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Financial Aid and Scholarships in Canadian Universities

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Financial Aid and Scholarships in Universities in Canada

Financial aid refers to funding intended to help students pay educational expenses including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, etc. for education at a post-secondary school. Scholarships, grants, and student loans are all considered types of financial aid.


A scholarship is an award of financial aid for a student to further education. Scholarships are awarded on various criteria, usually reflecting the values and purposes of the donor of the award. Scholarship values can range from a few hundred dollars, to full payment of all tuition and student fees (Loran Awards, given by the Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation, are worth $75,000 over 4 years). However, the most commonly awarded scholarships have values of $1000-$5000 per year.


Students who meet specific qualifications may receive Canada Study Grants directly from the government. To earn such a grant, students must meet one of a list of eligibility requirements. This includes having a permanent disability, requiring exceptional financial assistance, have children, or are a woman enrolled in certain PhD studies.

The government issues grants ranging from $2000-$8000 per academic year, depending on a student's financial need and qualifying circumstances. If the student fails to complete the degree program (drops out, academic withdrawal, etc.) they must repay the grant money.

Student loans

The Canadian government provides subsidized student loans along with provincial aid organizations. Qualifying students receive 60% of their loan amount as a Canada Student Loan. The remaining loan balance comes from local organizations, sometimes working in conjunction with private lenders. Because of this, students can hold simultaneous student loans from multiple sources, each having contributed a small amount to cover the cost of attending post-secondary school.

To qualify for student loans, students must be citizens or permanent residents of the province in which they apply. Students that intend to travel overseas to attend a college or university must first enroll in an exchange program in order to qualify. This option exists to help students that want to study obscure subjects that may not be available in Canada, as well as residents of remote areas (eg. northern regions of Canada) who cannot easily obtain specialty courses at their local schools.

Graduate-level awards

Graduate students are also eligible for awards, and in many cases, cannot undertake graduate studies without some form of financial aid in place (as supervisors must otherwise pay graduate students directly out of their grant monies). Graduate-level awards range in value from $5000 to $30,000 and are meant to allow the student to focus exclusively on their graduate studies, without having to split their time between school and work.

Graduate-level awards can either be external awards such as those awarded by NSERC or SSHRC, or internal awards from the school. In both cases these awards are very competitive. High academic averages are necessary, and students must also demonstrate a well-rounded lifestyle with volunteering and extra-curricular activities. Letters of recommendations are also necessary; in most cases at least one recommendation must come from the studentís supervisor (or prospective supervisor).

Internal awards for graduate students are generally referred to as fellowships. This is funding that is awarded by the schoolís Department of Graduate Studies either through nomination by academic departments or sometimes by student application directly to the department. They are usually awarded the winter or spring before the start of the award.

Travel awards are given to outstanding graduate students who travel to present their work at academic conferences, and are meant to cover (or partially cover) the costs of travel (eg. plane tickets), meals, hotel stays, and conference entry fees. These awards are generally available on a continual basis, and can be applied for as students prepare for conference travel.

The best graduate students in each school are also eligible for dissertation awards. These are special financial awards given to graduating PhD students who have done outstanding original work and successfully defended their thesis.

Entrance scholarships

Entrance scholarships are special scholarships designed specifically for high-school graduates who are entering college or university for the first time. Because they are designed to entice students to choose their school over another, entrance scholarships are generally worth quite a bit ($2000-$10,000). Within each school, the greatest entrance scholarships are those awarded to students with a high school average of at least 90%. Students with an average lower than ~90% are still eligible for entrance scholarships; however the values will be lower.


A bursary is a monetary award made by an institution to a student to assist in the development of their education. Bursaries may be awarded in addition to a scholarship where financial need is demonstrated and the student would otherwise be unable to enter the school. Bursaries are awards that do not have to be repaid by students. Bursary awards are generally lower in value than scholarships (most often less than $1000 per year).

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