Scholarships available for international and domestic students experiencing challenges during the pandemic
U of T, York University, and the University of Waterloo are just a few of many institutions that provide financial aid to struggling international students

For international students looking to come back to Canada and require financial assistance through the Covid-19 pandemic, many organizations and schools have scholarships ready—but with a price. 

The same organizations offer scholarships to domestic students who are also experiencing challenges during the pandemic.

On November 22, 2021, the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) sent out an email confirming the most recent model of learning moving into the winter term. Students were promised in-person activities and classes with most, if not all, courses offering only an in-person delivery method on Acorn. 

Since then, this has caused issues for numerous international students who are scrambling to organize their upcoming winter break. On December 16, the university released another important message for students announcing the return of another online portion of the semester from January 10 to January 30.

However, this was not the first time international students faced educational challenges as a result of the pandemic. Organizations and universities around Canada recognized this struggle leaving many institutions to offer help through scholarships accessible for all levels of education.

For instance, international PhD prospects looking to complete their degrees can obtain the Ontario Trillium Scholarship available for Western University, which pays PhD students $40,000 for the first four years of their studies. Eligible students should be physically present at the university and show proficiency in English, as well as demonstrate excellent academic and research records. 

Other universities that provide scholarships at the graduate level include the University of Alberta, with an entrance scholarship of $21,000; the University of Montreal, with multiple scholarships; as well as the University of British Columbia, with their four-year Doctoral Fellowship that covers full tuition and provides $18,200 as an allowance.

The University of Waterloo offers its Excellence Scholarship Program for Master’s students in a research stream of any subject. This renewable award is worth $2500 per semester and automatically considers all students eligible for the award.

Looking at U of T, the university offers the Lester B. Pearson Scholarship for 37 students who show an exceptional sense of community, leadership, and academics. This full-ride scholarship waives all tuition fees, accommodations, and textbooks for the full four years of undergraduate learning. 

Other universities, such as York University and the University of Calgary, provide entrance scholarships for international students on the premise of maintaining a competitive GPA. 

The next step for most international students would be obtaining their student visas after making the decision of flying to Canada for their school year. 

There are many new measures in place since the pandemic, and international students must bear in mind all the restrictions and protocols required for a smooth return to Canada. Some include ensuring to present documents to the Canadian government, checking vaccination statuses, and receiving a Covid-19 test prior to their flight. 

“Scholarships are always nice and help us financially, but they’re not the easiest to obtain,” Zaeen Iqbal, a fourth-year Life Sciences international undergraduate student at UTM shares. 

“And even if they were more accessible and easier to obtain, it’s still hard to justify the confusion and the money spent trying to figure out the whole Covid-19 situation. Within a month we had to prepare for an in-person winter semester while also dealing with the cancellations last minute. It’s hard finding a place to rent and arrange everything only to know the school might go back online. Money can solve some problems, but not all.”

Other international students echo the same concern. Ayesha Tahir, a third-year History undergraduate from Dubai explained, “Honestly, everyone would apply for the scholarships if they didn’t come with so many requirements. And if you do meet the requirements, it’s almost impossible for the average student to meet the level of excellence demanded by most of these scholarships.”

“It’s good to know that these scholarships are here. But the ones that need it most will find it hard to obtain these financial aids,” Tahir continues.

Other than the ones mentioned in this article, there are many more scholarships offered by third-party organizations as well as independent faculties at U of T. Interested students can use the university’s website to search for one that best suits their needs and qualifications.

While we have little control over where the pandemic goes, much of what students and staff can do is uphold Covid-19 safety measures and be optimistic for the new year.

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