Student Senator talks scholarships

What happens after you apply for scholarships?

Illustration: Reslus / The Peak

By: Jennifer Chou, SFU Student

Have you ever wondered how scholarships are distributed? 

As a student Senator on the Senate Undergraduate Awards Adjudication Committee (SUAAC), I’m here to shed some light on that process. I joined this committee to try to advocate for more accessible scholarships, bursaries, and awards for students. I know that there can be many barriers in applying for financial aid, so I wanted to make the process a little easier.

The term you apply in matters

First, I’ll start by saying that scholarship applications are determined each term. This means that the term you apply for a scholarship on  may change your chances of getting it, depending on who else applies that term. Kind of like a class that’s curved, it can either screw you over or save your grade (and in this case, your tuition dues). In addition to the variety of scholarship applicants, the scholarships that are available for students to apply to also differs, meaning that the SUAAC reviews many different students each term.

How important is my GPA? 

I also want to clarify any potential misconceptions. Scholarships are different from awards in that scholarships are mainly based on academic achievement and CGPAs, while awards may be based on community engagement and involvement. This means that grades are weighted and considered more heavily than extracurricular involvement for scholarships.

Scholarship applicants need to have a minimum CGPA of 3.50 however, many applicants have CGPAs well above that. Sometimes, the CGPA and transcript is the only thing we look at.

If you’re wondering about the CGPA requirements for scholarships, let me just tell you there are some really smart, hardworking students at SFU. Before being on the committee, I thought my CGPA was great. After seeing students with 4.0 to 4.25 CGPAs . . . let’s just say I’m more humble now. 

What else factors in? 

Scholarships are donor funded, meaning that the requirements may be very specific. This means that the donors decide many aspects of scholarship requirements. These requirements and restrictions may include things like faculty/program of study or year level. I remember one scholarship required students to have worked in the food service industry. While the Financial Aid and Awards office tries to advocate and share general trends with donors, it is ultimately up to the donors to decide whether to broaden scholarship criteria or not.

Despite the sometimes restrictive criteria, the SUAAC does try to be fair and “spread the wealth,” so to speak. For example, if there was a student eligible for four to five scholarships, and their CGPA was consistently the highest for each one, we would give that student the highest value scholarship they are eligible for and allocate others to those who may have a slightly lower CGPA. An exception to this would be if this lucky student was the only eligible student for a scholarship, especially if that scholarship had very specific criteria. 

In cases where students have the same CGPA, the committee would look at how long the student has maintained a CGPA. This means that a fifth-year student with a 4.0 CGPA may be prioritized over a first-year student with a 4.0 CGPA. This may also apply to transfer students. 

Another thing we keep in mind is previous scholarship recipients. For example, if a student has received a scholarship for many consecutive years, we may consider another student who may not have gotten the scholarship before.

For people who may not be eligible for scholarships, SFU also has a variety of other options such as bursaries, work-study, and job postings

Jennifer Chou is the SFSS Board of Director’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences representative and a student Senator on the SFU Senate.

Illustration: Reslus / The Peak