My son uttered the words that made my heart race, my senses go numb, perspiration run down my face, and all I could do was stand there with my mouth open in complete shock… I was suddenly aware of the impending catastrophe headed straight towards my family. I always knew the day would come, but so soon? I always had good intentions of planning for the inevitable, but you know, things happen, life gets busy, and before you know it, the time has come. So I am standing there staring at him as he is still talking, not hearing a word since “Hey Mom, when I go to college…” all I can think about is how am I going to pay for this?!? I still have a few years before College D-Day, but starting research now never hurt anyone.

He will do all the work of getting into his dream school – researching the colleges, visiting campuses, getting good grades, putting together a polished application – but will still have to deal with one major obstacle: paying for college.

Paying for school is daunting enough when you have the financial support of your family. But for students whose parents can’t or won’t contribute to expenses, figuring out how to pay for college becomes a whole different challenge.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian full-time students in undergraduate programs paid, on average, $6,373 in tuition fees for the 2016/2017 academic year, 2.8% higher than the 2015/2016 average ($6,201). This increase was smaller than the 3.2% rise in tuition fees recorded in 2015/2016.

Undergraduates in Newfoundland and Labrador ($2,759) continue to pay the lowest average tuition fees in Canada, while undergraduate students in Ontario ($8,114) paid the highest average tuition fees in 2016/2017. You can also expect an average of $800 in ancillary fees (student activity fees, athletic fees, health insurance, etc.) and $1,300 for books and supplies. We won’t even mention the living expenses….

So, unless I am willing to relocate to the East Coast to further his education, we have to find out how to help him pay for his future education in Ontario. Sure, there is OSAP, student loans, and many colleges offer their own financial assistance, but there is another way to get money, and YOU DON’T HAVE TO PAY IT BACK!

Which brings us to scholarships, Bursaries, and awards. Lets break it down…


A scholarship is a grant or payment made to support a student’s education, awarded on the basis of academic or other achievement. Academic transcripts are usually requested. Extracurricular activities such as athletics and community work may be also considered.


A bursary is typically an award for a student with financial need. Bursaries may have academic requirements, but are generally focused on helping students who do not have the resources to pay for school on their own. Applications for bursaries will ask for an explanation of financial need. Extracurricular activities such as athletics and community work may also be considered to receive a bursary.


This is a catch-all for any awards that don’t fit in the above categories, for example student most improved in sciences

Before we carry on, there are some myths about scholarships and awards that are worth dispelling…

You have to have top marks to apply for scholarships. While grades are important, many awards and scholarships are for more than just good grades.  Leadership, volunteer work and financial need are some other criteria that is considered when you apply.
You can only apply for awards and scholarships in you first year of study. You can apply throughout your education, from your first year to upcoming graduates. 
Scholarships are just for student coming out of high school. The majority of scholarships and awards are open to students of all walks of life.  You can apply as a recent high school grad, having already attended post secondary studies, or if you are a mature student returning to school.
Awards and scholarships are just for full time students. Post secondary studies can be a balancing act and other responsibilities make it difficult, if not impossible, to be a full time student. Many awards and scholarships are open to part-time students. 

So, now we know what they are, where do we find them? No problem, just Google it…yeah right! I Googled ” bursary scholarship award 2018 Ontario college” and got About 276,000 results. WOW! The internet bring so much information right to your finger tips, but getting results like that are daunting.

So, I spent some time, (many, many hours actually) and found that many of these sites all offer the same grants, but look closely or you might just miss the one that is perfect for you!

College Specific

Most colleges offer their own scholarships, awards and grants. So once accepted, check out your colleges website as it is a great place to start.

Government Scholarships and Awards

Click here to view the Government of Canada webpage and learn the eligibility details of merit-based scholarships for undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral studies. is your portal to awards and scholarships for students with disabilities studying at Canada’s colleges and universities. Scholarships Canada is worth looking into, you create a profile and it matches scholarships to you (no charges or fees)

Provincial Scholarships and Awards

Click here for Ministry of Ontario Student loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries to find money that can help you pay for a college, university or apprenticeship program after high school. At there are many awards available through non-profit organizations, corporations and service clubs.

Local Scholarships and Bursaries

That’s right! Only students from Grey & Bruce Counties are eligible for these applications. Community Foundation Grey Bruce has developed an online catalogue of available awards for Grey Bruce students. More than 1000 scholarships, awards or bursaries exist to benefit local students, each of which is included in their website intended for local students and their advocates. Application forms come out early February and most deadlines are May 31st, but they do vary so be sure to check each application carefully. This site is currently listing 496 scholarships, bursaries & prizes available to students or residents from Grey Bruce worth $651,395!

Crisis adverted, mission accomplished and I am feeling relieved. The next time he utters those fateful words, I will be prepared for the conversation with this information. It will hopefully dispel his worries about his ability to afford future education, and more importantly empower him to do his own research as to what grants he will apply for. I know it will be daunting and overwhelming for him, and I will be there to encourage him with my favourite Dr. Seuss quote

“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

Time to move onto the next logical hurdle I will face. Did you know that if you Google “surviving empty nest syndrome” you get about 128,000 results?

Jennifer Cuffe

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