First year is full of changes including new experiences as well as new challenges. Not only must you pick classes, buy textbooks, and perhaps live on your own for the first time, you also need to learn how to budget your time and money.

Tuition and other university expenses may have left you confused and nervous, but if you take early action to understand where your money goes, budgeting becomes much easier.

According to the Laurier Brantford Registrarial Services Office, a student loan “establishes a relationship between you, your post-secondary institution, the provincial and federal governments, and the National Student Loan Service Centre (NSLSC).”

Lisa Neziol, Finanical Aid and Scholarships Administrator for Laurier Brantford, advises first year students that the most important first step they can take into university life is to apply for OSAP by mid-July in order to be considered in time for the beginning of the school year. Applications for OSAP can be filled out online or on paper, but the online format is recommended since it takes less time to complete.

Neziol also recommended applying even if you think you are not eligible for any funding, as you may be surprised by the estimate you receive. Even a few hundred dollars can open the door to more opportunities in the world of financial assistance.

However, upon applying for OSAP, it is important to avoid believing the myth that OSAP covers all expenses. Students must remember that OSAP is an assistance program, and cannot be used as a sole form of payment for university expenses. Lines of credit from a banking institution are another important option to consider, as OSAP has been found to not always be reliable.

Carla Howell, a Laurier Brantford graduate of 2011, experienced troubles with obtaining a sufficient amount of money from OSAP.

“Those who have single parents, lots of siblings in school, [or] low family income will have no problem whatsoever obtaining OSAP,” she said. “One coming from a single home family, whose parents are still together, whose parents make enough money to buy a house and a nice car won’t find so much help. Not every parent who has money wants to fork out thousands for their kid’s education. As my parents told me, ‘We paid for our own school, so can you.’”

Howell says she is frustrated with the high interest rate on her OSAP loan and was devastated by the decreasing amount of money she received each year. Therefore, it is imperative to remember that OSAP can’t be your sole dependency for a student loan.

Once you settle into the pace of university life, a part-time job is a key option to consider. However, it can impact how much you receive from OSAP, and because of this, Neziol confirms that about ten hours of work every other week is sufficient.

Keep in mind that comparing your OSAP application to that of a friend is not recommended. This is because every application and student is different. Students receive different amounts of funding depending on their own personal background information. For instance, a student living far from campus may purchase a car with their OSAP money while another student may only be able to purchase books with their loan.

Neziol says that her best piece of advice for first year students is to be with a parent when filling out the OSAP application. She states that it is the best way to learn where students are getting their money from, and allows them to understand different terms associated with loans.

As a new student it is vital to keep track of your expenses. Tuition, textbooks, groceries, and toiletries will all be a part of your spending during your time at university, and budgeting your money to be able to afford these items will pay off (literally) in the long run.

Take advantage of the Student Awards Office at Laurier Brantford (located in Grand River Hall) and discover bursaries, scholarships, and other forms of financial assistance customized to your situation.

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