase yourself

A well-rounded autobiography shows your academic achievements, honours and awards, school activities, community service, leadership, innovative skills, and career objectives. Organizing your documents in a portfolio helps when composing your autobiography.

Present a great application

Follow directions exactly, complete the application fully, use proper grammar and spelling, and submit the application on time.

Scholarship essays

A great essay lets you introduce yourself to decision-making committee members and gives you the opportunity to shine. It is often the winning edge of a scholarship competition.

Reference letters

Scholarships usually require references and they are important in scholarship success. Your good character and credentials allow the person writing to acknowledge your strengths to the scholarship committees. Also, your selection of people who write the letters is as important as the reference letters.

Remember that it takes time and effort to win scholarships. Keeping yourself out of debt is well worth your time and energy.

Pat Chacha is the director of Scholars Education Centre.

Originally published in Maranatha News, March 11, 2009.

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