Many families struggle with the high cost of sending their offspring to College or University. Including books, tuition, housing and, of course, beer and concert tickets, the tab can run to $25,000 or more a year. How great would it be to get free university funding?

Lots of options for free university funding:

  • Take full advantage of the RESP program in Canada or the 529 plan in the US. Currently in Canada, the government provides up to $7,500 per child in matching grants. Strangely, only about 1/2 of students are on campus funded by an RESP and event then, they are only taking advantage of about 1/3 of the value of the program. When your government offers free university funding…grab it!
  • Look at government student grant and loan programs. These can be effective for lower income families since they usually include a means test. However, in some locales, a means test is not used when the student enters her 5th year of a higher education program, meaning that students in longer programs or in second degrees may be eligible for free university funding.
  • Be sure to set things up right with your student. I recommend paying some or all of the fixed education costs like books, tuition, rent and food and letting the student save for incidentals. In that way there are no budget overruns and their is no calling home in October with frantic calls for more funds. More details on this in Cashflow Cookbook.

Finally, it is worthwhile looking at scholarships for students. Navigating the process is tricky, so we are lucky to have some help on this from the President of, Janet MacDonald, here to help with this. Janet, over to you!

Scholarships – there may be one waiting for you

There are many reasons why students don’t apply for scholarships.  Some believe tired old myths like “You must be a top student to win scholarships.” Or “It’s too competitive, I’ll never win.” Or maybe it’s the parents who believe the myth that you must demonstrate financial need for most scholarships.

While there is a kernel of truth in some of these myths (e.g. top students do win scholarships, but not all scholarships are won by top students), many more students qualify for scholarships than they think.  In fact, only about 1/3 of scholarships require high grades and financial need.  Many scholarships have about a 70% minimum grade requirement, and some don’t have any grade requirement at all.

Actually, you do have time to write a scholarship application

Another barrier to scholarships is the time it takes to complete the applications.  But let’s look at the potential return on investment of a scholarship, even a relatively small one at $1,000.  If your student puts in 3 hours of work on a $1,000 scholarship, they saved the equivalent of working about 90 hours in a part-time minimum wage job. If we look at it another way, they just made over $300/hour.  There are 720 hours in a month.  If your student has something better to do with just 3 of those hours than to potentially win $1,000, please let me know what it is so I can share it with others! (Love this, very Cashflow Cookbook-like thinking – Ed)

But, qualifications and time barriers aside, sometimes the obstacle is the student simply not knowing how to fill out the applications.  Some scholarships require references, and students sometimes don’t know who to ask.   Many applications require an essay, which some students find intimidating.  They often struggle to decide what experiences they should include on the essay, and how to communicate their accomplishments without sounding arrogant.

Finally, a course to help you win scholarships

How to Write Winning Scholarship Applications is a step-by-step online course that takes high school students (and their parents), through the scholarship writing process.  It provides professional instruction on how best to complete scholarship applications — right in your own home, or any place you have an internet connection.

When students sign up they have access to video training modules and downloads of templates and other course materials they can use to support their learning.

With the information in the program, students are able to write their best scholarship application, and then re-use the material again and again to apply for more scholarships, thereby increasing their chances of winning.

This program is aimed mainly at Grade 12 students in Canada.  Parents can also follow along to discover some of the best ways to support their child through this busy and important time of their lives.

Thanks to Janet for her ideas on scholarships.

Do you have some interesting ways to get free university funding? Let us know in the comments.

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