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Creating Strong Applications

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Adjudicators will make their decision about your funding based solely on your application. Consider which criteria adjudicators will assess and what weightings they will be assigned.  If you omit information or your research proposal is confusing it may reduce your chance of success.

Workshop: How to Prepare a Strong Application


  • If the value of an award does not convey its true prestige, explain the terms of the award.
  • If awards are for presentations or leadership, they likely address a different criteria than one simply based on academics. If the name of the award does not convey this, clarify it for the reader.


Ensure your bibliography and works cited are complete and in the standard correct format for your discipline. See

Leadership Skills

  • While adjudicators will take into account your leadership skills, they will not usually be weighed as heavily as your academic excellence and research proposal or statement of study.
  • Highlight leadership experience and community involvement if required by the terms of reference.


Good references are crucial to your success. See

Research Contributions

  • Find opportunities to present your work. Applications showing significant contributions are stronger.
  • Publications and conference presentations may be in prestigious venues unfamiliar to those outside the discipline. Clarify the impact of the journal or prestige of the meeting for the reader.
  • Explain your role in research contributions, especially for collaborative efforts.
  • To permit appropriate recognition for the scrutiny that has allowed this publication, it is acceptable to use subheadings that classify publications according to whether or not they were subjected to a peer review process.
  • Provincial and national competitions may require listing contributions in a specific format. Always follow instructions for each competition. Without prescribed formatting, you should follow the format most commonly used in your discipline of study. Your program and supervisor will be the best source of confirmation.

Research Proposal or Statement of Study

Your research proposal or statement of study is the heart of your application. Take time to get it right.

  • Try the 30-second rule: can you explain your work to someone not in your field?  Remember that many adjudicators come from disciplines other than your own.
  • Peers in unrelated fields are perfect audiences.
  • Write clearly and avoid jargon. Aim for language that can be understood by the non-specialist but shows a familiarity with the specialist field.
  • Start strong and capture the reader’s attention.
  • Convince committee members that your studies are worth funding.
  • Research Proposal
    • What key question(s) your research will address? How will the question(s) be answered? Why is this the most appropriate way to explore the question?  Justify the methodology.
    • Why is your research new and why is it important? Highlight any way that your research project promises a notable advancement or innovation in the discipline.
    • Ensure your proposal is specific. An ambiguous or indefinite proposal will weaken your application.
    • The project must be achievable within the time-frame allowed.  Offer milestones if possible.
    • Convey your research goals without resorting to disparaging others.  
  • Statement of Study
    • Explain what you are studying and why – similar to a research paper
    • Demonstrate your ability to apply your skills and knowledge and your ability to think critically
    • Describe the quality and originality of contributions to your field

General Tips

  • Start early. A strong application takes time.
  • Be aware of deadlines. External application portals may experience volume delays just before a deadline.
  • Follow directions. For example, if length is limited to one page, do not try to submit more than one page.
  • Ensure your application is complete. Attach all necessary documents and complete all required fields.
  • Ensure that your application is error-free. Spelling mistakes, formatting issues or other errors may contribute to a lower ranking.
  • Be mindful of simple factual errors or budget errors; these undermine your credibility.
  • Get feedback from supervisor(s), mentors, faculty in relevant research areas and peers, especially current award recipients