Teah Zielinski had written off the idea she was going to get an $80,000 scholarship to pay for her first of four years of engineering studies at the University of Saskatchewan.
"I had kind of just decided that it was okay, I didn't get this one," Zielinski said.
Then the email arrived.
"I had to read it a few times to be sure. I was very, very shocked," Zielinski went on. "And there was a lot of tears. And I told my family right away. And we were all just completely blown away, couldn't believe that I had actually received this scholarship."
Bankrolled by businessman-philanthropist
Zielinski is one of 40 Canadians across the country this year to receive a Schulich Leader Scholarship, the country's largest scholarship for students entering undergraduate studies in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
(Students in science, technology or math receive $60,000, while engineering students receive $80,000 because of the higher cost of their program.)
It was created three years ago by Toronto-based businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich.
Applicants are nominated by their high schools. Two recipients are selected at each of the 20 participating universities. The nominees must demonstrate at least two of the following attributes: academic excellence, outstanding community, business or entrepreneurial leadership, or financial need.
Athlete, dancer and musician
Zielinski applied on the basis of the first two.
At Marion M. Graham Collegiate in Saskatoon, Zielinski won the Falcon Award for being a positive role model and supportive team player on the junior volleyball team. She also earned Achievement of Great Distinction for her leadership in the school's junior and senior bands.
A passionate dancer, she won Senior Miss Candance last year at the Candance Regional Dance Competition in Regina. After volunteering as an assistant dance teacher for three years, she taught her own classes for two years.
She was also elected class representative for her Grade 12 grad committee.
Melding math and art
Zielinski picked engineering as the best stepping stone towards her ultimate career goal, architecture.
In both lines of work, she sees a role for her two best subjects in school, math and art.
"I feel like there definitely is some art that comes into the engineering and being able to come up with new designs," Zielinski explained.
And, while both engineering and architecture have traditionally been male-dominated professions, Zielinski sees that changing. A few of her female friends are also following the same path."So I feel like as time goes on it's becoming more of a female field", she said.
Besides the Schulich scholarship, Zielinski has also received a couple of other scholarships from the U of S.
Those, together with money from high school proficiency awards, have given her a total of around $90,000.
"It really helps me feel like I can achieve what I want to do now without having to worry about not being able to financially support it," Zielinski said.