Money can sometimes be a taboo topic, but when it comes to your education, it pays to talk about it. If you're ready to discuss financing your future, here are three resources to help you get that conversation started.
1. Budget, budget, budget
Pulling together an overview of your estimated academic yearly costs is an important first step.
"When I meet with a student, I often suggest filling out a budget and then questioning each amount. 'Is that expense correct? Are those amounts accurate?'" says Deb Payne, assistant registrar of Registration and Financial Aid at Mount Royal University.
This number-crunching process can be done using pen and paper, Excel spreadsheets, or an online tool like Mount Royal's online budget calculator. Based on expenses, including your program of choice and personal spending habits, you can get an idea of what your upcoming year could cost.
"If the expenses outweigh the resources, then it's time to look into what expenses can be cut or reduced," Payne says.
Even making little changes, like cooking at home more and eating out less often, can add up and benefit you in the long run. Payne also recommends applying for subsidies and taking advantage of student discounts whenever possible.
2. Apply for awards
Applying for scholarships and bursaries is a low risk but potentially high reward action you can take to help cover education costs.
"It only takes minutes to apply for awards and that application could result in free money," Payne says.
Like most universities, Mount Royal recognizes hard work and achievement through hundreds of awards given to both new and continuing students — over $3 million in scholarships and bursaries, in fact. Whether it's for community and extracurricular involvement, high academic achievement or financial need, you can bet there's an award for that.
In addition to university-specific websites, Payne recommends doing a broad google search for awards in your field of study and looking at pages such as Yconic.com and ScholarshipsCanada.com.
3. Seek out financial aid
If you need extra help with funding, a variety of options are available through the provincial and federal governments including student loans, grants and bursaries.
For student loans, financial need is determined by looking at your education and living costs versus what your resources are.
"All students that apply for government aid, no matter what province, are also automatically assessed for grant money that they do not have to pay back," Payne says.
Which type of funding you should apply for depends if you'll be a full- or part-time student, as well as your home province. Be sure to take your time looking into which option is best for you.
Payne notes that students often begin to stress about paying their loan back right away, but in reality there are long-term options to help make repayment work for you.
"Repayment on federal and provincial loans doesn't begin until you have been out of full-time studies for six months. There are also income-based repayment assistant programs that you can apply for if needed. If you are without a job, or have a low income, your payments could be lowered or waived altogether for a period of time."
Plan for your future
Education is an investment in your future. Plan ahead, review your costs and explore different funding options. After all, you deserve to focus on your studies rather than paying the bills!
Check out scholarships at MRU