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Frequently Asked Questions: Scholarships for International Students in Canada

Wondering how you can earn a scholarship or two to help you pay for school in Canada? Check out this FAQ!

FAQ for international students on scholarships

Table of Contents

What are scholarships, bursaries, and grants?

What is a scholarship?

"Scholarship" can be used as a generic term for any sort of monetary prize that helps a student pay for their education. More specifically, a scholarship is awarded based on academics, athletics, or other extra-curricular activities. Scholarship money is meant for education, and doesn't have to be paid back.

What is a bursary?

A bursary is like a scholarship, but the main factor for eligibility is financial need. Bursaries are meant for students who couldn't afford to study at a given school without financial help. Bursary money doesn't need to be paid back. Unfortunately, international students are not always eligible for bursaries.

What is a grant?

A grant is like a scholarship, but eligibility is generally quite specific. Criteria might include participating in a particular conference, or taking part in an environmental cleanup. Grant money doesn't need to be paid back.

What is an award?

An "award" is a generic term for any sort of student funding, like a scholarship, bursary, grant, etc.

What is a renewable scholarship?

When a scholarship is listed as "renewable," it means the money is available across a number of years. If you receive a renewable scholarship, and you remain eligible — generally this means keeping your grades up — you'll continue to receive scholarship money.

This consistency is great, so be sure to look for renewable scholarships whenever possible.

Which schools offer the best international scholarship programs?

As a general rule, universities offer the most generous scholarship programs. Whether you're studying at the undergraduate or graduate level, universities tend to offer the most scholarships — but university is also more expensive than college.

Public colleges often have good scholarship programs as well, and a college diploma is typically less expensive than a university degree.

Career colleges, on the other hand, don't often provide much aid. Career colleges are not always eligible for external awards, either.

Scholarship inventories will vary from school to school, so do some digging before committing to a single institution.

Do scholarships cover tuition or other costs (accommodations, materials, flights)?

This depends on the award. Many scholarship administrators send money directly to your school, meaning you'll probably never lay your hands on it in the first place. In most cases a given scholarship will be totally used up on your tuition fees, with none left over.

Though it's uncommon, some scholarship administrators will instead send you a cheque, meaning you'll receive the money yourself. The scholarship's terms and conditions may specify that the money must be used for tuition fees — but if not, you're free to use the prize money for other school expenses, like accommodations, materials, or even flights.

If you're not sure one way or the other, contact the scholarship administrator and ask for details.

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Am I eligible for scholarships?

Are there scholarships for international students?

Yes! Most colleges and universities in Canada offer a number of scholarships to international students.

Some awards will be open to domestic students only; others are only for international students. Some awards are open to everyone. Make sure you read the eligibility criteria carefully.

How easy is it to get a "full ride" scholarship?

Not very! Scholarships that pay your whole way are rare in Canada. Some exceptional students may get lucky enough to land a "full ride" award — meaning all your tuition is covered by a single scholarship — but most students will need to pull together multiple awards, and funding from various sources, to afford international tuition fees.

What scholarships are available to first-year students?

Schools typically offer more scholarships to first-year students than any other cohort. "Entrance" scholarships are meant for students who are leaving high school and entering their first year of post-secondary.

The further you get in your education, the more difficult finding awards will become. Try to land a renewable entrance scholarship when you first start, to help pay for years two, three, four (and maybe more)!

Are there awards for students from particular countries?

The Government of Canada offers some scholarships to students from specific countries: check out the EduCanada website for the full list. Only a few of these awards are open to individual applications — most require your school to nominate you first.

Schools may also offer awards for students from particular countries, though specific details will vary from school to school. Be sure to check out the options available at the schools that interest you.

What are the requirements to be eligible for a scholarship?

The most important qualification is your grades. Strong academic performance is important for international students seeking scholarships. Many entrance scholarships look for an overall average of 85% or higher — if you're a straight-A student, you're in good shape.

Other factors include extra-curricular activities, like athletics or volunteering, but these awards are less common.

Financial need is another big consideration. Bursaries are open to students who have financial difficulties, but even these awards may still depend on your grades and extra-curricular activities.

If I qualify, am I guaranteed a scholarship?

Bear in mind that even if you qualify for a given scholarship or bursary, you won't necessarily receive it. The number of awards available depends on funding sources, quantity of applications, and other factors, so you won't necessarily receive a particular scholarship even if you're fully qualified.

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How do I apply for scholarships?

What supporting documents do I need to apply for scholarships?

The supporting documents you'll need to provide vary depending on the scholarship, but here are some of the most common ones:

  • resumé or CV: a formal list of your achievements and accomplishments so far. Check out how to write a Canadian resumé
  • cover letter or personal statement: a short (roughly one page) letter that describes your experiences and shares a bit of your personality
  • reference letter: a letter from someone who knows you in an academic or professional context that attests to your qualities and experiences. Check out how to get a scholarship reference
  • budget: an approximate list of costs you expect to face, and how you plan to cover them. Check out how to budget for school
  • essay questions: your response to a particular prompt, usually related to a scholarship administrator's mission, or your plans for your future. Be sure to read the question and requirements carefully before writing!

When should I apply for scholarships?

In almost all cases, you'll need to be enrolled in college or university before you can start applying for scholarships. Some schools will accept scholarship applications if you're accepted into a school, but not yet fully enrolled.

Regardless, you generally can't apply for scholarships or bursaries if you haven't decided on a program and school yet.

Once you're enrolled, be aware that scholarship deadlines happen year-round. Spring and fall are the busiest seasons, with the most awards, but new scholarships pop up all the time. Treat your scholarship hunt like a part-time job, putting in a couple hours each week.

How many scholarships can I apply for?

Generally there's no limit to how many scholarships you can apply for. Specific scholarship programs may have limits. For example, McGill students are eligible for a single entrance award, up to a maximum value of $10,000.

Certain scholarship programs might restrict the number of awards you can receive, too. For example, the EFC scholarships have dozens of awards available, but a given student can apply for up to three.

Even so, there are no restrictions on how many awards you can get from multiple organizations. Try applying for awards from different companies and associations to accrue as much funding as you can.

What do I need to do to apply?

What you need to do to apply for a scholarship depends on the specific award. There are different types of applications:

Automatic consideration

These awards require no application at all. You're automatically considered based on your grades, location, or other factors. Many entrance awards are automatic consideration.


Some awards require you to be nominated, meaning you can't apply directly. Someone in your school or community nominates you and the scholarship administrators take it from there.


Many scholarships require a direct application. To apply, you may need to fill out a form, and sometimes attach supporting documents like a resumé or personal statement. You'll only be considered for the scholarship if your application is complete and correct.

Where can I find scholarships to apply for?

Check out, which offers a page on scholarships for international students.

Other valuable resources include:

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Browse scholarships for international students

Modified on March 29, 2022

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