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Don't Leave Free Money On The Table

12/21/2016 04:34 EST | Updated 12/21/2016 04:34 EST
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Student working on laptop in library

It's time to wind down the school year, turn in any last assignments and head home for the holidays. Hopefully you have the time to take a much needed rest from your school work and recharge the batteries.

Aside from eating too many holiday treats and catching up on the latest Netflix series, there is one item every student should add to their to-do list: Look for free money.

I'm talking about the thousands of scholarships and bursaries that are offered to Canadian post-secondary students. In fact, according to Scholarships Canada, more than $5 million dollars is left on the table every year from scholarships and bursaries that went unclaimed.

From the students I've talked to, many think that scholarship and bursaries are only available to top grade earners, but the truth is -- that there are many options available for students across every discipline of study, diverse background and level of study. The catch to getting this free money? Know where to look, and put in the work to create a winning application.

Here are my tips on getting an A+ on scholarship applications:

1.Know where to look. Resources such as ScholarshipsCanada.com and StudentAwards.com will help you on your journey to free money. You can match your expertise and interest to available scholarships and find out everything you need to know about applying. You should also check out what might be available at your own college or university by checking in with your financial aid department.

2. Look outside the box. Sometimes scholarships and bursaries are offered from the least expected sources. Don't limit your search to your academic field of study. Look for opportunities based on your extracurricular activities as there are often scholarships for particular sports, creative pursuits or musical talent. Also, tap your network -- the company your parents work for might offer scholarships for kids of employees, your local community centre might have an award with a cash prize to recognize a young person in the community, or your local bank might have a scholarship program. You never know until you ask!

3. Pay attention to the details. Most scholarships and bursaries have specific requirements that are outlined in the call for applications. In addition to proofreading for typos and grammatical errors in your application, be sure that you've followed the instructions exactly. Print a copy and ask a trusted friend of family member to review your application. Also be sure to give yourself enough time -- especially if there is an essay involved or you need to order a transcript from school. You don't want to go to all the trouble of starting an application, only to miss the deadline.

4. Try! You can't be awarded a scholarship or bursary if you don't apply. Find options where you meet the criteria and put forward an application. It will be worth it if you're successful.

Each year, RBC provides over $550,000 in scholarships to deserving Canadian students including the RBC Students Leading Change Scholarships, RBC Aboriginal Student Awards Program and Scholarship Program for the Children of RBC Employees.

Will you be looking for free money during this holiday break? Let me know on twitter @RBC_Canada if you have any more tips for applying for scholarships.

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