By Shivan Micoo
Think the offer of free money is enough to motivate students? Think again.
“It’s not like buying a lottery ticket,” said Chris Singh, a third-year accounting student at Ryerson University. “I’ve noticed that a lot of awards, scholarships and bursaries require applications, reference letters and even an essay. I hardly have time to do my schoolwork, let alone all this other stuff.”
The Arthur Child Scholarship is an essay contest offered by the Toronto Chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). It boasts a prize of $2,000 and requires students to provide two letters of reference and an academic transcript along with an entrance essay. This year, the scholarship received nine applications from colleges and universities across Ontario. None of the applications received were from Ryerson.
“Of course, we are not happy with the low number of applications,” said Darius Suharto, chair of academic relations at the IIA. “But I think that this year was good for us. Last year we didn’t award (the Arthur Child Scholarship) because we did not have enough applications.”
Suharto also said that he “would love to get more applicants,” and that he “suspects” that students are being dissuaded by the scholarship’s requirements. But he also asserted that the prize money outweighs the effort required. “It’s not really difficult. Maybe some students don’t want to write an essay, but $2,000 is a lot of money.”
Parks and Recreation Ontario (PRO) – an organization dedicated to improving community life – offers both a bursary and an award that Ryerson students are eligible for.
Fotini Iriotakis, program and training coordinator at PRO, said that both the Bob Secord Award and the Hugh Clydesdale Bursary attracted zero applicants from Ryerson, despite the fact that such opportunities were widely publicized.
“We send information about our awards and bursaries to all universities and colleges in Ontario. We even post information on our website,” Iriotakis said. “We have not had the greatest turnout over the last few years, so we sat on a committee of universities and colleges with recreation programs and took suggestions on how to attract students to our awards.”
Matt Sniderman, a third-year hospitality and tourism management student said he doesn’t think that awards are adequately publicized. “I don’t really know what awards are available, because the school doesn’t really let us know what’s available or how to get them,” Sniderman said.
But awards offered outside the school are not the only ones being passed up by Ryerson students.
Application numbers are also low for awards offered by Ryerson to students in the criminal justice program. The Second Chance Award and the COMMA Book Award in Criminal Justice received only one application each over the past school year. Criminal justice is a program that currently houses about 200 students and is in its second year of operation at Ryerson.
Karim Ismaili, chair of the criminal justice program at Ryerson spoke openly about the small number of applications attracted by both the Second Chance and COMMA awards. “It’s not a great turnout,” Ismaili said. “But I don’t think that it’s rare for new programs to have such low numbers.”
Ismaili also said that the reasons for this occurrence are twofold.
“Part of it is because we’re new. As students become more in tune with the program and (more) aware of the funding offered by the program, we anticipate that the number of applicants will go up. But it’s also up to the students to be proactive in finding and applying for scholarships and awards.”
Imran Shaikh, a first-year student in the criminal justice program said he has never applied for an award in his program because he feels like they are not “accessible” to him.
“I didn’t know where to apply and I didn’t think that I would stand a chance,” Shaikh said.