By: Zach Geldert
“It’s the most wonderful time of the yeeeeear!” echoes in everyone’s ears as the relentless Staples commercials celebrate the beginning of yet another school year. While parents rejoice and school children groan, university students sweat with anxiety over how they will afford another year of post-secondary education. Fear not faithful readers, the Cadre is here to save the day…well sort of. As much as we’d like to sell the Student Union building to pay for every student’s tuition this year, we can’t. In lieu we consulted with manager of scholarships and financial aid at UPEI, Mr. Keith Lawlor, about what scholarships and aid is available to the students of UPEI. The following is from an email interview with him.
Zach: How many total scholarships does UPEI have to offer?
Mr. Lawlor: I don’t yet have the updated information for the current year, as new awards are created often, but I can say that UPEI offers over 3100 awards!
Z: How long is the process to apply for a scholarship and is there a group of scholarships that can be applied for all at once?
L: The time it takes to apply for scholarships varies according to what is required in each application. Some awards require detailed personal statements, financial need information, reference letters, and transcripts. Other awards could be as simple as a single application form and one-page letter. All application requirements are selected to guide the selection committee to the most accurate information for adjudicating each award. At UPEI, we are working hard to funnel as many awards as possible into one of two ‘Cycle’ applications. We have the 1st Semester Award Cycle Application, due October 1st, and the 2nd Semester Cycle Application, due February 1st. Each of these applications contain dozens of scholarship opportunities, and allow students to apply for multiple awards in a single application. It’s too easy to NOT apply!
Z: How much is awarded in scholarship money each year?
L: Again, I don’t yet have the updated information for the current year, but it is over $5.6 million.
Z: Is there any other financial aid services available through UPEI i.e. financial literacy/planning assistance, and how can a student access these services?
L: The Scholarships, Awards and Financial Aid Office is focused on UPEI’s broad scholarship portfolio. US students can apply for student aid with UPEI’s Financial Aid Advisor, Margaret McPike, and Canadian students apply for student aid with their province of residency. For example, in PEI, students apply for a student loan through the PEI Student Financial Services Office. We do work with the Province of PEI to help administer the George Coles Bursary Program, which most eligible students receive in January each year.
Z: In your opinion has student financial responsibility changed over the years? Are students seeking your departments help more or less?
L: I’m still within my first year in the role as Manager of Scholarships, Awards and Financial Aid, so I can’t say comment specifically on an increase or decrease in student interest over the years. However, UPEI is creating new scholarship opportunities all the time. It seems that the more students that receive support, the more I see other students inquiring how they may get in on the action and qualify for a scholarship.
Z: What is the number 1 tip that you would give to every single student at UPEI?
L: The number one tip I can give UPEI students is to apply for everything they feel eligible for, and start the habit of applying for scholarships in first year! It doesn’t happen often, but there are times when there are more awards to give out than applicants. That said, students are asked to respect the eligibility requirements for each award as well. If an award is clearly intended for a specific degree program, students from all other faculties are ineligible. We verify all available information on each student before proceeding.
Mr. Lawlor also wanted to dispel one common misconception that many students have. He wanted to remind students that just because only one student applies for a scholarship it does not automatically guarantee that the student will receive it, they still have to meet the criterion for the scholarship. If no eligible candidate applies the scholarship will be re-promoted with a new deadline until a student who best satisfies the criterion. He also wanted to remind students that UPEI’s primary scholarship, Celebrating Student Achievement Program, is available to all students automatically starting at $500 if the student achieves at least an 80.00% average in the previous school year. Do not hesitate to visit the gentleman and his team in Kelly building, they are here to help you. Finally, if you are feeling severe stress and anxiety and would like to talk to someone there are student counselors at Student Affairs upstairs in the Student Union building who are super supportive and more than willing to discuss any problems that you may be encountering.
Hopefully this advice will provide a little reprieve for students, as well as light the fire in students to achieve academic success because there are rewards for your success! We at the Cadre want to wish every student a great school year and want to remind our readers to check back in the business section for more articles about financial responsibility, including an interview with ENACTUS about their Financially Fit initiative.