Financial Finesse: Tips on Paying for University

By University of Waterloo Modified on February 28, 2020
Tags : Money

Getting scholarships and bursaries can make a big difference for your funds.

A University of Waterloo student cheers having been accepted for financial aid from a variety of sources, including the school itself, a government program, and sites like

Maybe you've just started thinking about university, or maybe you've just received an offer of admission (in which case, congratulations!). Either way, now's a good time to consider how you're going to cover your university costs.

Have no fear! From scholarships to paid co-op work terms, there are plenty of ways to fund your university education.

University scholarships

Primarily based on academic or extracurricular achievement, scholarships and awards are a great way to showcase your talent — and get paid for it.

Most schools will automatically consider you for entrance scholarships (awarded to new first-year students). These are based on your admission average and don't require any work on your part — all you have to do is sit back, relax, and let the money come to you!

Most universities will also offer scholarships that you have to apply for. These are often larger scholarships, so it's definitely worthwhile checking out the scholarship pages for the universities you've applied to.

Scholarships outside of university

The sky's the limit! There are hundreds of scholarships on sites like and that are an excellent source of funding. Finding and applying to scholarships is no more than a click away, so take advantage of your skills and accomplishments!


Bursaries are sums of money that you don't need to repay (no strings attached, really!). To be eligible for a bursary, you simply need to fill out an application confirming that you demonstrate financial need.

What's financial need? Generally, it's the difference between your tuition, textbook, housing, food, personal, and transportation costs, and what you and your family can contribute towards that. If the difference is large enough, then a bursary can help bridge that gap.

However, you're encouraged to seek financial support from all other methods first before applying for bursaries, including part-time jobs, loans, and government aid. Which brings us to the next section!

Government aid

Government loans and grants can be provided through your home province. For example, if you live in Ontario, the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) provides funding, typically split between loans and grants. Grants do not need to be paid back (again, free money!), whereas loans eventually will (bonus: they won't accrue interest until you graduate!).

The amount of funding you receive is determined by factors such as tuition, family income and assets, family size, and whether you're living in residence or off-campus.

Part-time jobs

Yes, jobs — opportunities to not only feed your bank account, but gain some valuable work experience for your résumé! Part-time jobs are an excellent way to do just that. Universities and the areas around them tend to be quite student-centered, which means there are plenty of prospective employers ready to hire you.

Working on campus

On-campus part-time jobs are ideal for the on-the-go student. Convenient and student-friendly (employers work around your study schedule), it's easy to head from class to work in a matter of minutes. What's more, you can bond with other students outside of your classes!


If you've been accepted into a co-op program, then you'll be working for one or two terms in between your study terms. It's just like working a full-time job, and gives you plenty of opportunity for both personal and professional growth. For example, Waterloo students earn on average $12,100 per work term!

Learn more about financing your eduction with our Ultimate Guide to Financing!
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