The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Meet the Interviewee: Maheleate Woldegiorgis

Clifton Youth Foundation ScholarshipMaheleate Woldegiorgis is a student about to enter her second year at Ryerson University. When she was in Grade 12 at Humberside Collegiate Institute, she won the Clifton Youth Scholarship; a scholarship offered to graduating high school students by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto. I had the opportunity to interview Maheleate about her application insights and tips for future applicants.


What scholarship prizes were you awarded?

“I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the recipients for the Clifton Youth Scholarship. This scholarship pays for eight semesters of university tuition and textbook costs.”

What did the supplemental application entail and what experiences did you highlight?

“The scholarship I was awarded did not heavily rely on my grades (thank God) but focused on volunteer work and other important initiatives. A few of the questions on the supplemental application asked to me discuss my leadership roles within and my school and as well as outside it. This worked to my advantage as I was heavily involved in equity initiatives at my high school and as well as the Toronto District School Board. I did things like lead equity workshops in elementary and secondary schools, organized, and created assemblies with a focus on minorities attended several TDSB workshops and discussions, and as well as attended school meetings to talk about some problems people were facing at my high school. This was on top of the mentoring I had done for 4 years with Big Brothers Big Sisters Toronto and being the head of several school clubs like Black Heritage Association, Charity Initiative and Equity Club.”

What did you mention in your essays?

“The essay questions always want to hear the voice of the person answering! For me, this meant relating the question to personal experiences, so those reading my application could get a better sense of who I was, where I came from, and why I wanted to pursue the dreams I am pursuing. Personalizing your answers and creating a memorable story is key and seemed to work out well for me! Some things I mentioned were my passion for creating an equitable environment and how this passion came to be.”

Honestly, why do you think you won the scholarship? What do you believe set you apart from other students who applied?

“I don’t think it was one action and/or characteristic that set me apart from all of the other candidates. I am not a genius, but my grades were still good. I did not become a TDSB spokesperson, but I attended forums and discussions I felt were necessary to get my voice across. Lastly, I was not a transformative mentor that changed the lives of every mentee I met, but I stuck with them through thick and thin for 4 years. I feel like the accumulation of all these things may have set me apart from the other applicants. What I gather from this is that a variety of experiences and skills is what is admired in an individual, so make sure you participate in a bunch of things!”

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your former self upon applying?

“If I could go back in time to prep myself for the scholarship, I would tell myself to relax and be confident in my experiences and my communication of those experiences. I would also tell myself to allocate a lot more time towards the completion of my essay answers and finding meaningful adults to write your references. References will make or break your application, so make sure you develop meaningful relationships with several teachers, tutors, and/or program coordinators.”

Would you recommend students to apply for the scholarship? If so, what advice would you give them upon applying?

“I totally would recommend students to apply for this scholarship! For any and every scholarship you come across. Do this even if you don’t meet the requirements! I remember teachers and other adults going from classroom to classroom talking about the number of scholarships that have no applicants and remain unclaimed. In these cases, requirements DO NOT MATTER! If you’re the only person that applied for the scholarship, you will be awarded the money despite your lack of qualifications. There’s no harm in applying, so do it!”