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How International Students Can Find Scholarships in Canada

Universities in Canada have earned worldwide recognition for providing an outstanding quality of education, offering international students a chance to receive a world-class college or university education. Canada ranks within the top 10 safest countries in the world, and has abundant natural beauty and vibrant cities.

However, international students hoping to receive a world-class education may find the costs of living and studying in Canada overwhelming.


Thankfully, several available scholarships can help ease financial burdens so international students can focus on what matters most, their studies.

How International Students Can Get Canadian Scholarships

If you plan to get a secondary education in Canada, there are a few ways to increase the likelihood of receiving a scholarship to help fund your studies. It’s best to think ahead while still in high school, as things like good grades and extracurricular activities are crucial. Taking time to put together a thoughtful, thorough application is also critical.


Good Grades and High Test Scores

Good grades throughout high school and (if applicable) community college is proof of your academic excellence and can significantly increase the chances of receiving a scholarship. Ideally, you should aim for a 3.0 GPA minimum, although each scholarship has its own standards, and higher is always better. Additionally, high scores on academic benchmark tests like the SAT, ACT or GRE greatly benefit your scholarship chances.

Extracurricular Activities and Community Involvement

Extracurricular activities show you’re well-rounded and help demonstrate traits certain scholarships are looking for. For example, serving as the president of a club proves leadership skills. Community involvement or volunteering in non-school-related activities can also help. Good examples include working in a soup kitchen and helping older or physically challenged neighbors. Ask for letters from the organizations or people you help, so there’s proof of your humanitarian efforts for your scholarship application.

Recommendation Letters

Recommendation letters can improve your ability to receive a scholarship by having someone in an authoritative position vouch for you. Look for people in high standing in your school, a non-profit organization, a relevant company or your community. The letter should include how long the person has known you, why they believe you’re a good scholarship candidate, their credentials and their contact information. If possible, aim for one to three relevant recommendation letters.

Thoughtful, Thorough Application

Take time writing your scholarship application and ensure you’ve included all necessary documents. Some scholarships may require essays, tests, or similar. In addition to these and a completed application form, you’ll want to include recommendation letters, proof of identification, transcripts, proof of English language proficiency and a purpose statement or letter of motivation. Many scholarships also require medical documents and proof of certain vaccinations, but these requirements vary.


Available Scholarships

Several scholarships are available to international students who demonstrate academic excellence in their studies. These scholarships can help students from all corners of the globe fund their education in Canada. Each has its own requirements and guidelines, so you’ll want to ensure you research those that pique your interest thoroughly.

Presidents International Distinction Scholarship

Offered by the University of Alberta in Edmonton, which U.S. News ranks as a top global university, the President’s International Distinction Scholarship is available to first-year international students with superior academic records and demonstrated leadership skills. This prestigious scholarship typically pays out over a period of four years, and students can receive as much as $120,000 over that period. It requires an approved study permit and is open to students from all foreign countries.

May Quon Undergraduate Scholarship

Undergraduate students who are legal residents of China or Hong Kong can apply to receive the May Quon Undergraduate Scholarship. This four-year scholarship pays out as much as $45,000 during that period. To apply, students must have an approved study permit, an outstanding academic record and proven leadership qualities. This scholarship is not limited to any particular field of study, but recipients must maintain a GPA of at least 3.50 and carry a full course load for the scholarship to be renewed after the first year.

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship

Although this scholarship program does not directly target international students, they are welcome to pursue it for doctoral studies. To receive the $150,000 scholarship, which is spread throughout three years, candidates must be nominated by the institution that they wish to attend and must meet all eligibility requirements. Part-time students with qualifying disabilities or family obligations that prevent them from pursuing doctoral studies on a full-time basis may also be eligible. All students must be in the process of pursuing their first doctoral degree, and they must be enrolled in a program that includes a substantial research component that results in a dissertation, thesis, scholarly publication or other measurable outcome.

African Leaders of Tomorrow

Inspired by Nelson Mandela’s lifelong commitment to equality and justice for all individuals, this scholarship program is designed for students in Sub-Saharan African countries who are pursuing graduate degrees in finance, public administration and policy at Canadian institutions. It also includes a professional development component that features mentorship programs, networking events and webinars. Students will also complete a case study of their home countries. Successful candidates are between the ages of 22 and 35 and have completed an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. The scholarship includes airfare to and from the home country, tuition, and allowances for resource materials and living expenses.

University of Waterloo International Student Entrance Scholarship

The University of Waterloo provides 20 scholarships of $10,000 to incoming international students every year. Recipients must have been admitted to the first year of their degree program and demonstrated superior academic performance at their secondary schools. This scholarship is available for any degree program and is open to students from all countries. Proficiency in English is required for this program. Incoming students do not have to fill out an application for the scholarship. A student’s application for admission determines their eligibility.

Douglas College International Student Scholarships

Douglas College provides incoming international students with two categories of entrance scholarships. Students from the Commonwealth of Independent States, which includes countries in Eastern Europe and Asia and was formed when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, are eligible to receive awards between $1,000 and $2,000. These awards are based on admissions applications to the college. Students from all countries are eligible to receive a Dr. Guangwei Ouyang International Education Entrance Scholarship of $2,500 from Douglas College. This award is based on academic performance and community engagement.

The Université de Montréal Exemption Scholarships

The Université de Montréal has a relatively new scholarship program that supports the studies of international students by exempting them from their tuition fees. Recipients must be on a valid study permit, be enrolled full-time and not be receiving any other type of tuition exemption. There is no application for this scholarship — recipients are determined by the secondary school transcripts provided in their application for admission. Scholarships are available for undergraduates as well as those in graduate and Ph.D. programs. 


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