Katherine Sirois winning a schulich leader scholarship

Katherine Sirois on Winning a Schulich Leader Scholarship


The Schulich Leader Scholarship is one of the biggest student awards in Canada. For aspiring STEM students, this is the award you want to win. That’s why we talked to Katherine Sirois about her experience winning a Schulich Leader Scholarship.

Only a maximum of 100 awards are handed out annually to a pool of over 300,000 candidates and 1,500 eventual nominees. So it’s not hard to see why this award worth up to $100,000 is coveted by high school grads enrolling in STEM programs at one of Schulich’s twenty partner universities. That’s in addition to perks like the network of students you get to join and the lifelong designation as a Schulich Leader.

You can read more about the Schulich Leader Scholarships here.

Katherine is currently a Computer Engineering major at McGill graduating in May 2021. Having won the award in 2017, she has a unique perspective on the long term positive effects the award had on her studies.

Forget About Your GPA

It never hurts to have good grades but you shouldn’t think that’s all the judges care about. It’s not the first time we’ve heard that Schulich Leaders are much more likely to have broad mindsets and problem-solving attitudes. Which is exactly how Katherine felt when she applied. 

“They are looking for game-changers, people with an entrepreneurial mindset. They are looking for students who are leaders in their community and are looking on pursuing careers in technology, engineering, science, and math.”

When it came to the application itself, Katherine reaffirms the basics. Know the deadlines and processes for your school and find a way to secure that nomination. After that, it’s picking universities to apply to, personal statements and answers to questions about yourself. Plus, the standard transcript, reference letters, headshots, and more. It’s a lot, but it’s especially important to note the important role of the universities themselves.

“It is also important to know that each university you list receives your application and it is the respective universities that make the decision on who their Schulich Leaders will be. It is not the foundation that makes the final decision. Therefore, it is hard to tailor your application to a certain audience since every university has their own criteria.”

Be Yourself

Since each university will undoubtedly value certain aspects of your application differently, Katherine affirms that it’s important to show all aspects of your personality. 

My biggest takeaway from the application process is to just be myself and to continue doing what I love (having an impact through tech). The application process allows you to reflect on yourself, to analyse why you do what you do, what you want to come out of this, where you want to go.”

Another key point is to stand out. When judges have to read piles of essays, the ones that succeed will be the ones that do something different. Whether that’s highlighting something truly unique you’ve done or telling your story in an interesting way. In Katherine’s case, that meant focusing on examples of things she’d invented. Additionally, she made sure to really lean in on her personal worldview that inspired her STEM passion.

“Furthermore, every time I write such a big essay, I try to write it in a way that stands out, that makes it more unique. I do not know how many essays the selection committee has read that day and so I want to give them something unique that stands out of the pack, not only with the content, but with the style as well.”

Katherine shares a particularly interesting tidbit about this last point. As it happens, the judging committee informed her afterwards that her inventor’s spirit helped them rule in her favour.

And of course, get help reviewing everything. A fresh set of eyes from a family member, teacher, or friend can help you spot errors and add clarity.

The Award Opens Serious Doors

It goes without saying that the financial prize for winning a Schulich Leader Scholarship is staggering…but so are the other benefits. Katherine is now part of a vast network of incredible students. In addition, The Schulich Foundation routinely partners with other organizations to create unique opportunities for its recipients.

“This past summer, because I was recommended by The Schulich Foundation, I had the opportunity to participate in Google’s Software Product Sprint where we not only develop our technical coding skills with Google experts but also practice our technical interview skills and participate in resumé workshops with real Google recruiters.”

For students considering further education, like Katherine is with a master’s in embedded systems or robotics, you better believe that this designation will similarly open doors for her. After graduating, whether it’s for grad school applications or on the job hunt, she knows what an advantage she has.

“The prestige of this Scholarship alone is something that sets me apart.”

Final Thoughts

If you’re thinking about pursuing this award, take it seriously, because it could change your life. Katherine speaks about the fundamental impact that winning a Schulich Leader Scholarship had on her university experience.

“With no minimum GPA requirement and no financial stress, I was able to invest a lot of my time in doing what I love, getting involved, living university life to the fullest, and becoming the best version of myself possible to make a difference in the world through STEM.”

And whether it’s this award or any other, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and take a chance. You can’t win if you don’t apply. In Katherine’s own words, “Do not be afraid to take your shot and apply. Who knows, you may just end up scoring!”

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