In September, Allison Inderbitzin was one of thousands of recent high school graduates who packed their bags and set off for their first semester of post-secondary education.
The Smithers Secondary graduate is majoring in biomedical studies at the University of Northern British Columbia at the Prince George campus.
“It was my first semester of my first year and living on residence so I was really nervous,” said Inderbitzin.
“But UNBC is really welcoming and friendly and there’s always people around to show you around when you’re lost and if you need help the profs are really friendly. Because there are smaller class sizes, it’s easier to talk to people and get help.”
But before deciding on UNBC, Inderbitzin browsed countless post-secondary websites, searching for scholarships.
She maintained a roughly 92 per cent grade point average, and volunteered with the grad council and yearbook committee in her final year. She also volunteered for a couple of months at the hospital, working in the long-term care unit.
However, she finally decided on UNBC after being awarded the Helen Thurwell Scholarship.
The $20,000 scholarship is one of the oldest endowed awards at the university and is given out to a female student from Northern B.C. who is active in the community and has proven academic excellence.
“It’s a huge honour, seeing as it’s one of the oldest scholarships there,” she said.
For Inderbitzin, winning the scholarship was a huge financial burden off her shoulders.
Having to pay for tuition, books, live on residence and purchase a mandatory meal plan, she estimated a semester would cost her as much as $19,000 a year.
Though she hasn’t decided what career path to pursue, Inderbitzin is encouraging high school graduates to get the ball rolling and apply for schools and scholarships now.
“The deadlines creep up very fast. We were sending them out the day the deadline came up last December,” she said.
“Some awards didn’t even get handed out last year because there were no participants eligible. That’s a lot of free money for students.”
Her mother Bridgette said it’s important to remember to start early.
“In September and October, start looking for scholarships,” said Bridgette. “Because grad is coming up and it goes so fast and then the opportunity is gone. You only have one shot.”