Don't miss out on free money for school - MoneySense

Free money for school

Thousands of scholarships go unclaimed each year. It’s not too late for your family to grab some


(Illustration by Lan Truong)

Everyone knows how staggering tuition bills can be these days. An estimate from the Canadian University Survey Consortium puts average student debt at $26,819, but what your son or daughter may not know is that there’s money just wait-ing to be claimed: Scholarship money. Chris Wilkins, founder of, lists more than 85,000 Canadian scholarships on his site, worth about $193 million dollars. But 3% of scholarships receive no applications at all—which amounts to a gold mine of $5.79 million going unclaimed. Here’s a guide to ensure your family leaves no stone unturned when looking for free money.

Don’t sweat the grades

Are the numbers on your child’s test scores looking a little slim? No worries— Wilkins says 80% don’t require a specific academic average. There’s also plenty of opportunity if your son or daughter doesn’t have a lot of community service hours: Only 10% make that a requirement.

It’s worth the time

“It’s all relative. If people spend 10 hours to win a $1,000 scholarship, $100 an hour is a pretty decent working rate,” points out Brittany Palmer, founder of She says the time involved is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for students so she encourages them to build a repeatable template that they can tailor towards individual applications.

Watch the wording

“Wording can often reveal an opening,” says Palmer. Her brother received a scholarship saying that hockey players were “preferred,” but as a football player he still got in. That said, she thinks there’s something out there for everyone: Tall Clubs International gives out $1,000 scholarships to those above a certain height, while Duck Tape gives scholarships to those who wear the tape to prom.

Volume is key

Palmer walked away with over $56,000 after submitting a daunting 30 scholarship applications, and receiving 14 rejections. Palmer notes that efficiencies apply when you scale up.“The nice thing is that submitting your first three applications can take as much time as the next five, because… you find your rhythm and it becomes faster and easier over time.”

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