Paying for Your Education: Bursaries vs. Scholarships vs. Grants
Post-secondary education is important, whether you pursue trade school, college, or university. However, depending on where you want to go and what you want to study, this can also be expensive. Luckily, there are many options for students to pay for higher education, including grants, bursaries, and scholarships.
You’re likely to see these words everywhere when you’re planning for and choosing your post-secondary program and school, between teachers advising you to apply and offers of financial assistance from schools. Bursaries, scholarships, and grants are all types of educational financial assistance which don’t need to be paid back after graduation, but what are the differences between them?
In general, bursaries are based only on financial need, without requiring additional educational or employment achievements in order to be awarded to a student. However, they do require that students demonstrate financial need by providing information about their financial situation.
Bursaries are intended as a supplement to a student’s other financial resources to pay for school, such as OSAP and loans, family contributions, and savings or work income. A student’s level of financial need is based on what financial resources are available to them, not on a willingness or unwillingness to pay. This means that bursaries go to the students who have the fewest other financial resources.
Bursaries are often awarded directly from the educational institution you will be attending, and the amount awarded will vary depending on the level of financial need. Typically the bursary will be applied directly to tuition owing, rather than supplying funds to the student who must then make the payment.
It’s important to note that in most cases students need to apply for a bursary in order to be considered.
Scholarships are typically awarded based on personal achievements and academic merit, rather than financial need, though need can still be a consideration when scholarship committees are making their decisions. Scholarships are often directed toward specific programs of study or cultural backgrounds, such as scholarships for Indigenous students, students studying engineering, or athletics scholarships.
Academic and personal merit considerations can include your grades at graduation from high school and during your undergraduate studies, volunteer and community service involvement, projects or research involvement, and other meaningful activities.
Scholarships can come from many sources, including the post-secondary institution you’re attending; national, provincial and local businesses; provincial and national government programs; non-profits, and private individuals. The best way to find out what scholarships are available is to search sites such as ScholarshipsCanada.com, as well as inquiring directly with the above scholarship sources to see what they may have to offer.
Scholarships are rarely awarded automatically; most of the time, students are required to find and apply to scholarships themselves. These applications will need you to provide information such as your grades, any academic awards, personal achievements, or volunteer work. Scholarships will offer clear instructions on how to fill out the application and what information they need, and these directions should be followed closely to be sure your application is considered.
Grants are different from scholarships or bursaries in that they are intended for very specific uses. This can include supporting a student’s living expenses, study abroad, or a particular research project. Grants are typically awarded by the educational institution, or through government programs in support of post-secondary education, though occasionally they can be offered by corporations, non-profits, or individuals.
Grants also require students to apply in order to be considered, and the application process involves providing information about what the student wants the grant for, why it will benefit their education, or why the research project will be valuable, for example. While grants are funds that do not need to be repaid, they differ from bursaries and scholarships in that there may be rules requiring compliance, such as reporting on how the grant funds are used.