But with the support of a Schulich Leader Scholarship, Zielinski thrived in her four years at the University of Saskatchewan, capped off by earning a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (Civil) with Distinction at Spring Convocation in June.
“It was great to see all of my hard work pay off, and to have something tangible to represent it was really exciting,” said Zielinski, who was awarded an $80,000 Schulich scholarship in 2014 to study engineering. “I truly enjoyed my four years at the U of S and I am glad that I chose to study there. It’s a great university with a beautiful campus. As an engineering student, I spent a lot of time studying there, so having a beautiful campus definitely helped because it made it much more enjoyable to be on campus.”
Zielinski was one of 40 high school students from across the country—including fellow U of S student Tushita Patel—who earned a Schulich scholarship in 2014 (Schulich now gives out 50 scholarships per year), a prestigious award that covered all of her costs for tuition and books, and also provided a significant boost of confidence as she began post-secondary studies after graduating from Marion Graham Collegiate in Saskatoon.
“It relieved a ton of financial pressure, and receiving the scholarship provided a huge relief,” said Zielinski, an accomplished athlete, dancer and musician who also won the Saskatoon Public School Division Proficiency Award for the highest academic average in each of her four years at Marion Graham. “And by taking off that financial pressure, it allowed me to fully focus on my academics, without the distraction of working outside of school in order to support earning my degree.
“The scholarship also definitely increased my confidence in my ability to be a leader. I think that being a leader in your community is a big part of the scholarship. So, it provided a big boost of confidence for me in terms of my ability to lead.”
Zielinski said a big part of her university experience was the camaraderie within engineering, as well as with other Schulich scholars across campus.
“What stood out for me was the Schulich community that we had on campus. There were 10 of us Schulich scholars during my time there and we went to events together and hung out together outside of school, so that was really great,” she said. “We got to meet other Schulich leaders from different campuses, which was really neat and it strengthened our group’s bond.”
After graduating, the 22-year-old Zielinski wasted no time in putting her degree to use, joining Graham Construction as a project co-ordinator.
“Now that I am working in the field of engineering, I realize how useful a lot of my classes were,” she said. “Especially some of my classes in third and fourth year. We did a lot of design work and design projects which have been very helpful. I am using a lot of what I learnt in those classes now, so I have developed an appreciation for those experiences.
“We also took RCM (Rhetorical Communication) classes which taught me how to make an effective cover letter and resume. These classes strengthened my ability to communicate effectively and that has helped me in the work that I am doing now. I still have a lot to learn now that I am in the work force, but university taught me not only how to learn, but how to work. It gave me a strong work ethic that will continue to benefit me now that I have graduated.”
As for potential future Schulich scholars, Zielinski’s message is simple.
“The advice I would pass on to high school students coming to the U of S is, if they are interested in the scholarship at all, go for it,” she said. “It has been an amazing experience being able to develop this community of leaders on campus and it has also taught me how important it is to be involved in your community. So, put yourself out there and get involved. I can’t imagine how my university experience would have gone otherwise, and I am very thankful that I was able to earn the scholarship.”