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How do I increase my chances of winning awards to pay for university? 💰

March 13, 2022
Author: Angela Meneghetti, VIU Financial Aid Access Specialist

A high schooler’s guide to applying for scholarships

Applying for scholarships, awards and bursaries requires a lot of planning and preparation. The key is to start early – before Grade 12! – and get strategic. Here are five tips to help you prepare.

Be proactive

Getting started is hard, but the key to finding and applying for awards to reduce post-secondary costs starts with you. Finding scholarships, awards and bursaries not only takes time and patience, it requires will and motivation. Qualifying for most awards requires an early start and the benefits to starting early increase when you start before Grade 12. Some scholarships look at what you’ve been doing up to Grade 12, so it’s beneficial to participate in extracurricular activities in Grades 10 and 11 to boost your chances of winning an award, scholarship or bursary.

The funder’s checklist

What do you need to do to boost your chances of scholarship success in Grade 12? You will need to determine what funders want to inform yourself on how to prepare for a particular scholarship, award or bursary. On top of academic performance, many funders want to see students who possess a variety of skill sets and/or experiences, particularly around community service and/or leadership.

VIU scholarships

VIU offers high school students a variety of internal entrance scholarships, which are primarily based on academic performance and/or community involvement. Grade 11 is an important academic year, as those grades are the most accessible when selecting potential candidates; however, Grade 12 interim grades will also be considered. 

Once you receive your VIU student number, you can apply for the VIU entrance awards by completing the Scholarship, Award and Bursary profile within your online student record by midnight on March 30. To qualify you must meet at least one of the criteria below:

  • Grade 12 graduating students starting full-time studies at VIU for the upcoming year; or
  • Students enrolling in a university program for the first time since high school; or
  • Students who have had an interruption of university studies (more than one year) and will be re-entering to complete their university program.

To reduce time and increase your chances of scholarship selection, VIU offers a convenient and comprehensive way to apply for more than $3.5 million in internal scholarships, awards and bursaries through one application. Learn more by visiting our online how-to guide.

Other scholarships

There are lots of businesses, organizations and groups that offer scholarships. VIU’s categorized list of external awards details more than $21.2 million in funding to help reduce the financial burden associated with post-secondary education.

There is no universal application to put you in the running for these external awards. As such, you will need to set aside time to review each award to determine eligibility, deadlines, and submission criteria. Many students say that their grades can be barriers to applying, but not all scholarships are based on grades. Some external funders waive grade requirements in favour of community involvement or volunteer experience. With that being said, be sure to choose activities that resonate with who you are as a person. For example, if you are a champion of animal rights, you may want to look at opportunities that speak to that passion. Lastly, be aware of the key documentation that may be required and outlined in the criteria section of each award and ensure that you submit exactly what the funder is looking for.

Be a time-investor

Engaging in extra-curricular activities not only enhances your personal development but keeps you connected with the global community. Despite these rewards, such roles can be demanding and time consuming, highlighting the reasons why it is important to start now. Planning ahead is a good thing. Investing your time and effort while in high school is bound to bring you a variety of benefits later as you pursue your post-secondary goals.


Angela Meneghetti is VIU’s Financial Aid Access Specialist.

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