Your training and education will cost money, but you may be eligible for scholarships, bursaries, and grants to help you pay for school.
If you need help paying for school, there are organizations that will give you free money to help with the costs. This money is different than student loans because you don’t have to pay it back.
This free money probably won’t cover all of your costs, so you’ll probably need to add to it by:
- Working and saving money to pay for school
- Borrowing money in the form of student loans or student lines of credit
Free money for school is offered in different ways:
Scholarships and awards
Scholarships aren’t just for students with top grades. You can get scholarships for things like leadership, sports, volunteering, or membership with specific groups. Sometimes called awards, this money can be found at:
- Your high school: Talk to your guidance counsellor or principal about awards you may be eligible for. These are often awarded at graduation.
- Your post-secondary institution: Most schools in Alberta and across Canada offer scholarships for new and current students. Visit the school’s website or contact their financial aid office for more information.
- The Government of Alberta: In partnership with post-secondary institutions and community groups, the Alberta government offers dozens of scholarships, including the Alexander Rutherford High School Achievement Scholarship.
- The clubs, companies, service or cultural organizations, and unions you and your family belong to: Often these groups offer education awards to their members or employees and their families. For example, 4-H provides scholarships for its members, while some national restaurant chains offer awards to their employees, their children, and their grandchildren. Explore their websites or ask their human resources department for details.
In this video, consider how scholarships have helped Brittany pursue the education she wants:
Pursuing Passions in University (2:39)
Brittany is pursuing urban studies. Learn about her experience obtaining scholarships and becoming involved in student organizations.
Bursaries are awarded based on financial need. They’re designed to support students who wouldn’t be able to afford school otherwise. When you’re applying, you may need to show why you need financial help. You may also have to show satisfactory grades. Bursaries may be offered by the same organizations that provide scholarships.
Both the provincial and federal governments offer different types of grants for students who have some financial need. When you apply for student loans, you’re automatically considered for grants. You will have to pay back your loans, but you don’t have to pay back grants.
Learn more about grants for full-time students and grants for part-time students.
How to apply for scholarships and bursaries
Each year, millions of dollars of scholarships and bursaries in Canada go unclaimed. Remember that money is often awarded for things other than high grades or athletic ability. But you won’t land the money if you don’t apply. Here’s what to keep in mind:
- Do some research to find awards you might be eligible for. Ask your teachers, professors, and parents if they know of any scholarships. Search Alberta scholarships online.
- Start your scholarship search with these websites:
- Make a list of the awards that might work for you. Some awards don’t need an application. Many schools automatically grant scholarships to students based solely on their marks. But it pays to be sure, so contact your school to ask.
- Start early. Some organizations have January or February deadlines for applications. Start your application a few months in advance, especially if you have to submit an essay or portfolio.
- Fill out the application form in full. If you have questions, contact the organization.
- Gather and include all the relevant documents. Make sure you ask the right people for letters of support and check back to ensure you get them before the deadline.
- Know the terms of the award. Is it only for 1 year or will it automatically be renewed? What grades will you need to ensure it will be renewed? When and how do you receive the award? Do you have to pay it back if you withdraw from school or change from full-time to part-time status?
- Stay up to date. Eligibility criteria for scholarships can change over time. A scholarship that once seemed out of reach may now be within range.
- Talk to a career and employment coordinator at the nearest Alberta Supports Centre.