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2008 Aboriginal Scholarship guide: an insert exclusively from Windspeaker.

Formal education isn't just an investment of time and energy--significant money for tuition, books, and living expenses is needed.

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Student loans are a possibility--but if you happen to qualify, they also have to be repaid, and it's easy to go into extensive debt trying to improve earning potential. This is where a scholarship can be a student's best friend. Many education costs can be covered with minimal time, research, and effort.

For example, Foundation for the Advancement of Aboriginal Youth (FAAY), one of the longest running programs of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), believes education is the key to prosperity, a better life, and a brighter future-and has helped over 1,400 students with scholarships and bursaries totaling more than $2.3 million in the past 14 years.

Any Canadian resident of First Nation (status or non-status), Metis, or Inuit heritage, of any age, is eligible to apply to FAAY if they are in high school or any full-time post-secondary program within Canada.

The bursary program provides $750 to high school students, while the scholarship provides $2500 and upwards in any discipline. By submitting one form, you are eligible for the consideration of about 145 different scholarships through FAAY, and Lori Williams, FAAY Co-ordinator, explains that they also encourage applicants to apply elsewhere to maximize their chances of receiving assistance.

When fishing for scholarships, cast the widest net you can, focusing on your area of specialty while applying for general scholarships anywhere you're eligible.

Admissions offices will often have information on scholarships, but Internet searches are also effective, and many applications can be completed online.

Williams listed organizations with spring deadlines such as the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (www.naaf.ca) and a comprehensive scholarship listing at the Aboriginal Multi Media Society Web page (www.ammsa.com).

"One of the most important factors for FAAY is need as opposed to best grades," said Williams. "We encourage the students to give as full a picture as possible.

There's no reporting back on how you spent your money, so students can use it wherever they need it. This takes a little pressure off single parents, or those supporting families or having to work their way through school."

For this reason, FAAY has a later deadline than most places-Oct. 15.

The applications forms are available on their Web site, www.ccab.com, starting in May. Most scholarships have spring deadlines with the idea of covering fall tuition costs. Sometimes scholarships go directly to the institution to be disbursed or assist with tuition fees.

"Our scholarship helps them make it through the Christmas season and January tuition," explained Williams, adding that it takes her staff a few weeks after the cutoff to sort through the 500 to 1,000 applications they typically receive for completeness and system entry. In mid-November corporate sponsors provide a one-day selections committee to meet and choose recipients. Williams notifies the winners as soon as possible, and the rest by mail. "Each application has the same criteria and same cutoffs. [dagger] It's totally based on selections criteria and CCAB has no influence on the outcome, the staff is simply administrating."

Criteria and eligibility vary from place to place but once you've completed a first application, the second one invariably goes faster. It is mainly a gathering and organization of information for the sponsor awarding the scholarship, so checking carefully to meet the criteria and goals listed by the organization will increase success. Williams advises keeping copies of documentation, such as letters of support, to use for multiple submissions.

FAAY criteria includes proof of ancestry (photocopies of cards or for non-status, photocopies of long form birth certificates establishing relationship), two letters of support from academic and community members, the most recent transcript of marks, a letter of acceptance or enrolment, and a recent colour photo accompanying your cover letter. The letter is a mini-essay including background, goals and plans, special circumstances, and personal successes and contributions made. It is like a specialized resume or job application that gets easier with practice.

"Read through the guidelines first--it will help you compile your information so you won't get frustrated," advises Williams. She also suggests checking out past winners and their bios on the Web site. If submitting electronically, scans can generally be attached as long as there is a visible signature.

The FAAY application, like many scholarships, can be done online at ccab.com, downloaded from the website, or requested by mail or fax by phoning the office at 1-866-566-3229, and then returned by mail or courier.

Although supporting documentation can be sent separately, as with all scholarships it must all be received before deadline or your application won't be considered. The postmark is your final, but sometimes most important, criteria to be met: because one days difference can mean instant elimination.

Demonstrated financial need, academic and career commitment, contributions to family and community, and leadershiprole model qualities are the key to a successful application at FAAY, but Williams noted that a common pitfall for many applicants, including really strong candidates, is incompletion before the deadline. If any supporting documentation is missing, all FAAY can do is keep it on file for next year and hope the candidate will re-apply with all the material needed. [dagger] Many organizations don't even go that far, and will simply toss the application out.

Williams doesn't know if candidates get frustrated or simply run out of time, but encourages applicants to go all the way to stay eligible and show commitment and responsibility.

"Just keep trying, don't give up--you give yourself a better opportunity for the selection committee," urged Williams. "Your chances may also increase the second or third time you apply because you persevered-and they pay attention to that."

Once you've received a FAAY scholarship, your chances increase the following year. Sponsors are working to learn who the students are and maintain a supportive relationship, which can even include summer employment opportunities, bringing cohesion to the process. And this is another aspect of scholarships-everyone likes to back a winner! List past scholarships received whenever you can; it can increase future potential.

"If you're a previous winner, note it," said Williams. "Don't be shy about telling us exactly what your situation is. There are a lot of things that can impact--family, health, finances-the opportunity to do something financially is a big part of it."

By Andrea Ledding

Windspeaker Writer
COPYRIGHT 2008 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Ledding, Andrea
Publication:Windspeaker
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:1066
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