U of T rolls out 'one-stop shop' for student awards

students looking at computer screens in a computer lab
U of T's Award Explorer is a hub that gives current and prospective students access to thousands of needs- and merit-based financial supports (photo by Ken Jones)

The University of Toronto has launched the first phase of Award Explorer – a public-facing, centralized awards repository that gives current and prospective students access to thousands of awards, prizes and medals.  

Undergraduate and graduate students can easily look for, and apply to, awards in a single location using a combination of keyword searches and filters, including award type, campus, college, faculty, citizenship and more.

“The University of Toronto has a wide range of need- and merit-based financial supports for students,” says Richard Levin, U of T’s university registrar and executive director of enrolment services.

“Award Explorer is a one-stop shop that will make it much easier and faster for students to find the information they need. At the same time, it will streamline the back-end experience for staff.”

The new tool, the result of a partnership between Enrolment Services and Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI), centralizes the comprehensive annual support made available to U of T students. That includes nearly 4,500 admission scholarships, 6,000 in-course scholarships and close to 19,000 bursaries to undergraduate and second entry programs. That’s on top of 16,000 combined awards, fellowships and bursaries to graduate students.

“In the past, students searched for awards on multiple sites and they weren’t always sure what they might be eligible for,” says Donna Wall, the director of financial aid and awards at Enrolment Services. “With the launch of Award Explorer, we’re moving toward a consistent user experience for students and staff. It’s the beginning of building greater awareness of the wide range of need- and merit-based supports available.”

Awards continue to be added to the repository daily by department and faculty administrators. During this transition, current award information will continue to reside on divisional and departmental websites to ensure this information continues to be accessible to the public. Students can also access the tool through ACORN’s “Awards and Aid” page.

“Since 2016, we’ve been gathering input and feedback from the academic divisions and other stakeholders,” says Farah Ally, the Award Explorer project manager. “Engaging closely with our key users, such as Laura Stathopoulos, director of financial aid at the School of Graduate Studies, has contributed to the institutional success of this project.”

Award Explorer is now the primary source of award information at U of T and its functionality will continue to expand. Future phases are already in progress, which include automatically matching students to awards, allowing students to apply for awards online and notifying them about funding decisions and payment information. They will also be able to track the status of their applications, track award payment history and access their award letters. 

“This project will transform award administration at U of T and make us a leader in award administration nationally,” says Wall. “We want to continue to attract the best and the brightest students.”