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There are many different types of scholarships available to Canadian students. Each one has its own set of requirements and eligibility criteria. Some scholarships are awarded based on financial need, while others are merit-based. However, that’s just the start of scholarships available for students.  

The truth is, there is a huge list of scholarships out there that reward very different kinds of students. Given that this is the case, it will help to know how your or your child’s student profile stacks up to various scholarship programs.

Knowing what to look for and what to avoid when searching for scholarships can help empower you or your child to find the right scholarships to apply for. This starts with a good understanding of scholarships by type. Here’s a breakdown that can help you navigate your scholarship search and pay for education costs.

Understanding Different Types of Scholarship Opportunities

Below, we cover ten major types of scholarships that are available to students. However, it’s important to know that these are general categories. Many of these common types of scholarships will have additional terms and conditions, which you should read carefully. On other occasions, scholarship types might mix. For example, a merit scholarship might require eligible applicants to be a current high school student, or a female, live in a certain city, or something else. 

Always check the full range of eligibility requirements for any scholarship you or your child decide to apply for. 

College and University scholarships for high school students, undergraduate students, and graduate students.

Merit-Based Scholarships: Academic Scholarships & Community Service Scholarships

Merit-based scholarships are awarded to students for excellent academic performance or extracurricular achievement in high school or while attending college or university. 

Merit awards are most commonly academic scholarships. However, They may also reward a student for outstanding extracurricular activities, particularly in the categories of leadership, innovation, and community service.

Merit-based scholarships can be worth a lot of money and they are typically competitive.

Need-Based Scholarships: Financial Aid to Pay for College or University

Need-based scholarships are available for students whose household income falls under a particular amount. Financial need scholarships don’t always have the same stipulations on income so be sure to investigate terms carefully.

Most needs-based scholarships will ask for family income statements and a budget forecasting expenses for the upcoming academic year. This is where students outline education costs including tuition, books, residence fees, etc.

In Canada, students may have to apply for provincial government student loans. For example, students in the province of Ontario may have to qualify for student aid through the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) in order to meet eligibility criteria for a need-based scholarship.

Additionally, many colleges and universities have need-based programs. So, check with your institution’s financial aid office if you’re already attending a postsecondary institution.

Student-Specific Scholarships: Scholarships for Women, Scholarships for Underrepresented Groups, & Much More

Student specific scholarships tend to have unique eligibility requirements that invest in students for a wide variety of reasons. Some of these reasons include gender, race, religion, family, hobbies, and medical history.

For example, there are scholarships for women, scholarships based on ethnicity, scholarships for immigrants, minority students, military scholarships, and even scholarships for students who have specific medical ailments (for example, Crohn’s and Colitis, various mental health diagnoses, etc.).

There are other kinds of unique scholarships, too, like those for bird watchers or for tall people. In short, many communities, no matter how obscure, offer scholarships for students like you or your child. So, do a search based on your affiliations because you might be surprised to find that scholarship money is available.

Also, keep in mind that the more unique a prize is, the less competition there will be. When eligibility requirements are very specific, it will decrease the amount of students who can apply. 

Scholarships By Major or Career-Specific Scholarships: Scholarships to Help Students Enter Certain Fields

These are scholarships awarded to students who plan to study in a particular field or enter a certain line of work. For this reason, sometimes these prizes are called career-specific scholarships.

When conducting searches for these prizes in scholarship databases or at your college or university, you may want to look for language related to your field of study. For example, you can do a search for scholarships for engineering students, trade scholarships, STEM scholarships, scholarships for history, scholarships for graduate students, etc. 

Institution-Specific Scholarships: A Common Type of Scholarship Awarded by Schools

Many schools offer scholarships to their own students. School-specific scholarships can often be found on an institution’s financial resources page or under resources offered by the school registrar. If you can’t find these resources, ask! Not all institutions will have an easy-to-find list of featured scholarships.

School-specific scholarships can be diverse and range from academic merit to need-based. The great thing about these prizes is that they are not open to students outside of your or your child’s college or university. This will diminish the amount of competition.

Athletic Scholarships: College Scholarships for Elite Athletes

Athletic scholarships are given to students who have exceptional athletic abilities.

Many believe that athletic scholarships are only given out by specific teams or institutions. However, there are also scholarship providers and athletic clubs that offer scholarship opportunities for top athletes. For example, there is scholarship money for curlers, martial artists, most major sports, and general athletic scholarships. Ultimately, if you excel at any sport, a scholarship search for these types of prizes may help you or your child to find money to assist with tuition. 

Brand Scholarships: A Common Type of Scholarship Available

Brand scholarships are those that are offered by businesses or corporations. They are typically meant to bring positive exposure to the scholarship provider.

Brand scholarships are often promoted widely to both university and college students. For this reason, you will find brand scholarships on many scholarship finders, scholarship databases, scholarship directories, and scholarship platforms. When researching awards, you may also find that many of these scholarships are littered all over social media. Brand scholarships tend to attract many applicants because of the high level of promotion behind them. 

Creative Scholarships: Scholarships for Students with Artistic Abilities

These scholarships typically ask students to submit a creative piece of work in addition to, or in place of, a scholarship essay. Creative scholarships are designed to reward students who show promise or some kind of innovation in their creative endeavors. This may include art, photography, music, video editing, animation, creative writing, and many other pursuits. So, if typical scholarship applications aren’t for you or your child, you may want to try this route in your scholarship search.

High School Scholarships: Scholarship Opportunities for Students in Grade 12

Many scholarships are offered to current high school students planning to pursue university or college education. These awards usually state that they are for current grade 12 students who plan to enroll in postsecondary studies in the next academic year. Typically, successful applicants need to provide a letter of enrollment in order for money to be released to them. Two of the most popular national scholarship programs for high school students are the Loran Scholarship and the Schulich Leader Scholarship

Research Scholarships: Scholarships for Students Headed to Graduate School

One of the most overlooked types of scholarships are those for aspiring graduate students. Research scholarships are given to students who will attend graduate school in the next academic year (and current graduate students, too). Two examples of these scholarships are the Canada Graduate Scholarship (also referred to as NSERC or SSHRC) and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS). 

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Other Types of Scholarships for Students

The types of scholarships listed above offer the most popular kinds of awards. However, scholarships are very diverse. You may for example find scholarships for you or your child from your employer or union. There may also be local scholarships for students from your town or city. 

Also, there’s a wide range of scholarships specifically for international students. 

Given the diversity of potential scholarship options, it’s good practice to examine your personal network to see if any other opportunities exist. 

A Special Note About Grants and Bursaries

Grants and bursaries are forms of financial aid similar to scholarships. However, they usually have a financial need component to them. If there’s a possibility that you or your child qualify for financial need, grants and bursaries from provincial governments or college or university institutions may be an option. 

There are Many Different Kinds of Scholarships to Help You Pay for College or University!

As you can see, there are many different kinds of scholarships available. So, it’s important to do your research and find the ones that are best for you. Applying for scholarships can be a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it if you’re able to secure funding for your or your child’s education. Be sure to start your search early and give yourself plenty of time to fill out applications. Good luck!

Christopher Grafos, Ph.D., is the founder and chief scholarship mentor at BridgesEDU Scholarships.

He’s a first-generation university graduate whose life was transformed by education and winning scholarships. 

Scholarships help students financially, but they also help advance a student’s career. It’s his life’s work to champion this message and share the secrets to finding and winning scholarships. 

Read more about Christopher’s journey here