The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation: Everything You Need to Know


The dawn of a new millennium brought hope, opportunity, and a commitment to investing in our nation’s most valuable resource – our young people. In 2000, the Canadian government established the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation and began awarding Millennium Excellence Scholarships to outstanding students across the country who demonstrated excellence in academics, volunteer work, and leadership. Over two decades later, the legacy of this pioneering scholarship program lives on in the countless lives it has helped shape for the better.

Whether you are a graduating high school student considering your university options or the parent of a young person navigating this important transition, we hope you find this primer on the Millennium Scholarship informative, engaging, and, above all, helpful.

A Legacy of Opportunity and Access

Announced in 1998 by former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation was the largest education program in Canadian history at the time, with an initial $2.5 billion endowment. Its mission was to enhance access to post-secondary education and student aid programs while recognizing and rewarding academic excellence, community service, and leadership potential in Canada’s promising youth.

From 2000 to 2008, the Foundation awarded over 165,000 Millennium Excellence Scholarships valued at over $340 million to deserving students across the country. These non-renewable entrance awards of $1,000, $2,500, or $4,000 were granted based on academic merit as evidenced by high school grades and extracurricular activities. No application was required – the scholarships were automatically mailed out to eligible recipients whose names were submitted by high schools and provincial student aid authorities.

By targeting top students regardless of economic circumstances, the Foundation helped lift financial barriers that may have otherwise prevented academically gifted youth from pursuing post-secondary education. According to research, recipients who attended university were 40% less likely than non-recipients to drop out and 40% more likely to complete their degree on time, underscoring the program’s success in retaining talented students.

While individual scholarships have ceased being awarded since 2008, the Foundation’s vision and impact endure. Its initial endowment continues to support student aid programs across Canada through interest earnings, bursaries for underprivileged students, grants for research, and innovation in higher learning. To date, over $3 billion in funding has been distributed nationwide to positively impact the lives of millions of young Canadians. That is the remarkable legacy of an initiative that began with a single act of vision and belief in the potential of Canada’s youth two decades ago.

Understanding Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for a Millennium Excellence Scholarship back when the program was actively awarding entrance awards, students had to meet the following requirements:

  • Be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
  • Be graduating from a Canadian high school
  • Demonstrate high academic achievement based on grades in grade 11 and 12 courses that fulfilled admission requirements for a degree, diploma or certificate from a recognized post-secondary program. Specific grade/average thresholds varied by province/territory.
  • Demonstrate community/volunteer activities and leadership qualities beyond academic performance.

As scholarships were automatically granted based on merit designation by schools/provinces, no individual applications were required. Eligibility was determined using data from provincial student transcripts and demographic records.

It is worth noting that some scholarships were also allotted each year specifically for students pursuing college diplomas in technology, skilled trades, or vocational education programs recognized for apprenticeship credits, in addition to university-bound recipients. However, overall academic excellence remained the primary selection criteria regardless of the intended program of study.

Decoding the Application & Selection Process

Since Millennium Scholarships were granted over 15 years ago without an application form, there is sometimes confusion regarding whether the program still actively accepts applications or will resume individual awarding in the future.

To clarify – while the Foundation continues its vital work financing post-secondary access through other initiatives, no new individual Millennium Scholarship applications are nor will be accepted going forward.

Here is a brief summary of how the process worked during the program’s operational years from 2000 to 2008:

  • Eligible graduating students were automatically considered for a scholarship based on their transcript information shared by high schools with provincial authorities.
  • Provinces reviewed transcripts and relevant data to identify the top students in each jurisdiction based on academic merit who met overall eligibility rules.
  • Lists of designated recipient candidates were sent to the Foundation, which then mailed out non-renewable entrance awards of varying values.
  • No special application forms or essays were required from students. The selection was entirely criteria-based, using academic records.

So, in summary – the competitive application/selection phase occurred at the provincial level behind the scenes using student data. Recipients received pre-printed notification letters in the mail advising of their scholarship without any proactive involvement required from the student.

Planning for Success with a Millennium Award

For thousands of Canadian youth who received Millennium Scholarships upon entering post-secondary, that one-time financial boost made an immense difference in empowering their educational journey and future success. Whether easing tuition costs or removing financial stressors, the awards helped recipients maximize their university experience.

However, it’s important to remember these were non-renewable entrance scholarships, not ongoing funding over multiple years of study. Proper financial planning was crucial for longevity. Research also found recipients who strategically used their awards towards initial tuition payments were significantly more likely to graduate than peers who spent it on other expenses upfront.

Some best practices for maximizing the impact of a Millennium Scholarship included:

  • Carefully budgeting the money towards initial one or two-semester tuition/fees
  • Exploring additional bursaries, grants, and part-time work options to finance remaining years
  • Maintaining high grades to qualify for other internal scholarships and minimize workload
  • Choosing a sensible, affordable program aligned with career goals
  • Graduating on time to avoid additional costs of extended studies

With diligent planning, even a one-time entrance award could go a long way in setting students up for post-secondary success by easing that all-important transition out of high school. Strategic use of the funds removed early stressors and allowed recipients to fully embrace university life and maximize their education experience.

Demographics and Distribution

In addition to academic merit, Millennium Scholarships also considered diversity and representation by allocating a portion of annual funds specifically for underrepresented groups. Overall, the program achieved its goal of supporting excellence across Canada in an equitable manner.

Some key demographic statistics of past recipients:

  • Roughly equal gender distribution (52% female, 48% male)
  • Representation from all provinces/territories proportional to population
  • 20% identified as visible minority students
  • 10% had a disability or special need
  • 5-10% were from low-income families
  • 25% were studying outside their home province

Approximately 80% attended university while 20% chose college or skilled trade programs. The distribution of fields of study correlated closely with general post-secondary enrolment trends during that period as well.

The Foundation took care to assess representation in the nomination process and remains committed to advancing accessibility and diversity in Canadian post-secondary learning through its ongoing grant and initiative programs.


Here are responses to some frequently asked questions about Millennium Scholarships:

Are new scholarships still being awarded?

No, the program awarded its final scholarships in 2008. While the Foundation continues supporting student aid, no new individual scholarship applications are accepted.

I missed the eligibility window. Is there any funding available?

Contact your provincial student aid authority about current bursaries and grants. The Foundation also provides funds to institutions for student support through interest earnings on its original endowment.

Can scholarships be renewed for multiple years?

No, Millennium Scholarships were one-time, non-renewable entrance awards intended to support the transition to post-secondary education. Budgeting was required to finance the duration of your program.

Do I need a minimum average to qualify?

Eligibility criteria, including grade/average thresholds, varied by province during the program years. Provincial authorities determined the specific academic merit designation process for their jurisdiction.

What if I want to change programs after the first year?

Millennium Scholarship funds could be transferred with you to a different eligible post-secondary program as long as they are used within the expected timeframes of your post-secondary career.

Are there scholarships for other levels of post-secondary besides university?

Yes, some Millennium funds were allocated annually for college diplomas or skilled trades programs recognized for apprenticeship credit equivalencies.

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