Let's be clear: university does not have to put you into debt or bankruptcy. There are plenty of students who are struggling, you are not alone. Lots of people struggle financially because university is expensive. However, remember it will be so worth it in the end.
Every time I get stressed about the very large amount of money that I owe the school, I start day dreaming about working full-time and spending money on whatever I want. But then I remember without a university education, I will probably end up working in a customer service job I don't really enjoy for the rest of my life.
This is a strong reminder that it will be very worth the time and money to have a career you enjoy doing. No hate to customer service jobs, but if you have done one, you might be able to relate. I would rather do something I enjoy and university will help get me there.
So let’s talk about your options.
I can't personally speak about OSAP because I was never eligible however, you should absolutely try to apply!
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 then your average loan.
Next (and my saving grace), bursaries. The university offers students in 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 a bursary program called University Works. This is a very cool program, which I participated in over my four years at our university. You can apply to work on campus and receive up to 10 hours of paid work every week. Your employer will work around your school schedule to give you the ability to do both.
Scholarships are also a great option. Apply to as many scholarships as you can as it is basically free money that you can use towards your tuition.
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 do not be afraid to apply.
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, it is important to build up your credit score.
Credit cards can be exciting, but they can also be detrimental to your future. 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 one third 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 over every summer and I worked part-time during every school year.
I will graduate this school year and with no debt! It is possible. I never had a loan or a student line of credit, I just worked incredibly hard and all of my money went towards paying for school.
Maybe my summers were a little less fun then some of my friends, however graduating debt-free is worth it to me. Graduating and being able to start working towards my future immediately. My excitement is next level!
My big secret? Budgeting. 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 students hacks!
Want to learn more about the scholarships, awards, bursaries and more our university has to offer? Visit our Student Awards and Financial Aid department!