Ontario Graduate Scholarship?

TL; DR - Even though OGS may be paid to you directly, your supervisor (the school) will adjust your funding accordingly so that you will get the same minimum stipend. Your supervisor may choose to give you an extra couple thousand, but you do not get $15,000 on top of your base stipend.

Now that I’m graduating, I’ve reached a crossroads as to where I want to go. As a student in a research-intensive program, one of the obvious choices was to apply for graduate studies at my current school. A masters in Medical Biophysics was always one of my options, but to be honest, it wasn’t very far up on my list. So applying to external funding, like the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) wasn’t a priority.

However, I let myself be talked into doing it anyways. On the day of the deadline to start the OGS application, my work study supervisor pointed out that it was worth $15,000; I would be a fool to leave that much money on the table without even putting my name into the hat. And so, with 2 hours left before the deadline, I started and finished my graduate application. It was an exhausting process, but I thought I did very well. But the OGS submission deadline was in a week, and I had work to do.

References were emailed, and favours were asked of. Somehow, I pulled together two strong references and began working on a proposal for my potential project, in which I had next to no knowledge of. It was a brave endeavour, and I didn’t expect it to be my best work, but I wasn’t giving up $15,000. Until my friend pointed out to me that I wouldn’t actually be getting an extra $15,000. He linked me to this Reddit thread, where it is stated that OGS is paid to the department.

I figured that this must’ve been some weird UofT quirk. After all, the OGS page at Western clearly states that “the annual value of an award is divided into three equal installments and each is pre-paid to the award holder’s Student Center account at the start of every term”. I wasn’t worried: the language is very clear. However, I asked another friend, and he told me that the $15,000 didn’t go to me. At this point, I was very lost.

I decided to go deeper. Searching for information about OGS itself seemed to be fruitless, since everywhere it states that you get $15,000. It was only when I looked in the “Medical Biophysics Graduate Handbook” that I found this tasty nibblet of fine print (page 18): “For the length of the OGS scholarship – student receives WGRS + OGS + additional support from supervisor to bring minimum stipend to $15,400/yr”.

Are you kidding me? This means that the supervisor does needs to provide much less additional support to bring the stipend to $15,400, which is guaranteed to every masters student in biophysics. In short, this scholarship does not guarantee any monetary benefits to the applicant. Fortunately, it seems like most supervisors in biophysics will “top-up” the stipend by a couple thousand dollars, but this is a far cry from the $15,000 advertised.

I will admit that perhaps, if I had done my research properly (maybe I’m not suited for graduate school after all), I would never have mixed this up. But I also feel that Western, along with seemingly every other school with OGS, has done a terribly poor job in being transparent with the different funding opportunities for graduate students. The webpage is intentionally misleading, and seems like a false hope for students hoping to supplement their stipend. I hope that Western does a better job in the future to better aid prospective graduate students with funding.