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Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship recipient: Fiona C. Thomas

Psychology PhD student shares advice for a successful application 

Fiona C. Thomas

"I applied for the Vanier CGS in 2015 and was not successful. Although disappointed, I was adamant to give this one more shot in the final year I was eligible to apply. I started my application about six weeks before the Ryerson deadline, and rather than revising my old statements, I started from scratch. Two things in particular helped me succed the second time:

"1) Revisions, revisions, revisions. As I was applying to the SSHRC stream, I reached out to friends in the social sciences – lawyers, communications consultants, those working in the non-profit sector, and graduate student friends in similar fields. These (generous!) friends provided extensive feedback on my research proposal and leadership statement, which led to many revisions. Rather than just getting feedback from peers in the same field as me, I think this step was really important in helping me clarify the language I used, particularly in my research proposal. I also reached out to other Vanier CGS scholars (i.e., peers and through ResearchGate). Many were very helpful so don’t hesitate to send ‘cold’ messages to people you may not know.

"2) A strong leadership reference. The importance of this cannot be underestimated. When I applied for Vanier CGS the first time, I requested a leadership reference from my most recent employer. He was a great referee but primarily knew me in the context of the work environment. When I applied the second time, I sought out a mentor who knew me in a professional context but was also aware of my strong interests and involvement with community work. This referee was able to speak to my ‘non-traditional’ path to Clinical Psychology and how all my other experiences contributed to this decision and my PhD dissertation.

"I am not only grateful for the financial support this award provides but also because it will facilitate my dissertation fieldwork in Sri Lanka. If there’s anything to add to all the other great advice you may have received, my suggestion is don’t give up. If unsuccessful the first time, always try again!"

- Fiona C. Thomas, Psychology PhD student, 2017 SSHRC Vanier CGS recipient