Comparing Scholarship Offers

During our last round of offers in May, we also decide on entrance scholarship awards based on a combination of grades and the AIF score. (These are separate from the $1000 Merit and $2000 President’s scholarships that are automatically awarded based on admission averages over 85%.  Almost all Engineering students get these.)  Our engineering entrance scholarships range in value from $1,000 to $20,000, but the majority are around $3,500.  Some are from the university, but many are gifts from alumni, companies, and other donors (thanks!).  In total, there around  200 spread among the 1500 students that come in September, so I suppose the odds of getting one are about 15%.  For those comparing offers, here are a few observations about entrance scholarships, at Waterloo and in general.

  1. Our surveys seem to indicate that we give out more scholarships than other universities, but the values may be smaller.  It’s hard to pick out a handful of students (from among many excellent ones) and give them a massive scholarship, so why not give more people a smaller award?  I think that has been our philosophy over the years.
  2. Since co-op employment starts in first year at Waterloo, getting a big scholarship seems to be less important, according to student surveys.
  3. When comparing scholarship offers, watch out for the fine print!  Most of our scholarships are one-time awards with no conditions.  However, many of the large scholarships at other universities (and a few of ours) are spread over 4 years and require you to maintain a certain average (often 80%).  To a high school student getting 90’s this sounds easy, but in fact it is not.  An 80+ average represents the top 1/4 to 1/3 of a university class, where everyone else was also a high achieving high school student.  I don’t have any good statistics, but I understand that a significant fraction of these scholarship holders never get the full value because they miss the minimum grade at some point over the 4 years.
  4. At Waterloo, there will be upper year scholarships that you can apply for.  There is a website listing these.  Sometimes not many students apply, so the odds can be quite good if you meet the minimum criteria.
  5. Scholarships to U.S. colleges will often look much bigger and better than ours, but their tuition and other fees may also be much higher.  This may be part of a marketing strategy known as “tuition discounting”, and it is not so common in Canada.  Make sure you consider the total financial picture.
  6. Perhaps you got a big scholarship at another university but not at Waterloo, and want to know if we will match it.  I’ll save you a phone call.  We won’t.  We have certain resources to work with, and that’s all there is.
  7. Financial aid (like bursaries and OSAP) is a whole other topic, and I don’t know anything about it, so I’ll just leave a few links:  OSAP  Bursaries


16 thoughts on “Comparing Scholarship Offers

  1. Is it possible to lose the entrance scholarships (President’s scholarships ones) if the average mark drops at the end of the year?(For example if someone had a 92 average in midterms then dropped to 88)

  2. I’m just wondering whether these scholarships have already been decided and if we were notified of them by E-mail. Since I did not get any E-mails concerning these scholarships during the past week, does this mean I missed out on the entrance scholarships?

  3. I was admitted to UW on May 6th, however, I have not received the offer/scholarship package in the mail yet. When can we expect to receive the package?

  4. Hi,
    I am from outside of Ontario and was accepted into engineering, with the top President’s scholarship, on marks provided by the school back in November. My conditions only state they require my final marks. My question is, although my midterm marks have not been requested, should I have asked the school to send them for additional scholarship consideration? Would the scholarship committee go to the school and ask for present marks? Thank you.

    • Scholarships are determined with whatever marks we have on file in early May. No, we don’t request updated marks from schools. It’s up to the applicant to decide whether to have the school send in marks.

  5. Hi professor!

    Are all the entrance scholarships sent out to the applicants already? I am not talking about the Merit and/or President Scholarships. I was wondering about the 15% probability one. Will those be sent out separately through the mail or altogether within the “You Got In!” package along with the Merit or President ones? Thank you for the insight!

  6. Hello professor,
    I’m an international student who received an early offer. My final exam grades were sent to the university in the second week of May. I was later told I haven’t received any scholarship other than president’s scholarship. But this was after I sent my final exam scores. My final exam marks are pretty good(mid nineties) and I think I have a decent AIF. I got to know through your blog that scholarship decisions are made based on grade 12 final exam marks. Can you please help me out? Will I still be considered for international entrance scholarships?

  7. If my final marks are better than my early May marks, would I be able to get a better President’s Scholarship? Do I have to go through a certain process to send my final marks to Waterloo?


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