How scholarships and bursaries can help you pay for college

Nursing student smiling

When Patrina started the Practical Nursing program at Mohawk College, she moved away from home and was faced with a challenge many people can relate to: affording the cost of living. As she was settling into her program and trying to work out solutions to her problem, she received an email that would end up being a lifeline. 

“The school sent me an email about scholarships and bursaries, and it took me to a questionnaire. I filled out the whole questionnaire. They asked questions like, ‘are you a first-generation student?’ ‘What’s your income?’ ‘What are your expenses,’” said Patrina. “If you write an essay, you can submit one, as well as if you have volunteer experience, or whatever else you have, you can upload that as well. I believe when you upload something, it gives you a better chance of qualifying.” 

By putting in her application, Patrina automatically applied for all potential scholarships and bursaries she may be eligible for. She heard back from the Financial Assistance team and was amazed to discover she had won a bursary. “I received the Eleanor Barr Memorial Bursary. I believe it was for academic scholarship, I received $2100, and I was super shocked,” she said. 

Receiving the bursary provided Patrina with some much-needed financial security and helped her to put more of her focus onto her studies. After seeing how easy the process was and how much it helped her situation, Patrina encourages all of her fellow students to do the same, noting that many financial awards go unclaimed due to not enough students applying for scholarships and bursaries every year. “It takes so little time to do it, and it could make a big difference in your life. Even if it's $500, that could really help you with groceries like it helped me. I had trouble affording fresh fruits, and so it really helped,” she said. “I think students should just go for it, nothing bad can happen if you don't. Since people don't apply, many scholarships are just sitting there waiting for somebody to apply.” 

To maximize your chance of receiving an award, it can be helpful to learn about the options available to you as early as possible in your educational journey. Nick Massi, Manager of the Financial Assistance team at Mohawk College, encourages potential students to visit Open House to make the most of the support the team offers. “Attending Open House is an ideal opportunity to gain clarity on the application process for scholarships and bursaries,” he said. 

Many students think scholarships are only given out to those with great grades. Mohawk offers a variety of scholarships to offer support for students in a wide academic range. 

“There are many awards, scholarships and bursaries; with varying criteria. We encourage students to submit applications each semester to increase their chances of being a recipient of an award,” said Nick. “A common misconception is that only second-year students or higher are eligible to receive awards. Yes, some awards have more specific requirements; however, first-year students may still apply and be considered for awards through our Scholarships and Bursaries application.” 

If scholarships and bursaries aren’t for you, there are other ways to pay for college. OSAP is one of the most common routes for students to afford college and related expenses. While many people use OSAP for student loans, there are also bursaries available separately through OSAP which students can apply for. There are also options available for students to balance their courses around their work schedules, allowing them to continue working as they complete their studies. 

“Students often feel discouraged if they don’t receive an award. However, there are many other ways to pay for tuition,” said Nick. “OSAP is an option for domestic students who are planning to attend or are currently registered at Mohawk College and can demonstrate financial need. Students can also seek employment through CSEP (Campus Student Employment Program). We encourage students to check the website regularly for updates or changes.” 

The award that she received had a significant impact on Patrina’s life, and she wants to express her thanks to the donors who make such scholarships and bursaries possible for the students who need them. “Oh my gosh, I would just give this person a huge hug, because they really helped me a lot. I was really struggling last semester. I had to pay rent and groceries, plus school expenses. So, it just relieved some of that stress, and I'm so thankful for them. I'm not sure if they're going to read this, but I hope they will. Thank you so much for everything,” she said.