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I am a new PhD student in Canada. Recently my university nominated me for the Ontario Trillium Scholarship (to my surprise), which I eventually won. I originally come from a country which do not use the system of scholarships and awards, so I do not know much about the benefits of scholarships. As I see there are three potential benefits:

  1. More money for living ($40.000 each year for four years in this case, for living and tuition)
  2. The Scholarhip pays for tuition and other fees, so your supervisor/institute do not need to pay anything
  3. Looks good on a CV

I have not much advantage of the point 1, since my institute usually gives higher PhD salaries than standards in Canada and therefore I only receive slightly higher salary relative to that (people from other institutes will of course benefit from the extra cash). Number 2 seems to be a really good benefit of scholarships, since they make you more free and able to pursue your own interests even more (since your supervisor is not paying).

My question is primarily about point 3. How big a role does Scholarships play when applying for a post doc position? I generally see many people in North America, especially the US, which have a lot of scholarships and awards they have won. This is my first ever, since we do not have awards in my original country. Is there any real advantage to be able to mention previously won scholarships? And my final question is, how good is the Ontario Trillium Scholarship in this regard? Is this a standard type of scholarship?

(Sorry for asking this anonymously rather than using my stack exchange profile. My profile contain my real name and I would rather stay anonymous for various reasons).

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The Trillium scholarship is very good. The only scholarship I know of that's worth more is the Vanier ($50,000 for two or three years). The Vanier is open to both Canadian and international PhD students as long as they're studying at a Canadian institution, so it's extremely competitive. The Trillium is only open to international PhD students studying in Ontario, so the applicant pool is a bit smaller; however, only 75 are awarded each year, so it's also very competitive.

Two other typical scholarships are the NSERC PGS/CGS, which pays between $17,300 and $35,000 a year, and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship, which pays $15,000. In my department, about a quarter of the people who apply for these scholarships will win.

As for the the other part of your question, when applying for a post doc position, scholarships certainly won't hurt you. Your publications are more important, of course, but since the Trillium application includes a "plan of studies", winning it suggests that you will be able to win grants in the future. A scholarship won't make up for a lack of publications, but it can give you an edge over a similar applicant who didn't win one.

  • Thanks for the enlightening answer lmi. I did not know it was such a good scholarship (I am still new to this system). Can you elaborate a little on the "plan of studies"? I am not sure I understand what that is. (I would like to give you a +1, but sadly I don't have enough reputation). – PhysicsStudent Apr 26 '13 at 2:41
  • I'm a Canadian citizen, so I've never applied for Trillium, but for NSERC you have to submit a one page description of the research you plan to do while you hold the scholarship. I saw a "plan of studies" listed in the requirements for Trillium and assumed it was similar, but now that I'm looking more carefully, that requirement seems to be specific to the university I was looking at. If you didn't have to write one, the scholarship isn't quite as good a proxy for grant writing skills, but it will still look good on your CV. – user6782 Apr 26 '13 at 3:04
  • I see, now I understand what you meant. Actually I did not have to submit anything (I barely had control over applying, that's why I am confused about the system). Thank you very much for all the helpful information. – PhysicsStudent Apr 26 '13 at 3:18
  • You're welcome! It's odd that you didn't have to prepare the application yourself, but it worked out well in the end. I hope you enjoy your stay here in Canada. – user6782 Apr 26 '13 at 4:39
  • +1 for mentioning Vanier; I have seen some labs where most of the students have it. – seteropere Apr 26 '13 at 8:18

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