icon Financial AidFinancial Aid

How am I going to pay for school?

University is an investment in your future, and there are a number of ways you can finance this investment, such as scholarships, bursaries, and loans.

How am I going to pay for school?

University is an investment in your future, and there are a number of ways you can finance this investment, such as scholarships, bursaries, and loans. Navigating these applications can sometimes feel as tricky as trying to get out of a maze. Below you will find information to guide you through the application process for financial aid, scholarships, and bursaries, and to help you manage your own budgets while at university.

Most universities have a financial aid or financial services office that can provide you with resources on financial aid, specific student awards, and application processes. Check out the website of your university’s Financial Aid Office or give the office a call with questions you might have. Find out more information about specific financial aid offices on our university profile pages.

T P IconScholarships and Bursaries

  • What is a scholarship?
  • What is a bursary?

Scholarships and Bursaries

What is a scholarship?

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Scholarships may be awarded based on academic merit, extracurricular activities, or other distinctions. Scholarships may also have a financial need component. Unlike a loan, though, you don’t have to pay back scholarships. Some scholarships require you to complete an application; for others, you are automatically considered. Know the difference when you’re applying.

Here are some scholarships terms you’ll need to know:

Application Required: You must submit an application to be considered for the award.

Application Not Required: You are automatically considered for the scholarship when you apply to the university. An example would be entrance scholarships that are based on academic merit (usually your high school marks).

Renewable: A scholarship that you can be awarded to you yearly, as long as you continue to meet all the requirements.

Non-Renewable: A scholarship that is awarded for one year only. Schools that provide these scholarships often offer additional upper-year scholarships that may not be highlighted until you are at that university.

Check out eINFO Scholarship to find which university scholarships are available to you. Most universities also provide lists or search tools to help you look for scholarships, and you can usually find these on the Financial Aid Office website. You can also reach out to the Aboriginal Student Centre at your university for support when applying for scholarships. You’ll find more information about scholarships at your university on our university profiles.

What is a bursary?

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A bursary is money awarded based on financial need that you don’t have to pay back. You may also need to provide a budget to demonstrate financial need as part of the application process.

There are many ways to search for bursaries, and we’ve listed some resources and organizations that you might find useful in your search. You can also visit or call the Aboriginal Student Centre at your university for more information about bursaries and their application process.

The Aboriginal Bursaries Search Tool is a searchable list of over 750 scholarships and bursaries across Canada, provided by donors and foundations to support Aboriginal learners in their studies.

The Métis Student Bursary is eligible to Métis students, who apply through their university’s Financial Aid Office or Aboriginal Student Centre. This bursary is provided by the Métis Nation of Ontario.

Indspire is an Indigenous-led charity that provides scholarships and bursaries for Indigenous students attending postsecondary education. Indspire’s website gives you information about types of financial aid and their application deadlines.

Province IconApplying for bursaries and scholarships

  • Overview
  • Step 1: Search for potential awards
  • Step 2: Make sure you qualify
  • Step 3: Gather your information
  • Step 4: Organize your information
  • Scholarship Opportunities

Applying for bursaries and scholarships

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Here are some steps to take when applying for scholarships and bursaries:

Step 1: Search for potential awards
Step 2: Make sure you qualify
Step 3: Gather your information
Step 4: Organize your information
Step 5: Do a final check

Step 1: Search for potential awards

After you apply to university, begin to look for scholarships and bursaries. The eINFO scholarships database can help you in your search for general and university-specific awards. Remember to also contact your university’s Aboriginal Student Centre and Financial Aid Office for more information about scholarships available to you at university.

Step 2: Make sure you qualify

Many scholarships are designed for people who:

  • belong to a particular Indigenous community;
  • have achieved academic or sporting excellence; and/or
  • plan to study in a certain field or at a certain level.

Read through the scholarship or bursary information carefully to make sure you meet the criteria for application.

Step 3: Gather your information

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To apply for a bursary or scholarship, you will usually need to fill out forms and provide some documents to support your application. You’ll want to get started with your application sooner rather than later, because it might take some time to order your academic transcripts or contact your references. Some documents and information you may be asked to provide with your application are:

  • proof of citizenship or residency status;
  • evidence of community involvement, financial need, or ancestry;
  • letter of acceptance from your school;
  • list of references;
  • personal statement; and/or
  • your academic transcript.

Step 4: Organize your information

Students study at a desk

List all the scholarships and bursaries that are applicable to you, and include their application deadlines, the required supporting documents (such as an academic transcript), and how and when you will get these documents. Keep in mind you can repurpose pieces of your application, since most applications require similar information. This means that you don’t always have to start each application from scratch!

Step 5: Do a final check

A group of students in a common area studying at computers.

Check, check, and recheck. Use this checklist to make sure you are ready to submit your application. Be sure that you complete the following:

  • Fill out the applications forms carefully.
  • Check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Provide all the necessary supporting documents.
  • Ensure that copies of documents are certified.
  • Meet the deadline date
  • Make copies of every application sent, for your own reference.
  • Provide current contact details.
  • Ask someone to check over your application – because that person might notice something that you’ve missed.

Notepad IconFAQ about Community Financial Aid

  • Overview

  • How do I find out if I am eligible for funding?
  • When should I apply for funding?
  • What are the most important questions I should ask my education officer before I begin university?
  • Do I need to be living or have lived on my reserve to be eligible for band funding?
  • I have priority funding. What does that mean?
  • What portion of tuition will be paid by the community?

FAQ about Community Financial Aid

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Here are some frequently asked questions about postsecondary funding for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Students.

How do I find out if I am eligible for funding?

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The funding support available to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit learners through their communities varies.

If you are a Status First Nations student, you can access funding through your community band council’s education department and the Postsecondary Student Support Program (PSSP). Eligible students will have to complete an application that can vary among communities, so be sure to check in with your community’s education officer to make sure you have the correct application.

Depending on your community’s size and priorities, not all eligible students may receive funding. If you do receive funding, the amount may not cover all costs of university, so be prepared to apply for scholarships, bursaries, and other financial aid.

Métis students are not eligible for First Nations community-based funding supports. However, you may be eligible for the Métis Nation of Ontario’s scholarship and bursary program; check out your eligibility.

Inuit students who have been or who are residents of the Northwest Territories (NWT) or Nunavut for more than 12 months can apply for funding through NWT Student Financial Assistance (NWTSFA) or Financial Assistance for Nunavut Students (FANS). If you are Ontario-based, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation offer financial assistance and support on behalf of the Inuit community in Ontario; check out its application.

When should I apply for funding?

Sooner is always better, but the deadline for your funding application can vary among communities. A common deadline with many First Nations’ band councils for applications for fall-term admission is mid-May to June. Check in with your community’s education officer to make sure you know the right deadline.

What are the most important questions I should ask my education officer before I begin university?

Here is a list of questions that may be useful:

  • What is the minimum amount of courses or credits I need to keep my funding?
  • Is there funding available to help offset the costs of my moving to another city to go to university?
  • What is the minimum grade point average (GPA) I must maintain to continue to receive funding?
  • What happens if I fail or withdraw from a class?
  • Do you fund for spring/summer terms?
  • How and when will I receive my living allowances?
  • Do I need to apply for funding each semester or just once each academic year?
  • Do you make course load exceptions for students with disabilities?
  • Is there any funding available that will help cover the costs of travel home for holidays or family emergencies?
  • Can I receive additional funding for adaptive technology, a computer, or travel abroad opportunities?

Do I need to be living or have lived on my reserve to be eligible for band funding?

It depends on the rules set out by the band council. Be sure to ask the postsecondary funding coordinator if you are eligible to receive funding. If you have not lived on a reserve, it is important to explain or establish your connection to your community in your application to the band council.

I have priority funding. What does that mean?

Depending on your community funding, there may be a priority arrangement in place to determine who will receive funding first. Generally, priority is given in this order:

  1. Continuing students – students who are coming directly out of secondary school, or currently enrolled in postsecondary studies.
  2. Wait-listed students – students who have previously applied for funding, but were not funded due to lack of funds.
  3. Returning students – students who had previously received funding and then interrupted their study, for more than one academic term, and are now continuing their studies.
  4. New students – students who are applying for a postsecondary program, who have never received funding.

What portion of tuition will be paid by the community?

When you receive a sponsorship letter from your education officer, it will confirm the maximum amount of tuition that will be covered for the term. These amounts are usually enough to cover the cost of tuition and other student fees, but depending on your program and its associated costs, the funding you receive may not cover everything. It’s important that you start looking into scholarships, bursaries, and other forms of financial aid sooner rather than later.

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Additional Provincial Government Financial Aid

  • Overview

  • What is OSAP?
  • Ontario Tuition Grant

Additional Provincial Government Financial Aid

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Even with community funding and scholarships and bursaries, it may be necessary to apply to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

What is OSAP?

Students study at a desk

OSAP is the program that gives you loans based on your financial need while you attend university. The loans are interest-free until six months after you graduate from university. Visit the OSAP website for more about OSAP and its requirements.

Ontario Tuition Grant

A woman smiling into the camera in an office.

The Ontario Tuition Grant gives students 30% off Ontario tuition (to a set maximum) if they are attending university. Students already accepted into OSAP will automatically be considered for the 30%. If you have not applied for OSAP but are interested in this grant, you can still apply to the tuition grant. Learn how by using the Ontario OSAP Eligibility Wizard.

Notepad IconPersonal Loans

  • Overview

Personal Loans

If your parents’ household income is too high, OSAP may not cover all the costs of university. In this case, you may want to look into personal bank loans or lines of credit. Unlike OSAP, bank loans do charge interest immediately after finishing your program. Most banks provide students with specialized loans that may require someone else to co-sign the loan.

Province IconManaging Money

  • Overview
  • What kind of costs can I expect?
  • How do I make budget?

Managing Money

Learning how to manage money is a valuable skill that’s especially needed while attending university. Knowing the cost of your education will help you to better prepare and organize your finances. With good planning, you’ll understand where you spend your money, what your fixed expenses are, and how to manage your cash flow.

Once you’re on campus, take advantage of any financial planning or advice services that might be offered to you through places such as the Office of the Registrar or Student Financial Services.

Here are some strategies you can use to enhance your financial wellness

  • Limit or avoid credit card debt while attending university by using your debit card, rather than a credit card, for making purchases.
  • Take the time to seek out scholarships and bursaries, both university-based and external ones. See Applying for Scholarships and Bursaries.
  • Set a financial limit for yourself for entertainment each week.
  • Eat nutritiously on a budget:
    • take your lunch, snacks, and drinks with you to school or work; and
    • shop wisely for groceries.

What kind of costs can I expect?

Your costs will generally fall within three major categories:

  • Tuition fees

Tuition fees depend on the program and school you choose. In 2013 and 2014, the average cost of a year’s tuition at a Canadian university was $5,772, before taking into account scholarships, bursaries, and the 30% Ontario tuition grant.

If you know the program you want to study, visit the websites of the universities that offer it to find out current tuition costs. If you don’t know what you want to study, look at tuition costs for a few different programs and then make a reasonable estimate.

  • Books and other course materials

For many undergraduate university programs, the typical cost of books and other materials range from $800 to $1,000 per year, although costs vary by program. To reduce these costs you might consider:

  • buying used books or their electronic version;
  • borrowing from the university’s library; and
  • sharing books with roommates or friends in the same program.
  • Living expenses

If you plan on living in residence, check out the website of the university you plan to attend to learn more about the costs of residence and meal plans.

If you plan to live off campus, you’ll being paying for rent and groceries. You might also need public transportation, so you should investigate the cost of a public transit pass (if it’s not already included in your student fees) or, if you have a car, calculate the cost of gas and parking.

Whatever your living arrangements, there will be other costs to consider, such as clothing, computers, cell phones, and entertainment.

How do I make a budget?

Making a budget means not only keeping track of where you spend your money, but also planning ahead for fixed payments such as rent, tuition, and bills as well as future expenses. One way to start the process is by filling out a sample budget, so you know how much money is coming in, compared to your expenses. You can also check out a sample budget developed by uOttawa.

Some universities include budget calculators or provide sample budgets to help students identify their expenses. Often these kinds of tools are also available through the university’s Financial Services website. Many of these offices also offer workshops on how to manage your finances while attending university.

Information from this page was developed using information on the Western University and York University work-study websites, the website of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, York University Student Financial Services website, the University of Alberta’s Native Studies website, and the University of Ottawa Financial Aid and Support website.