A student finds she may be in financial need after all, checking her empty wallet, but first she considers these tips to determine what the term really means.

The parent of a Grade 12 student emailed me the other day to say she finds my work very informative (thank you!), and to ask this question: What determines "financial need" on a scholarship application?

The answer to this question is not so much what determines financial need as it is who determines financial need.

It is the scholarship grantor — the organization offering the scholarship — who defines what "financial need" means. For this reason, there is no one definition of financial need: it varies according to the grantor.

What you need to do to demonstrate financial need also varies according to the organization. Some may just require you to check a box, while others will require you to include some financial information with your application, or even submit tax returns.

Because there is so much variation, don't automatically assume you don't qualify for financial need scholarships. If the application doesn't clearly state what the grantor's definition of financial need is, you should contact the organization and inquire. You'll find contact info at the bottom of most ScholarshipsCanada.com listings.

Also, if you have some kind of extenuating circumstances where your income doesn't truly reflect your need, you should ask the grantor how you would demonstrate it, e.g. write a letter to explain the circumstances.

Janet MacDonald is a Scholarship Coach at MycampusGPS. She teaches students how to prepare their best scholarship applications through one-to-one coaching and workshops. She also wrote the guide "How to Find Scholarships in Canada." Janet's blog is one of the top education blogs in Canada.