The ASPIRE Challenge

Frequently Asked Questions


What are the Application Requirements?

All participants must be a second-year student (as determined by your school and faculty) and attending one of the following ASPIRE schools on the Application form drop-down list.

All project submissions must be your own original idea and include an employer consultation (informational interview).

We would hate to see your hard work go to waste, please make sure you meet all the application requirements before submitting your project!

I go to a school that is not on the participation list, can I still apply?

If your school is in Ontario and under a 90-minute journey from Toronto then yes! Check the Application form drop down list to see if your school participating and if not let us know by contacting

Why is this only open to students in the GTA?

We dream big, but are starting small. The way our funding works means that we can’t cover the cost of student travel or accommodation. Therefore, students will have to fund their own travel to the Innovation and Industry Insight Weekend in Toronto. Accessibility and fairness are important to us, which is why we are restricting participation to students attending schools with 90 minutes journey of Toronto, which is the maximum travel time we feel we can ask students to travel to the Innovation and Industry Insight Weekend before the distance or cost of accommodation becomes a barrier. We hope that this year’s success will allow us to bring the ASPIRE Challenge to more schools next year!

ASPIRE still supports students across Canada, so if your school isn’t listed, you are still welcome to access our student resources and sign up for access to co-op and internship opportunities.

Why is this only open for second year students?

We consulted with employers, schools and students to create an opportunity that has the most impact on a students’ early career – as it turns out, everyone recognized that this experience best serves students in second year!

Does it matter what I’m studying?

Not at all! We understand innovative thinkers can be found in every area of study, and all students have the potential to create positive change and share a new perspective. Take overfishing, for example. It’s a global problem that impacts ocean health, coastal communities and national economies. You can help to solve this problem in any number of ways regardless of your area of study, such as Engineering sustainable fishing equipment to creating Communications materials to change consumer behaviour.


Why do I need to speak to an employer?

Speaking with an employer is a critical part of The ASPIRE Challenge. Not only will speaking to an employer help you develop your innovative idea in ways you may not have considered, but it’s also an opportunity to build your professional network by discussing something you’re passionate about!

I don’t want to speak to an employer, can I still apply?

Applications will not be accepted without an employer consultation. If you’re not comfortable, take a look at our resources to help you reach out! We know it can be awkward to ask for an informational interview but it’s an important life skill, and The ASPIRE Challenge is a great excuse to contact someone. Take this rare opportunity and reach out to someone new!

I realize this is an individual challenge, but can I work in a group?

There’s a lot of group challenges out there and you work in a lot of teams at school. This is an opportunity to show us what you can do, and the reason why we accept applications in any format. We all have different strengths, we don’t expect you to be the best at everything, that’s why we’re evaluating on impact, originality and practicality of your idea, not how pretty or what format your application is.

Why do I need to submit my resume?

The employers we work with are excited to see the resumes of 2ndyears who so driven that they have made time to apply for The ASPIRE Challenge. By submitting your resume you’re getting noticed early. We also want to give you feedback. There’s a lot of resume advice available online and on-campus, but it doesn’t always help you target your transferable skills for a career in Financial Services. We’re giving every single applicant individualized feedback so that you can stand out to campus recruiters.

Why complete this challenge when I could be applying to jobs?

If you win a place at the Innovation and Industry Insight weekend you have a 1 in 3 chance of securing a summer internship with 10 of the leading employers in Canada, we challenge you to find better odds anywhere else!

Do I have to want to have a career in Financial Services to participate?

Not at all! We certainly understand that Financial Services is not the career destination for everyone. However, we’d like the opportunity to showcase the innovative thinkers in the industry and hope that this experience will help you learn about the amazing opportunities in the sector!


Can you tell me all the key dates for The ASPIRE Challenge?

October 15th 2018: The ASPIRE Challenge launches
December 2nd 2018: Deadline to apply
December 21st 2018: Applicant feedback
January 7th- 11th 2019: Videoconference presentation to employer panel (Semi-finalists)
February 1st– 3rd 2019: Innovation and Industry Insight weekend (Winners)
May 2019: Summer Internships start

Can you give me an example of an innovative solution?

For inspiration, look around your school and community. What do you think could be improved?

Perhaps you notice that children in your local community have limited access to books. The next step would be to ask why? For example; Children in my rural community lack access to books. Why? The library is closed by the time they get home as parents working long hours and children stay in daycare until supper time. Why can’t the daycare take them to the library? Adult-to-child ratio is too low, so staff are reluctant. Why doesn’t the daycare have books? Lack of funding and no space to store them. So possible solutions could be: a) start a volunteer group for people to drop by the daycare to bring and read children books, or b) have a drive to raise book donations, or c) apply to community grants to purchase books or for funding to build an app that provides both parents and daycare staff with access to downloadable children’s books.

What happens to my innovative solution?

You keep the ownership of your idea. The ASPIRE Challenge is also a great opportunity to demonstrate your problem solving and creative thinking skills to 10 employers without having to awkwardly interview, rather than launch a start-up. That said,we will give you feedback on your innovative solution and suggest next steps you could follow to make it a reality, value add for every participant. And, while funding for your innovative solution won’t be available, we’ll be providing workshops on design thinking during the Innovation and Industry Insight weekend which could help you take your idea to the next level.

Does my idea have to fit in the categories?

To help generate ideas we have provided three categories, 1. Environmental Sustainability 2. Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, 3. Health and Wellbeing, however your innovation can relate to any area of interest to you. All ideas are welcome, this is why the fourth category is “4. Other”!

Does my idea have to be related to financial services?

Not at all, this is an opportunity to demonstrate your problem solving and innovative thinking, rather than demonstrating your knowledge of financial services. That said, we encourage you to take a closer look at financial services. You may be surprised to learn that our employer partners sponsor key social initiatives, community organizations and even many of the arts in your own community and across the country!

What type of format should my Application File be?

Your Application File provides the opportunity to add supporting information that you believe will strengthen your application. You are welcome to submit a text, graphic, video or audio file, or whatever form you feel will best communicate your idea. Please do NOT submit a recording of you reading out the answers in the application form. We all have different strengths, we don’t expect you to be the best at everything, that’s why we’re evaluating on impact, originality and practicality of your idea, not how pretty or what format your application is. This is an opportunity to show us what you can do, and the reason why we accept all types of supporting information, we just ask that the Application File is no longer than the 1 page or 90 seconds limit, and is uploaded in either PDF, MP3 or MP4 format. Please note that, to ensure fairness, Application Files will not be reviewed beyond the limit stated.

In the application question “What is the value offered by your solution to the intended customer/user?” What does ‘value’ mean?

In this question, ‘value’ refers to the benefit of using the solution to solve the problem. Be sure to avoid describing features and focus on the benefit.

Here’s some examples:

  1. FEATURE: Being able to deposit cheques using my bank’s phone app
  2. BENEFIT: The convenience of not needing to physically go to the bank, and saving time to do other things.
  3. FEATURE: Cookies with low fat and lots of fiber that tastes good
  4. BENEFIT: The pleasure of enjoying yummy cookies without guilt that is associated with eating delicious food.
  5. FEATURE: ABS (all braking system) in a car prevents the car from slipping on icy roads
  6. BENEFIT: The peace of mind and feeling of safety while driving in winter with a car equipped with ABS.


Are the employer panel assessing whether I get an internship?

The employer panel will be 3 people who all work for the same company. They will watch your 5-minute presentation to see how you bring your innovative solution to life and then ask you questions about it. While all employers are always on the lookout for great talent, they will only be deciding which 60 students get invited to the Innovation and Industry Insight weekend, not who is offered a summer internship.

How is my application being assessed?

We have partnered with an independent expert to review everyone’s application for originality, practicality and impact, and provide feedback. To ensure fairness your application assessment will be based on a rubric that examines a) your solution (30%) b) the added value created by your solution (20%) c) the chance of the solution’s success (20%) and d) the quality of your application (30%).

Who is giving feedback on my resume?

We’ve partnered with a registered Professional Certified Coach to give you resume feedback and valuable advice to help you represent yourself to employers in the best possible way. Make sure you watch the ‘Effective Resumes’ webinar and download the Resume Template to get you started, then upload your 1- or 2-page resume in a PDF format with your application. Contact your careers centre for support integrating the feedback and updating your resume.


What happens on the Innovation and Industry Insight weekend?

Between Friday 1st– Sunday 3rdFebruary 2018 we will be hosting a weekend in Toronto packed with design thinking training, hanging out with employers, shark tanks, failure and empathy training, office visits, student networking, social events and opportunities to hear about groundbreaking innovations from leaders in the financial services sector all in a chill environment with awesome food. 1 in 3 students attending the weekend will also score a paid summer internship with one of Canada’s leading financial services organizations!

Will my travel to the Innovation and Industry Insight weekend in Toronto be covered?

We understand that the expense of travel can be a challenge for students, however, we are unfortunately not able to cover these expenses due to funding restrictions. All costs relating to travel and accommodation is the responsibility of the participant.

Which employers could I get an internship with?

ASPIRE works with Canada’s leading financial services providers, including these partners who will be recruiting during the ASPIRE Challenge: Aviva, BMO, CIBC, HSBC, Intact, OMERS, RBC, Sun Life, Scotiabank and TD Bank.

What happens if I’m not free for the summer internship?

You are still welcome to participate in the ASPIRE Challenge. If you are selected as a finalist, there’s no commitment to accept a summer internship and you still get all the networking and training opportunities during the innovation and insight weekend!

What happens if I don’t like the internship I’m offered?

There’s no obligation to accept any internship, however we ask that you communicate your non-acceptance early so that the opportunity may be offered to another candidate.