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How Will You Pay (for higher education)? Part 1: Grades 9 & 10

January 14 was the deadline for 2015 Ontario university applications. The Ontario University Application Center reported they received over 87,000 applications for the province’s 20 publicly funded universities. The application deadline for ‘equal consideration’ for one of Ontario’s 28 public colleges was February 1, 2015. Every student applying for the 2015/2016 academic year will soon be asking: “how am I going to pay?”

Once the ‘hard’ part is over, deciding to which program(s) and school(s) to apply, most students (and their supportive parents) will turn their attention to scaring up the $10,000-$20,000 each year of an undergrad degree or diploma program will cost. What they will happily discover is that in addition to any RESPs and personal savings they may have, there are actually lots of other sources of funds out there: admissions awards, grants, bursaries, scholarships, government loans, bank loans, etc. etc. As with everything, though, there’s work involved with securing some of that ‘free’ money.

Take stock and get organized early

Don’t wait until Grade 12—there’s too much to do in Grade 12.! Grade 9 or 10 is the ideal time to begin the process if you plan to study in Canada. For the US, Grade 7 (!) is when the clock starts ticking on requirements (see Dr. Norman Smith’s Top 10 considerations for US school applications)

The biggest shock to a first year higher ed student is just how expensive everything is. Even if tuition’s covered, that’s just the tip of the financial iceberg. Books, transportation, food and everything else between home and classes will chew up a surprising and consistent amount of money every day. Pretty soon after landing on campus, students realize $100 is a veritable gold mine. Here are some places students should investigate before enrolling in higher education to find some sources of funding.

During Grades 9 & 10 :

1. Investigate higher ed options early. Visit a few campuses in person and online to get an idea of the fees associated with the programs of greatest interest. Narrow down the choices early to help you focus a lot of effort on top three-four schools by Grade 12. This will also help determine early whether living at home is going to be an option.

2. Start looking at scholarships, especially the larger ones**, to understand what it will take to win these prestigious awards. Get on to all the scholarship aggregation websites ( and and Maclean’s campus scholarship database are good sites to bookmark).

The benefit of looking at all the awards early is the ability to focus on the ones you have the best chance of winning and building up your experience portfolio in advance of the application year (students who show involvement over the longer-term have a better chance of winning than those who are late-bloomers). Be very realistic about whether your time is well spent applying for the “big” awards—the Loran Award states right on its website that they select 30 recipients from over 3,500 applicants!

3. Get a job! As soon as you are old enough, and for as many hours as you can afford, find a part-time job in high school. Saving some money and realizing how hard it is to earn a buck is one aim, but having some experience will give you a leg up in landing a job while you’re at college or university and in the summer time. Upon graduation, employers are now looking for 2-5 years work experience for entry level positions (read this to learn more).

**Some of the Big awards (up to $100,000!) include:

Loran Award

TD Scholarships for Community Leadership

Schulich Leaders Scholarship

 Medium awards ($5,000 – $10,000) include:

Lincoln Alexander Award

RBC’s Students Leading Change

EDC’s International Business Scholarships

Interesting and helpfully-sized:

Stuck at the Prom contest

Wealthsimple award

Something New for Dinner


For more information on this topic also see: Advice for scholarship/awards applications

Have anything to add? Send us an email at: We’d love to add to this list.


About Higher Ed Points Inc.

Higher Ed Points, through partnerships with best-in-class and like-minded Canadian corporations, is dedicated to finding innovative ways to help students and families fund higher education.

After all, it takes a village to raise a mind™

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