Every year in Canada, millions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed. In 2021, approximately one in twenty scholarships listed on Scholarships Canada had no applicants.
“[My school] tried to teach us where to get scholarships but they gave us terrible websites where they were only meant for a specific type of people, like you had to be an athlete or something,” said Sam Obadia, a second-year Arts and Business student. “The only scholarship I ended up getting was the automatic one from UW.”
According to a 2018 study done by Macleans, UW spent 14.8 per cent of its budget on scholarships and bursaries.
Imprint was unable to find UW’s exact annual operating budget. However, Wilfrid Laurier University’s 2022 operating budget states that increases in money allocated for scholarships and bursaries are due to the recent influx of students with higher secondary school grades.
According to the university’s statement of operations, over the years, UW has increased the amount budgeted for scholarships and bursaries, possibly in recognition of the increasing costs of post-secondary education.
In the 2010 academic year, the school’s expenses for scholarships and bursaries totalled $106,213. In the 2015 academic year, the expenses for that same category totalled $132,263, and in the 2021 academic year, they totalled $136,586. All numbers have been adjusted for inflation.
However, UW’s deferred contributions, covering “unspent externally restricted grants, donations and investment income for research and other specific purposes,” increased from the 2020 academic year to the 2021 academic year by about $42,600. Restricted grants refer to grants from donors with specific instructions regarding their usage. It is unclear what other specific purposes the deferred contributions category covers or what happens to unspent scholarship money. The university’s donations for the 2021 academic year totalled $11,738, with its grants and contracts totalling $433,908.
Despite these increases in scholarship funding for both automatic, faculty and cultural-specific scholarships, many students still feel daunted by the lack of ready information on them.
“It felt inaccessible,” said Obadia. “I feel like there wasn’t enough talk about it… no one told you, like, ‘here are the resources.’ You had to find them on your own.”
One explanation for the lack of applications to scholarships is the common perception that they are only awarded for academic achievement. In recent years, more scholarships have focused on community service, student character and leadership, providing more students with the chance to access funding.
Scholarships that current students may consider applying for include the Explore 99 scholarship, which focuses on students’ extracurriculars, and the Sobeys Food for Thought scholarship, which does not require an essay or minimum GPA. Other scholarships can be found at https://studentawards.com/.
Students are also advised to look into local businesses, charities and religious groups, as these organizations may have scholarships that are not well-advertised.