Paying for university: Helpful tips

Cate McPhee


Let's be clear: university does not have to put you into debt or bankruptcy. University is an investment but remember, it'll be so worth it in the end.

Anytime I feel stressed about finances, I start daydreaming about working full-time and spending money on whatever I want. But then I remember without a post-secondary education, I likely won't obtain the career I've been dreaming about. 

I often think about doing something I enjoy and find fulfilling—university will help get me there.

So let’s talk about your options.


You should absolutely apply!

You could receive a mixture of grants and loans that can be paid directly to your university's financial aid office. The grants don't have to be paid back if you're eligible, which is awesome!

As a student, you won't have to pay off your loan until you are no longer a student and the interest rate is much lower than your average bank loan.


Next (and my saving grace), bursaries. The university offers students in financial need, the opportunity to receive money that goes directly towards your tuition. This is money that you do not, I repeat, do not have to pay back.

There is also an on-campus, student-work program called University Works. This is a very cool program, which I participated in over my four years at our university. During the fall/winter term you can apply to work on campus and receive up to 10-hours of paid work every week and can work 35-hours a week during the spring/summer term. Your employer will work around your school schedule to give you the ability to do both.

This is something I highly encourage students to take part in! 


Scholarships are also a great option and are based on your academic success. Apply to as many scholarships as you can as it's basically free money that you can use towards your tuition and other school necessities. 

Many scholarships are based on grades but some are based on volunteer work, personal essays or many other factors. Explore what scholarships the university has to offer and don't be afraid to apply—there's nothing to lose. 




Student line of credit, student loans and credit cards

I would try your best to get OSAP and bursaries before applying for other student loans. However, you might be interested in building up your credit score. If you get a credit card, understand all the responsibilities it comes with.

Pro tip: Pay the minimum on your credit card every month if you can't pay off the whole amount. I personally try to keep my credit card lower than 1/3 of my limit or pay it off completely if I can.

My personal experience with university shows that if you work hard, you can do just about anything. I worked full-time every summer and I worked part-time during every school year. I worked incredibly hard and budgeted my money to pay for school. 

Maybe my summers were a little less fun than some of my friends, but completing school with less debt was well worth it. Graduating and being able to start working towards my future immediately was very exciting for me.


My big secret? Budget. Learn to budget and prioritize. Here's another Student Speak blog post with a few financial tips.

I am in no way a financial expert, these are just tips from my personal experience. The university's Student Awards and Financial Aid department has some great resources that you should take advantage of.

I would love to hear about other ways you save money as a student, comment below and share your student hacks!

Want to learn more about the scholarships, awards, bursaries and more our university has to offer? Visit our Student Awards and Financial Aid website:


Student Awards and Financial Aid website


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