Proofs from the notebook Olivier's open lab book.

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The motivation for the *Guide des bourses*

I’ve been TAing for first year analysis and statistics classes past semester. My job was to animate weekly problem solving sessions, i.e. every week I had lists of problems that I showed them how to think about and solve.

At the start of the weekly sessions, I tried to give students some helpful hints about studying at UQAM - the type of things that I wished people told me when I was just beginning. These are things like:

  • Info about their student insurance, how they can use it to get free glasses, free dentist appointments, etc.
  • Info about mental health support at UQAM.
  • What’s going on in the mathematics community: conferences that might interest them, events and activities.
  • How they should look out for scholarships and research internship opportunities, and some tips on how to improve their CVs.

Unfortunately, even though I tried my best, I don’t think I did nearly a good enough job at informing them of what’s going on and at helping them for post-graduate professional life:

  • I’m unfortunately not good at talking about mental health.
  • I have a very limited knowledge of what’s going on in the math undergrad world.
  • I only know about the FRQNT and CRSNG scholarships to which I applied (because somebody once told me about them).

(Even though I was bad at it, I was still one of the very few who talked about these things.)

And if it’s still hard for me to get a clear picture and thorough information on this subject, even after going through a bachelor and a master at UQAM, imagine what it’s like for first or second year students! I also had no clue when I was beginning. Getting some professional development advice early on would have greatly helped me.

So that’s the story behind the Guide des bourses (Guide to Scholarship and Awards). Now I want to put together all of the ressources that would have helped me when going through my studies at UQAM, so that all students have easy access to this information.

For now, the guide is still very much focused on my own personal experiences and the similar ones of my friends in the statistics department. However, anyone can contribute to the Guide on Github and I’m working on extending it. Hopefully we’ll gather more ressources in the weeks to come and present a broader persective on the opportunities that are available to students.

Contents of the Guide

The guide has two main focuses: the first is to list helpful ressources and scholarship applications examples; the second is to provide a “recipe” for success in academia (or at least some generally helpful advice; I personally still have a lot to learn).

1. Ressources repository

Here’s what we have so far.

2. How to achieve stuff

I’ve worked very hard to get into good schools for my PhD, and I was in particular admitted into Stanford. Here’s the advice that I would give to a student who wants to achieve something (academia-related I suppose):

  1. Figure out what ressources are avaible to support you in your immediate environment. You need access to well-being ressources (mental and physical health), professional and academic counselling, as well as more personal mentorship (can you get in touch with professors or professionals in order to get advice?). Map out your current environment before anything else.
  2. Figure out what you want. What are you really passionate about? What kind of work makes you forget that you’re actually working? What opportunities (maybe scholarships, internships or projects) are available to you?
  3. Once you have knowledge of your environment and of where you’re headed, then get moving! Get work done, improve your CV and start to apply on the jobs / scholarhips / internships / whatever that are in line with your goals. Your goals can change - that’s perfectly fine. But you still need to have a clear direction if you want to move forward. If you’re applying for scholarships, then apply everywhere you qualify. Don’t be afraid to ask a prof to submit their recommandation letter at 10+ places: it takes them 30 seconds to copy-paste it in web forms. (I know it’s scary. I was scared, I did not ask for nearly enough letters and I regret it now. Ask for those rec. letters!)

In short: (1) map out your environment; (2) figure out what you want; and (3) get going!

Hopefully the Guide des bourses will help some students work through these steps.

I also want to add that it’s ok to have ambitious goals and it’s ok to change them whenever you want and for whatever reason. What is not ok is to stall or to let others tell you what your goals should be. There’s so much important and beautiful things to be done in this world. It’s a shame we so easily shy away from deciding what deserves our time.

If you have ideas or suggestions about the Guide des bourses, please do get in touch! You can also contribute on GitHub and submit your ideas on the project wiki.