Million Dollar PhD

How to make more than minimum wage with graduate scholarships in Canada

Most students make less than minimum wage in graduate school and take a decade to pay off their debt.

Throughout my years in grad school, I went from earning less than minimum wage to being awarded over a million dollars from 30 scholarships and grants. I accepted most of these, which made it possible to support four other graduate students, hire a dozen research assistants, present my research at conferences around the world, and graduate debt-free.

This book contains everything I learned about graduate funding, focusing on research-based Master’s and PhD programs in Canada. It may not make you rich, but it will help you live a more financially comfortable graduate life.

Inside, you’ll learn:

— Jay Olson, PhD

Read the book

This book is available for free online to help grad students on a budget.

If you’re short on time, the first three chapters (This book in one minute, Introduction, and Finding funding) contain the most important information.


Applying the guidelines in this book, I’ve gone from a poor student living in a shared apartment with paper-thin walls to owning a chalet in the mountains where I’ll spend the next few years writing my thesis.

As a new grad student making below minimum wage, this book showed me that I’m not doomed to live as a stereotypically broke student and that I don’t need to wait until I graduate to start living my life.

— Master of Arts student, Psychology, Concordia University

I started grad school with $40,000 in student loan debt. Without a 4.0 GPA or a heavily padded CV, within a few years I was making nearly $58,000 per year through provincial scholarships and Mitacs internships.

About the author

I’m Jay Olson (), a behavioural scientist studying placebo effects, knowledge translation, circadian rhythms, magic, and creativity. During my Master of Science and PhD at McGill, I was offered 30 awards from Mitacs, SSHRC, NSERC, IRRST, SCEH, FRQSC, and other unpronounceable acronyms. My university then hired me to run workshops on effective graduate funding. During a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, the workshop notes grew into Million Dollar PhD, the missing guide to graduate funding in Canada.