Going to grad school can be expensive. Tuition, cost of living, textbooks, $5 campus coffees, and those $10 wraps in the Robarts cafeteria that you desperately tell yourself you don’t need but end up buying anyways because there’s literally nowhere else to eat. (Comment here or send us a email if you want an on/near campus guide of cheap eats in the future!)
With the overwhelming amount of time, energy and stress it takes to apply for scholarships, where do you even begin? How do you find scholarship? How do you write good applications? How do you get more resources and help with those questions?!
I am going to be honest here. I only quasi-qualified to write this article for you dear readers because of my one-off success at scoring a SSHRC CGS-M (a massive acronym for Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canadian Graduate Scholarship – Master’s) however there are so many other good resources that will help you navigate other kinds of less-scary sounding scholarships. I’ll also touch on other good tips to keep in mind.
Working within your capacity
Writing grant applications is hard. It’s even harder to think about them when you have a million other things to do. I wrote my SSHRC application in a fleeting moment of near-panic, near the end of my first semester of grad school.
Don’t be like me. Be prepared. Look at your options during the summertime and early into the semester. Make note of deadlines and what is required out of each scholarship you are considering applying for. Reach out to potential referees early on. Talk to professors if you have any questions. Being proactive is key when you are looking for funding.
Another thing to consider is that you have to write these applications with your achievements in mind. Be reflective and kind to yourself. Think of what you have done and how your past achievements have set you up for what you hope to do next.
Where to find scholarships
After your acceptance to the iSchool, you may have stumbled across this page: SGS Awards. This wonderful list provided by the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) lists many of the scholarships available to graduate students at UofT.
Large-scale scholarship writing tips (SSHRC and OGS)
The SSHRC and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) are two of the big players that people in our Faculty usually apply for. These two scholarships fund research projects, so if you aren’t considering a thesis-based stream in our Faculty, peek at the SGS list I provided above for other scholarships you could qualify for.
These two scholarships are intensive and require thought into what exactly you want to research during your time in grad school. Here are my top tips for writing a solid application.
i) Be confident in your work!
You are the boss of your own ideas. If you don’t come across as confident in the application process you may be passed up.
ii) Think of the potential larger applications of your research
Your research always has external applications. What do you hope your work contribute to the larger literature? Why does your work in particular deserve funding? You are asking for money, so prove to the funding body how your work is important enough to receive support.
iii) What you end up researching does not always equal what you end up researching
Your ideas can be big to start. You can also change your mind. But, remember, what you pitch should be relevant to what you are interested in doing. You don’t have to have it all figured out yet, since you’ll be writing funding applications early on into your process. However, keep in mind that you are trying to communicate clearly to the funding body what you plan on doing.
So, have a big idea, write about your big idea, but don’t be too frivolous or aloof.
iv) Project description outlines
Here’s my trusty structure for outlining a project description:
Introduce: What is your project?
Give Context: Where does your project lie within the larger picture of the field?
Ask Questions: What are the burning questions you want to answer through your research?
Give Example: How will you achieve your project? What are the goals or milestones?
How will it contribute?: This is the golden point. How do you perceive your work contributing to your field?
v) Find trusted references early on
The moment you decide to write a grant application that requires references, let them know IMMEDIATELY. Send out emails to the references you have in mind with details on the grant you are applying for. Once they agree, provide your references with their deadlines for writing in on your application. Consider sending your referee a copy of your CV and a project outline or proposal. Set them up with with points of reference early on so they can speak to your achievements in a meaningful way.
Where to get more help
Always keep an eye on the SGS website and the
Graduate Centre for Academic Communication. They will post lectures and bootcamps on how to apply for big research grants.
For example, the School of Graduate Studies is offering a SSHRC bootcamp at the end of August. Register here.
Also, keep an eye out for email communications from the Faculty, the Student Services team will typically remind students of the various deadlines coming up for the larger grants available.