Loans & Grants & Scholarships, oh my!
If you or your kids are heading to university or college this fall, you may be wondering about student assistance. If you are seeking financial support for your post-secondary pursuits, there are three main options to consider: grants, loans, and scholarships. All three methods of support are available for both full-time and part-time students.
Grants vs. Loans
Grants and loans to help you pay for school are available from both provincial and federal governments.
You should plan to apply at least 6-8 weeks before the first day of classes. Applications are generally available after May 1st for the term starting in September. Remember, students must apply for funding annually, and you must apply to your province/territory of permanent residence (the province you have last lived in for 12 consecutive months without attending post-secondary). Full-time students only have to fill out one application form each year to be assessed for both federal and provincial loans. When you apply for a student loan, you are automatically assessed for any grants for which you may be eligible.
The biggest difference between a grant and a loan is that a grant will not need to be repaid, whereas a loan will need to be repaid. Repayment obligations begin six months after you finish school.
Interest on Student Loans
When you start paying back your federal student loan, you will be charged interest on the balance. Repayment Assistance is available in some cases. If your family income falls below a certain threshold, you may be eligible for no payments or reduced payments for six months. After six months, if your family income is still below the threshold, you can reapply for Repayment Assistance.
In Nova Scotia, there is no interest charged on your provincial loans if you stay in Nova Scotia and you were enrolled in a designated school and program. Check your local student assistance website to determine if your province offers any deferred interest options on your provincial student loan.
Scholarships and Bursaries
Unlike grants and loans, which are generally based on financial and program criteria, scholarships and bursaries are basically free money and are generally based on personal and academic merit. Things like a high grade point average, participation in sports, community involvement and volunteer efforts, leadership, and being a mature student or single parent all help you qualify for different scholarships and bursaries.
If you’re in Nova Scotia and are interested in what may be available to you, check out the Nova Scotia Student Assistance website for resources on where to find scholarships.
You may also have a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) at your disposal from which to draw funds to pay for school. Check with your advisor for the appropriate paperwork to request a withdrawal to pay for tuition, textbooks, and other post-secondary expenses.
Do I Qualify?
Eligibility for student loans and grants is determined based on family income and other resources that you may have available to you, like RESPs.
The Student Aid Estimator can provide a ballpark amount of assistance you could receive on your federal loan, but actual amounts are determined after you complete the application process. September may seem like a long way off, but to avoid any delays or complications with your grant, loan, and scholarship applications, start thinking about your post-secondary plans now. The application process is not the final piece of the puzzle – most programs and loan applications require monitoring and, likely, more forms or paperwork throughout the summer to ensure a seamless start to your next big adventure.