A Quick Introduction To Student Financial Aid

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Everyone knows that school is expensive, which is why there are number of different forms of financial assistance available to students at all levels.

You may not think there’s a funding package out there for you, but chances are a little research will show you otherwise.

It can take a bit of digging to find scholarships or grants you’re eligible for, but it’s a small price to pay for the chance to score some free cash!

Scholarships, bursaries and grants

Scholarships, bursaries and grants are three of the most common application-based sources of funding available to students.

Although all three are monetary awards given to students to help cover education-related expenses, they are usually disbursed according to different criteria.

Scholarships are generally based on merit, bursaries are typically based on financial need and grants are most often awarded for a specific project or program.

How to apply:

To find out which awards are available to you, talk to your school’s registrar or main administrative office. They should either have information about student awards or be able to direct you to the department that does.

Many schools also host a student award information session at the beginning of the school year to tell students about financial aid offered by the university or college – equip yourself with a pen and notepad and get there early, as seats tend to fill up fast.


There are different kinds of student funding out there. Make sure you thoroughly explore each one.

After you’ve checked with your school, do some research online to find out about awards offered by the government, foundations and corporations.

Check out the Scholarships Canada site, and the Government of Canada’s CanLearn and International Scholarships Program sites.

Be proactive:

Once you know what scholarship, bursary and grant opportunities exist, make a list of which ones you plan to apply for and what each application requires. You’ll usually need to fill out some kind of form and provide transcripts, letters of reference and possibly an application letter or essay.

Jot down the deadlines for each application in a calendar or planner and plan ahead to make sure you submit your applications on time – the competition can be pretty fierce and a late application will most likely mean you won’t be considered.

Work-study programs

Many schools offer co-op or work-study programs to give students a chance to gain hands-on experience in their chosen field before they graduate.

How to apply:

Check with your department to make sure you’re eligible for the program, then ask if it’s okay for you to take a paid position and still get course credit. Once you’ve got the go-ahead, start contacting potential employers to find out about current opportunities or try talking to students who’ve already done a placement to see if they know of any paid positions you can apply for.

This work experience is a great opportunity to position yourself for future employment with a given office or department – you can show off your skills and build a professional network on campus. If you manage to find subsequent employment opportunities with a faculty or department, there’s a good chance you’ll earn more than in your initial work-study program.

Internships/apprenticeships

If your school does not offer a work-study or co-op program, consider applying for an internship or apprenticeship on your own.


Combining several smaller funding packages can quickly add up – but make sure there are no conditions or restrictions.

This is a great way to get relevant work experience in your field and it can provide a (modest) income to help you pay for school.

How to apply:

Look for companies or organizations in your area that are connected to your program of study.

Contact the manager or human resources department to express your interest in the work they do and ask if they have any need for an extra set of hands in the coming months.

Be sure to emphasize that you’re passionate about what you’re studying and you’re hoping to learn more about the career you’re pursuing by working “in the field.”

If you’re still struggling to pay for school, consider taking on a part-time job to help you cover your costs. It can be difficult to balance a job on top of your studies but it is definitely doable – see this article for tips on how to juggle a part-time job as a student.

It can feel overwhelming to see your tuition, textbook and living costs add up as you work towards completing a post-secondary program, but there is help out there.

Spend some time doing your research to learn about the funding that’s available – you’ll have to invest at least a few hours in each award or position you apply for, but it could be well worth your effort in the end.

Want more advice on money and money management? Check out these articles.

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