What is a scholarship?
Scholarships may be awarded based on academic merit, extracurricular activities or other distinctions. Scholarships may also have a financial need component.
Unlike with a loan, you do not have to pay back the scholarship money. Some scholarships require you to complete an application; for others, you are automatically considered. It is important to know the difference when you are applying.
Useful scholarship terms
- Application Required: You must submit an application to be considered for the scholarship.
- Application Not Required: You are automatically considered for the scholarship when you apply to the university. An example would be entrance scholarships, which are based on academic merit (usually your high school grades).
- Renewable: A scholarship that can be awarded to you yearly, as long as you continue to meet all of the requirements.
- Non-Renewable: A scholarship that is awarded for 1 year only. Schools that provide these scholarships often offer additional upper-year scholarships that may not be highlighted until you are at that university.
View Ontario Universities’ Info for a list of Ontario university scholarships.
Most universities also provide lists or search tools to help you look for scholarships, and you can usually find these on their financial aid office websites. You can also contact the Indigenous student centre at your university for support when applying for scholarships.
What is a bursary?
A bursary is money awarded based on financial need that you do not 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. You might find the following resources and organizations useful in your search:
- The Indigenous Bursaries Search Tool is a searchable list of more than 750 scholarships and bursaries across Canada, provided by donors and foundations to support Indigenous students in their studies.
- The Métis Student Bursary is open to Métis students who apply through their university’s financial aid office or Indigenous 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. Visit Indspire’s website for information about types of financial aid and their application deadlines.
You can also visit or call the Indigenous student centre at your university for more information about bursaries and their application process.
Here are some steps to take when applying for scholarships, bursaries and awards:
- Search for potential awards
- Make sure you qualify
- Gather your information
- Organize your information
- Do a final check
Search for Potential Awards
After you apply to university, begin to look for scholarships, bursaries and awards. The Ontario Universities’ Info scholarships database can help you in your search for general and university-specific awards. Remember to also contact your university’s Indigenous student centre and financial aid office for more information about scholarships available to you at university.
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, bursary or award information carefully to make sure you meet the criteria for application.
Gather Your Information
To apply for a scholarship, bursary or award you will usually need to fill out forms and provide documents to support your application. You will want to start your application sooner rather than later, because it might take some time to obtain/order required documents (such as an academic transcript) or contact your references. Some documents and information you may be asked to provide with your application include:
- 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
- Academic transcripts
Organize Your Information
List all of the scholarships, bursaries and awards 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 re-purpose pieces of your application, since most applications require similar information. This means that you don’t always have to start each application from scratch!
Do a Final Check
Check, check and check again. Use this checklist to make sure you are ready to submit your application. Be sure to complete the following:
- Fill out the application forms carefully.
- Check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
- Provide all of the required supporting documents.
- Ask someone to check over your application, because that person might notice something you missed.
- Meet the deadlines.
- Make copies of every application sent, for your own reference.
- Provide current contact details.
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?
The funding support available to First Nations, Métis and Inuit students 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). You will have to complete an application. Be sure to check in with your community’s education officer to make sure you have the correct application, as it may vary by community.
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. Be prepared to apply for scholarships, bursaries and other financial aid.
If you are a Métis student, you may be eligible for the Métis Nation of Ontario’s Bursaries & Scholarship Program. Métis students are not eligible for First Nations community-based funding supports.
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 live in Ontario, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation offer financial assistance and support on behalf of the Inuit community in Ontario.
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 Admission is mid-May to June. Contact 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 allowance?
- 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:
- Continuing students – students who are coming directly out of high school or are currently enrolled in postsecondary studies.
- Wait-listed students – students who previously applied for funding, but were not funded due to lack of funds.
- Returning students – students who previously received funding and then interrupted their studies for more than 1 academic term and are now continuing their studies.
- 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?
You will receive a sponsorship letter from your education officer that confirms 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 is important that you start looking into scholarships, bursaries and other forms of financial aid sooner rather than later.
Even with community funding, scholarships and bursaries, it may be necessary to apply to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).
What is OSAP?
OSAP is a government program that gives you loans based on your financial need while you attend university. The loans are interest-free until 6 months after you graduate from university.
Visit OSAP for more information about the program and its requirements.
If your parents’ household income is too high, OSAP may not cover all of 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 you finish your program.
Most banks provide students with specialized loans that may require someone else to co-sign the loan.
Learning how to manage money is a valuable skill to have while attending university. Knowing the cost of your education will help you to better prepare and organize your finances. With good planning, you will understand where you spend your money, what your fixed expenses are and how to manage your cash flow.
Once you are on campus, take advantage of financial planning or advice services, 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 to make purchases.
- Take the time to seek out scholarships and bursaries, both within and outside of a university.
- Set a weekly spending limit for entertainment-related activities.
- Eat nutritiously on a budget:
- Take your lunch, snacks and drinks with you to class or work.
- Shop wisely for groceries.
What kind of costs can I expect?
Your costs will generally fall into 3 categories: Tuition fees, books and other course materials, and living expenses.
Tuition fees depend on the program and school you choose. In 2019-2020, the average cost of 1 year’s tuition at a Canadian university was $6,463, before taking into account scholarships, bursaries and awards.
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 do not 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 ranges 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.
If you plan on living in residence, visit the websites of the universities you are interested in attending to learn more about the costs of residence and meal plans.
If you plan to live off campus, you will be paying for rent and groceries. You might also need public transportation, so you should investigate the cost of a public transit pass (if it is 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, bills and future expenses. One way to start the process is by filling out a sample budget, so you know how much money is coming in and how much is going out.
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 universities’ financial services also offer workshops on how to manage your finances while attending university.