Oak Bay grads planning for transition

Scholarship application time stressful for Grade 12s, but good prep for post-secondary life

Oak Bay High Grade 12 students Liam McDonough

Oak Bay High Grade 12 students Liam McDonough

You’re in a room, thousands of kilometres from home. People you’ve only just met are throwing questions at you.

You try to answer the best you can, knowing there’s $75,000 at stake.

Oak Bay High Grade 12 student Emerald Pringle was among 76 scholarship applicants put through the final stages of adjudication in Toronto last weekend, as judges selected the 30 winners of the 2012 Loran Award. A total of 3,900 students applied across the country.

Pringle found out Sunday night, after arriving home from the quick trip to Toronto, that she had not been selected. She did, however, earn $3,000 as a finalist and took one more step toward a major transition in her young life.

“The weekend was an amazing opportunity … I learned so much about myself and met so many amazing people,” she said.

The process began for her back in October. “I had to do four essays of 300 words each. The name of the game is getting them to want to talk to you so you can express yourself in person.”

The Loran Award rewards young people not only for high academic achievement – Pringle is averaging 95 per cent this year – but active community involvement and leadership. It is the créme de la créme of scholarships in this country and as such, requires the most work to apply for, especially if one advances through the regional and provincial stages.

But the Loran is only one of countless monetary awards available to students moving on to post-secondary education.

At Oak Bay High alone, roughly 100 students were offered more than $1 million in scholarships and bursaries last year. They range from major awards worth tens of thousands of dollars to $400 contributions from community groups or families. For students trying to defray the mounting cost of higher education, they all add up, says Oak Bay’s Scholarship Preparation 12 teacher Scott Alexander.

Despite overseeing the course for the first time, the high-energy instructor has done plenty of research on what’s out there. With his students in the thick of scholarship application season, he acknowledges that school advisors can be a key resource for students, by helping them navigate through the multitude of online and print information.

“We really become a coach,” he says. “If the kids choose to apply themselves and search out what’s available, there’s huge results that can be achieved.”

Motivated Oak Bay students such as Liam McDonough plan to apply for as many as possible.

He’s hoping to get accepted to the Gustafson School of Business at the University of Victoria and is in the middle of completing his application. Aware he may not gain immediate acceptance, despite holding a 96-per-cent average in his Grade 12 courses, he is still looking into ways to help pay for whatever education he’ll be signed up for come fall.

“At the beginning of year I applied for some really big ones,” he said, referring to the Loran Award and a national TD Canada Trust scholarship worth $70,000. “I’ve done non-stop applications on the Internet and applied for five so far, with more to come.”

Alexander places cash awards for graduating students into two categories: scholarships, which he calls “strings attached” money rewarding academic or community achievement; and bursaries, which are “no strings” amounts based around financial need – “take the gift that is given and put it to good use,” he says.

Among last year’s grads, 21 received scholarships totalling at least $1,000. While the majority of scholarships reward academic achievement, many are available to students who specialize in one area or another, whether it’s arts, trades or something even more specific.

One scholarship Alexander discovered even offers cash for students with cowboy heritage.

“There’s something for everybody out there. Don’t think just because you don’t have the highest grades that you don’t qualify,” he says. “Some days I feel like a mythbuster.”

Logan Graham, who graduated from Oak Bay High in 2011, entered his first year at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder Business School last fall having secured $60,000 in scholarships – enough to cover his tuition, books, and costs of living on campus for four years.

Treating the application process as an investment in his future, he says it helped him refine his work ethic.

“I wanted to hang out with my friends, but I knew in January and February I was going to have to apply (for scholarships). Even though Grade 12 was a really busy year, my family was very supportive and they helped me manage my time,” he says.

“You have to look at the cost-benefit situation; looking forward to the future. Putting all this time in now is going to reward you in the future.”

For students who haven’t investigated the scholarship application process but are considering post-secondary education, Alexander highly recommends having “the money conversation” with their family.

“The true cost of education is shocking,” he says, giving as an example the average cost of a four-year degree at the University of Victoria of roughly $25,000 for tuition and books.

Pringle acknowledges that relatively few students average in the 90s academically and that many imminent grads still don’t know where their path will lead. If nothing else, she says, the scholarship investigation process can help clarify one’s interests.

“It’s a journey of discovery.”


Where to go

• For a complete list of scholarships available in Canada and the deadlines for applying, visit www.scholarshipscanada.com.