Schulich Leader Scholarship winner Romina Mahinpei

Romina Mahinpei on Winning a 2020 Schulich Leader Scholarship


It’s one thing to be nominated for a massive award like the Schulich Leader Scholarship, it’s another thing entirely to actually win it. We talked to 2020 Schulich Leader Scholarship winner and UBC student Romina Mahinpei to get the insider tips and tricks on how to win the award.

The Schulich Leader Scholarships are arguably the most coveted undergrad STEM scholarships in Canada. Every year, 300,000+ candidates are whittled down to 1,500 nominees before up to 100 awards are handed out. The winners are enterprising high school graduates, enrolling in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math program at one of twenty partner universities across Canada. 

You can read more about the Schulich Leader Scholarships here.

Winning one speaks volumes about Romina as a dynamic student capable of academic excellence, leadership, charisma, and creativity. We chatted with her on a break from studying the connection between math and different branches of science at UBC to get the details on how to become a Schulich Leader Scholarship winner.

You’ve Got to Really Love STEM

As the younger sister of 2015 Schulich Leader Scholarship winner Anita Mahinpei, Romina got a first-hand look at the financial benefits of the award. But she also caught some valuable tips on how to eventually win one herself, which she now shares.

Her first (and most important) tip might come as a surprise: being good at math or science isn’t enough. When you’re talking about an award worth up to $100,000, Romina points out that it starts with a passion for the subject and a desire to spread that knowledge.

“I would say that all recipients of the Schulich Scholarship are not only passionate about learning STEM but also want to encourage others to engage with STEM. Whether it be through running STEM clubs at their schools, hosting STEM conferences, or launching STEM programs, most recipients aim to increase STEM accessibility while also giving back to their communities.”

But it’s a delicate balancing act because she also points out that they don’t just want bookworms, they want well-rounded students who still “devote their time to their friends, families, and their hobbies.”

Focus Your Application on Quality, Not Quantity

The award is so prestigious that most students can’t even apply. You have to first receive a nomination from your school (and most schools can only nominate a single student). If you make it through, the process starts to look familiar to a seasoned scholarship applicant. Still, there are some unique intricacies to actually nailing your application.

“The online application asks for brief explanations of your different activities/involvements, your future hopes relating to your studies and your ideal career, as well as a long-answer personal statement. Applicants are also asked for two references, their transcript, and the universities they hope to receive the scholarship from.”

Romina goes on to further detail how she successfully tackled these asks.

“I focused mostly on the initiatives and accomplishments that meant the most to me and the ones that had the most significance and purpose. Rather than just listing all the things I had done, I instead focused on a few of the initiatives that I was most proud of, which also made the process of writing my personal statement a lot easier and more genuine!”

Hopefully, these revelations can help out you the same way they helped Romina.

The Prize Is More Than Money

Obviously, $100,000 is no joke. That money allows you to focus purely on your studies without worrying about loans or working a job. But that’s hardly the only thing that winning a Schulich Leader Scholarship will do for you, as Romina points out.

“Currently, I plan to work in the computer/technology industry and I know that being a Schulich Scholarship recipient will allow me to learn about the different opportunities in this industry through their numerous networking events/programs!”

In addition, when it comes to searching for jobs post-grad, the designation will absolutely set her apart. She says it will be “proof of my dedication to my area of interest (math and computer science) and will consequently allow employers to build trust in my abilities and skills.”

Final Thoughts

It might be a little easier for her to say as a Schulich Leader Scholarship winner, but Romina makes a point to appreciate the journey, not just the destination. 

“Although it’s something that many of us don’t do, I hope that all the students applying to the Schulich Scholarship take some time to appreciate everything that they have done and feel proud of the positive differences they have made in their communities!”

Ultimately, there’s no denying the impact of STEM disciplines on our future. It’s with good reason that philanthropist Seymour Schulich created this $100+ million scholarship fund in the first place. Good luck pursuing a nomination from your school and conquering your subsequent application!

For more information on applying to the Schulich Leader Scholarship, read our overview here or explore their official site here.