Money for nothing

In Features /

By Liz Nyburg

Is your OSAP loan feeling like a ball and chain? Are summer job earnings stretched on the rack? Why not apply for a student bursary or scholarship and let someone else ease your education bill?

The Financial Aid and Awards office is a good place to start for scholarships and bursaries (a scholarship generally goes to the most studious, a bursary to the most needy). A general bursary can net you up to $1000 and it takes up to 20 minutes to apply for.

Financial Aid and Awards officer Karen Takenaka says her office gave out $550,000 in bursaries last year. Out of the 1,200 to 1,300 students who pick up bursary applications only 400 students returned them.

Admittedly, the bursary applications looks discouraging: four pages of closely-typed bureaucratese followed by a two page form. Why bother to apply if the effort might result in a rejection?

Don’t let the paperwork faze you. Louise Moher, a third-year radio and television arts student was angry when Ryerson didn’t offer her an entrance scholarship despite her 95 per cent high school average.

Then she applied for a Ryerson general bursary. “It took only 20 minutes to whip-up a one page letter that pulled on the heart-strings of the evaluators,” she says. “In February, a sweet cheque for $600 landed in my mailbox.”

If you think they’d laugh at your application, there are still some oddball awards that might fit you and you don’t have to be the next Einstein or living in a cardboard box.

Go to the Financial Aid office (north end, third floor, Jorgenson) and walk brazenly past the line-up. At the back of the office you’ll find a big binder of bountiful rewards.

Each faculty has five or six pastel-colored pages outlining the awards available to its students.

Don’t leave the office yet. Ask for the white-papered list entitled “STUDENT AWARDS: SCHOLARSHIPS AND FELLOWSHIPS, RESEARCH GRANTS, BURSARIES AND OTHER.“ It includes the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award for hotshots in sports and community involvement.

As you leave, scan the bulletin board on your right for other rewards. Consider the William Peyton Hubbard Memorial Award from Ontario Hydro, named for Toronto’s first black acting mayor. Or you could try for $300 from ACI International for designing the best concrete egg protection device.

If you have a disability, visit the Access Centre next door and ask for a bursary application to cover equipment and services.

Next, visit RyeSAC. If you’re a sole-support parent, ask if will continue last year’s bursary (they might not). If you’re on a team or part of an organization, ask about the $500 Edwin Genge Memorial Award.

Michael Wiltshire, last year’s RyeSAC vp finance, won the award in 1994 for work with Ryerson’s African Caribbean Association. You need a minimum GPA of 2.25.

RyeSAC award-winner and self-described “bursary queen” Heather Bakken, in fourth year RTA, was rejected for four different bursaries, but accepted for six. She’d arrived in Canada with exactly $39 after a long stay in Israel, already in debt to OSAP from Western University. She worked, but home-care for her infant son cost more than $1,200 a month.

Bakken credits Karen Takenaka, from financial aid, with guiding her through the applications, and Samantha Lamb, RyeSAC’s past women’s issues commissioner, for helping create the sole-support bursary.

When applying for an award Bakken tries to connect her situation the person the award’s named after. “It sounds corny, but they like that. For example, I wrote that Egerton Ryerson wanted recognition for an applied arts mandate and I wanted recognition for the evolving family.”

Don’t expect an avalanche of offers. Ryerson is a young university and has to compete against the grander names for gifts from organizations. And not all our alumni have been generous. Out of 19 undergraduate universities surveyed by Maclean’s last November, Ryerson alum came 18th in loyalty. Between 1991 and 1995, only 8.4 per cent gave to Ryerson, compared to 36.2 per cent of Trent’s alumni.

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