When I went to university, I paid my way through student loans and savings from a summer job. I never bothered to apply for grants, bursaries or scholarships. I assumed they were for those with higher grades than mine, or at least some level of athleticism. My grades weren’t high enough, nor was I athletic. Had I have known what I know now, I might not be working so hard to pay off my student loan. Here’s what I wish I’d known then about how to get free money.
There’s Money Out There For The Taking
There are two different ways to get free money. Either you can sit and wait until it comes to you – which it sometimes does – or you can apply for it. I’d suggest the latter. When I was in university, I did receive the Millennium Scholarship Fund twice, but only because my student loan amount was so incredibly high. It was meant for debt relief. Once, after my grandmother passed away and I spent the last of my money flying home for her funeral, I qualified for an emergency bursary of $1000. The only reason I knew about it, though, was because one of my professors told me.
Find The Scholarships
You might think that there aren’t a lot of scholarships out there, but there are. In fact, Rob Taylor, a senior editor with Edge Interactive, a student recruitment solutions company, says there are well over 60,000 individual awards provided by over 300 companies across Canada. Where are these scholarships, though? The first place you’ll want to try is the Internet. Try sites like studentawards.com and ScholarshipsCanada. Once you enter your details, including your academic marks, area of study, schools you want to apply to, your hobbies, volunteer experience and community service, plus your artistic pursuits, you’ll be able to see which awards you’re eligible for. You can even receive notices when new awards come up or as application deadlines approach.
Look Off The Beaten Money Path
Don’t just stop there, though. There are plenty of other places to find bursaries and awards. Try your parents, or your place of employment, veteran organizations (if applicable), ethnic and religious organizations (if applicable), and even your high school.
According to ScholarshipsCanada, there were 7,363 scholarships and awards listed in their 2004 directory. Of those, 17 required some kind of agricultural involvement, 262 required athletic involvement, 631 required some sort of extracurricular activity, 615 required that the applicant held a leadership role, 1,115 required school or community service, and 80 required that the student have a disability. Knowing the requirement well ahead of time can get you one step closer to that free money.
Plan Well Ahead Of Time
Start early; most applications are looking for details on community service. A good time to start is in Grade 11, so you meet all of the qualifications long before you apply. Try anything and everything – even the smallest awards, since people often ignore them and go for the big ones. Make sure you understand the guidelines and expectations before you begin the application process. You’ll want to make sure that you have someone proofread your application for spelling and grammar. Just like a resume, your application should be well written. Think of it this way; it may take you several hours to put together your applications, but it’s worth it in the end. Lauren Wallance, a 19-year-old University of Guelph student won seven scholarships totaling $38,325 – and she spent just five hours on her applications.
Spend The Money You Do Have Wisely
Once you get that money, it’s important to make it last as long as possible. Become a wiser shopper. Look for deals and ways to cut costs and, if possible, seek out rewards for the money that you spend. For example, BMO offers a CashBack MasterCard for students that offers rewards for purchases, as well as a 15 per cent discount at hundreds of stores. If you’re going to spend, you might as well spend wisely, right?