Scholarship application help

Here you'll find resources to assist you with application requirements of external funding competitions

We've also included tips for scholarship referees. You can provide this information to the academic professionals you select to contribute letters of reference to support your funding application.

Tips for soliciting great scholarship reference letters

Reference letters are critical to a scholarship application, yet they are probably the most overlooked part of the application process.

These letters are the most important items outside of the applicant essays written by the candidates. All applicants being considered for a competitive scholarship program are already first class, so the letters can help distinguish you from the pack of outstanding applicants by highlighting your uniqueness. The following tips will help guide you to solicit reference letters that stand out.

Choose your referees wiselyyou have more control over this than you think!
  • Ask prospective referees if they can give you a strong reference.
  • Your referee should be familiar not only with your academic abilities, but also your personal interests and background and how those relate to and enhance your ability to carry out the proposed research.

Provide your referees with all the information they need to write a strong letter.

  • Provide a comprehensive draft of your research proposal; your CV; unofficial transcripts; and a personal statement that includes career goals, interests, and extracurricular activities.
  • What makes you memorable? Include any relevant information the referee could use to emphasize extraordinary achievements in light of where you are in your program and your research career.
  • It is also vital to provide the scholarship selection criteria and ask that they specifically be addressed in the reference letter. A strong reference letter will address your academic excellence, research potential, publication record, oral and written communication skills, and your interpersonal and leadership abilities.

What gives you the edge over others being considered?

  • The more information a referee has to draw from, the better the case for support they can make for you.
  • Give your referees plenty of time—you don't want them writing letters at the last minute.
  • Advise your referees of the required format and length for the reference letter, where to send it, and the deadline for submission.
  • Follow up with your referees about a week before the deadline just to ensure that your reference has not been forgotten and acknowledge the referee's support.

The bottom line:
The reference letter needs to present an accurate and complete picture of your achievements and research potential. Adjudication committees look for the extra excellence of a student when considering evaluations. Most committees look at what you have already accomplished, but even more so, your potential to accomplish more in the future.

Tips for scholarship referees

  • Start by requesting that the student provide you with a copy of the award evaluation criteria, the “outline of proposed research” and any other relevant information to help you in the preparation of the letter
  • Tailor the letter to the specific competition rather than a generic "to whom it may concern."
  • Rather than using general comments, assess the applicant’s strengths for each criterion, giving an example whenever possible.
  • Consider providing comparisons with other students to help distinguish the student as being "exceptional" or performing above the grade (e.g., Why is this student THE one best candidate for this award?).
  • Provide as much relevant detail as possible using specific examples.

Include evidence of:

  • familiarity with the candidate (how long, how well, the nature of your working relationship)
  • past achievements
  • work experience and academic training relevant to the research
  • ability for critical thought and analysis
  • ability to apply specific skills and particular knowledge
  • judgement and ethics
  • originality and creativity
  • initiative and autonomy
  • leadership ability and potential**
  • enthusiasm for research
  • special skill sets (if applicable; e.g., teaching proficiency, excellence at mentoring junior lab partners, technical acumen, etc.)
  • communication, interpersonal and relationship building skills

Comment on:

  • the ability to complete projects on time
  • how this research fits into the candidate's long range career goals
  • how the research platform is supported by the local resources and talents at UVic (or elsewhere if the student is leaving us)
  • the quality of the journals in which the applicant has published and the potential for future publications
  • the significance of the research, the innovativeness, potential contributions
  • the impact and benefits to Canada

**Leadership is of critical importance for Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship applicants. In addition to the above, please ensure your letter provides evidence of:

  • professional involvement in dance, arts, music, or other professional role, etc.
  • significant artistic achievement
  • recognized athletic achievement – especially in a leadership role
  • entrepreneurial achievement (start-up company)
  • foreign travel and study
  • mentoring of others
  • teaching experience (with some detail as to who/how the evaluation of teaching was done)
  • supervisory experience
  • student government and involvement in the university community including committees, teams, senate, boards, ethics committees other elected positions
  • project management
  • roles in professional societies and/or organizing conferences/meetings
  • community involvement in charity and non-profit organizations
  • relevant other experience (e.g., parliamentary pages and internships)