Tips for paying for university

student at ATM

King warriorWritten by special contributor

Like many students, Miguel paid for first year through a combination of savings from a summer job, student loans, entrance scholarships, and an RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan).

Miguel is counting on student loans and bursaries from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), what he makes during his co-op work terms, and possibly a part-time job to help him cover the costs of his Communication Studies program. He's also used websites such as and to look for scholarships.

Maureen Jones, Waterloo's director of Student Awards and Financial Aid, says that first year can be pricey – and the cost of university isn't a one-size-fits-all.

"It's never too early to start thinking about ways of paying for university. I encourage students to talk with their parents or guardians about the costs of university and ways to pay."

Even if you don't think you'll qualify, you should definitely apply for government assistance.

Tips from the pros

Apply for financial aid

Even if you don't think you'll qualify, you should definitely apply for government assistance such as OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Plan) or the equivalent in your home province. There are many assessment factors, and you may miss out on hundreds or thousands of dollars if you don't apply.

Jelena, a fourth year Legal Studies student says that OSAP has been a crucial resource in helping her get through her university career, despite having limited financial resources. "OSAP has helped me exponentially by reducing financial barriers," she adds. 

Eligibility requirements within the OSAP program can change too, so if you're an Ontario student, don't count yourself out. The recommended deadline to submit your OSAP application is June 15.*

Scholarship websites

Websites such as or list hundreds of scholarships. There are Waterloo entrance scholarships which require an application and many grants and bursaries you can apply for throughout your degree.

Financial assistance for Black and Indigenous students

Waterloo also offers financial support for students from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. This includes a range of bursaries and scholarships specifically tailored to help Black and Indigenous students pursue their education. 

*Each term has a second set of final OSAP deadlines, scheduled 60 days before the study term come to an end. 

Create a budget

You don't have to track every latte or late-night snack, but an on-going budget can make sure you don't run out of money. You can use our budget calculator to estimate your first-year costs and resources.

Part-time jobs

Think about whether you want a part-time job. In first year, it can be good to focus on your studies and then consider a job for your upper years. On-campus jobs can work around your class schedule.

There are hundreds of part-time jobs right on campus – and they're flexible enough to work around your class schedule.

Use multiple sources to pay for university

Jones says students should look at multiple ways to pay for school, such as

  • government student loans and bursaries;
  • personal savings from a part-time job, etc.;
  • family contributions, e.g., RESP;
  • university scholarships and/or bursaries;
  • scholarships from employers (either through parents or a student's part-time job);
  • part-time jobs in university;
  • co-op work terms; and
  • Aeroplan points, which you can redeem towards tuition.

Waterloo co-op students can make from $8,400 to $15,000+ per work term in Canada to help pay for school.

A helping hand for international students

International students who need financial help can apply for bursaries of up to $5,000.

"Family situations may change, exchange rates may affect your savings, or the summer job you were counting on didn't pan out. We understand and do our best to help students out," says Jones.

All students can apply for bursaries once they're at Waterloo.

We're here to help

As mentioned above, you can use our budget calculator to estimate your costs and resources for first year. If you have questions or would like advice, visit the Student Awards and Financial Aid website, call us, or book an appointment to chat with one of our staff.