Studying in America and Canada  
5.6 Applying for Financial Assistance

Applying for financial aid is fairly straightforward. There is no separate process for applying for financial assistance from applying for admission; they are one and the same. You should indicate your desire to be considered for financial assistance at the time of applying for admission. Application forms for admission typically ask you if you wish to be considered for financial aid. You may be required to fill out an additional form or simply check off a box.

Since the ad hoc employment is not available until you have arrived in America or Canada, you are basically considered for assistantships.

5.7 Improving Your Chances for Success

The elements of selection criteria for financial assistance are the same as those for admission. Two elements of the selection criteria, however, are critical for financial assistance: your academic performance (grades) and your score on the entrance exam.

You know what you can do to improve your performance on relevant items; it is motivation, dedication, focus and hard work. Do your very best on your studies and on the entrance exam. Only a superior performance on these would help you stand out among the large crowd of candidates.

You can also make an effort to improve your chances of success for a research assistantship by going beyond the formally stated process. Remember that research assistantships are funded by individual professors through research grants. You can research the professors at various colleges to which you are applying. In this process, you should look for professors who:

  1. Conduct research in the area(s) of interest to you
  2. Have research grants to fund research assistantships. You should focus on the amount of research grant the professor has and/or on whether the professor is currently supporting research assistants

You can find the relevant information for this research on the college website, or through the university catalog or promotional materials.

You can communicate directly with the target professor via email or postal mail, in addition to following the formal application process, to explore opportunities for research assistantship with the professor. It would demonstrate your interest, effort and initiative. But be careful. Professors with big research grants are very busy. They are likely not to respond to most communications. But if they find your background and performance valuable, they will be sure to respond. So, your effort should be polite and restricted to showing your interest and initiative, and it should not be overly aggressive or pushy.

Should the professor select you for research assistantship, the admission and financial assistance process becomes an academic exercise.

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