Should I apply for SSHRC?
September 20, 2009 7:58 AM   Subscribe

How stringent are SSHRC's GPA requirements?

Is it worth my time to apply for SSHRC? The application process is quite involved, and I could really be using that time to prepare for other aspects of my grad school applications. Also, the deadline is soon: Oct 1st. I am in my final year of undergrad, preparing applications for MA programs in philosophy. SSHRC wants, at minimum, an A- average in each of the last two years of study: I have an A+ (3.94) in my final year, and a B (3.0) in my penultimate year. I'm at U of T. In the 3.0 year, I wasn't really taking courses in philosophy, if it matters.

Sometimes it's worth it to apply for things even if you don't meet the mimimum standards, because other aspects of your application might set you apart, or the requirements are more of a wish list, or who actually gets through depends more on the competition for that year, etc. But I don't want to waste time applying for SSHRC if it's more or less certain I'm not going to get it. Any ideas?

(Anon because I'm embarrassed about that 3.0.)
posted by anonymous to Education (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In my experience they get so many apps that the GPA requirement is not flexible. So yeah, it would not be worth the time.
posted by scribbler at 8:22 AM on September 20, 2009

(I did not apply for a SSHRC but watched friends agonize over the applications and then get accepted/rejected.) GPA seemed to be pretty stringent - and since the penultimate year is a B (not even a B+) I wouldn't waste your time.
posted by meerkatty at 8:28 AM on September 20, 2009

Having gone through this process a number of times, I entirely agree with Scribbler. I'd recommend saving your time and not bothering. That's not meant as a slight whatsoever; it's a very time-intensive process.

On the other hand, though, it's not a bad experience to have under your belt, and it might help you next year when you apply with a new (graduate) GPA to have some of the work already done.
posted by iftheaccidentwill at 8:32 AM on September 20, 2009

My guess is that it wouldn't be worth applying to the SSHRC, which is really competitive. The SSHRC has three stages at U of T: first, your department has to approve your application, then the university, then the actual people who review for SSHRC. It's a very competitive program, and you probably wouldn't make it past the department, or if you did make it past them, then not past the university.


There are two circumstances under which it might be worth writing up a statement for SSHRC. One: If you have a strong reason for the B, and it's your only year with a B average, AND you consult with your department and they feel it's worth applying, then go for it (obviously in this case you should do the whole application).

Two: if you already know what you want your master's project to be, try writing it up according to the SSHRC statement criteria and before the Oct. deadline (especially if you will be doing a two year master's or a PhD). You can give it to select faculty and get feedback on your project that will be helpful for framing it for grad programs and for next year's round of applications. U of T faculty are pretty dedicated to getting funding for their students, and the close deadline means that handing them a "SSHRC statement" for review will get you prompt and (probably) detailed feedback.

And don't be embarrassed about your average. Lots of grad students have lower than A- averages now and then in their undergrad. B at U of T is still pretty respectable, and it won't hurt you in the long run.
posted by carmen at 8:47 AM on September 20, 2009

Good advice from carmen. I just wanted to add that your average is not something to be too worried about - but I remember that panic well! I did my undergrad in English at U of T and my average was even a bit lower than yours (thus, I did not apply for a SSHRC). But I got into the MA program there as well as several others and ended up getting my PhD. So don't panic...a professor or two on your side goes a long way further than your GPA number.
posted by meerkatty at 8:57 AM on September 20, 2009

If it was early August, I'd say go for it. Right now, though, time is running out, and getting the faculty letters and support you need at this stage is not only near impossible (everyone's so busy, in part because they're getting their own applications ready!), but it might even damage your image a bit with the department, since you're asking for favours at the very last minute when you don't even quite meet the basic requirements. That's the kind of things that gets snickers in the faculty lunchroom, at least in my department.

Chances are if you get accepted in a grad program for next year, you'll get incentive funding anyway (TAships, little department awards, etc.) Still, there's nothing wrong with familiarizing yourself with the process and getting a jump on an application for the next round. Start working on your proposal and getting feedback, develop working relationships with a few profs to get solid not-last-minute support, and you'll be way ahead of the pack next September.
posted by Freyja at 9:42 AM on September 20, 2009

They will look at your GPA first, and, if it does not meet their minimum requirement - they won't read anything else in your package. SSHRC is so competitive that they look for ANY reason to mark someone out of the running. Margin 1mm too big/small? Doesn't matter what you wrote, you are out.

Seriously, if your GPA is not high enough, don't bother.

But: you can apply during the first year of your MA for second-year funding. Keep your grades up (usually pretty easy once you've gotten that far) and apply next year.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:55 PM on September 20, 2009

Just to let you know how I know what I'm talking about - my partner has several years lab experience with an international superstar in her field, and a phenomenally good reference letter from him, publications, conferences, blah blah blah. Also, she has an A average in all her major classes - but her GPA was brought down to something like 0.1 below the cutoff by unrelated minor courses she took during her second and third year: she was disqualified based on GPA. They are sticklers.
posted by arcticwoman at 2:00 PM on September 20, 2009

Nope, it's SSHRC, the rules are the rules. This is not some grad school application that you can "make up" with a few good reference letters - you will be screened out of the selection process immediately. Like others have said, even if your department bands together to support you, the application won't survive going through the school and SSHRC. I was a hair under the cutoff and after seeing others agonize over their proposals, I was grateful that my department head flat-out told me "You don't qualify. Your application will not leave the school."

I don't see why you're embarrassed by one 3.0 year either - I know a lot of successful people who fared much worse in university.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:28 AM on September 21, 2009

Wanted to add that since the MA SSHRC is only for one year, you can totally apply next year for your second year (if it's a two-year MA) - especially if you keep up your awesome grades this year.

It also helps when you're already in a department working with a supervisor who knows the application process and what sorts of things (phrasing, etc) are acceptable. I've known a few people who did the applications themselves in the last year of undergrad, but only one who was actually successful on her own.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:12 AM on September 21, 2009

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