Author Topic: Mature university student with question about OSAP and applying for bursaries.  (Read 647 times)

MyHilariousUserName

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I'm going to try to keep this as short and uncomplicated as I can.

I qualify for the free tuition, plus grants for first in the family, permanent disability, having young kids etc... Last year I was a part time student and was eligible for very little aid, mostly loans. This year I'm a full time student and I noticed that there was a lot more money for first semester than second semester. I applied for a bursary to help me stay above water and avoid using the loan portion and a private donor came forward. Then a couple of weeks ago, OSAP was recalculated and I received more cheques in the mail, not direct deposits. The OSAP website says it was recalculated, but the math doesn't add up. Do I call and ask if OSAP made a mistake or just accept it? Added to the money I was expecting, it's more money that I received in the first semester.

It's a very expensive school and in an expensive city, so maybe that was part of it? I'm torn whether this is a real problem or just me being paranoid.

When I fill out applications for bursaries, I'm entirely unsure how much money to ask for. I was told to ask for what I need. I lived below the poverty line as a kid. What I need? I mean, I need food, clothes and food. We have that and more. But my partner grew up in a middle class family and has a long list of things we need. Last time I asked for $3000 for help with transportation costs, kids school field trips and the dentist, and a private donor jumped in quickly. We don't drive, we ride bikes or take public transit. That money meant that on colder days, I could take the subway and we could take zipcar to visit my husband's family. But I don't see those things as needs but wants. It really helped, but I feel funny about asking for money for what I see as wants. I said in the application where that money would go to, so the donor was aware. What's reasonable? It's easy for my husband to say to apply for $X amount, but his parents paid for his education. He's never filled out an application for a bursary.

Freedomin5

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Instead of asking OSAP if they would make a mistake, I would call and ask them to explain the calculations, using more a tone of curiosity and wanting to make sure you're on top of your finances. Something along the lines of, "Hi, I was looking over my OSAP statement for this semester and noticed that I qualified for a larger amount than last semester. I was wondering if you could help me understand what allowed me to qualify for a larger amount?"

Regarding bursaries and grants, most university websites will have an "estimated" annual cost of tuition and cost of living expenses per semester. Just use that amount as a guide. In addition, I would also look into scholarships, given all of the special circumstances that make you different from the typical university student. I would apply to as many scholarships as I qualify for. That's money you do not have to justify or pay back. Look at private scholarships as well (not just ones administered through the school). Even if you get 4 or 5 scholarships at $1000-$2000 each, that adds up quickly.

You want to apply for as much interest-free money as you qualify for. Even if you don't spend all of the money and just stick the money into a GIC earning 2% per year, at the end of your studies, you can still return the principal to the government and keep the interest. If I recall correctly, you're not charged interest for OSAP loans as long as you're a student. You then get a 6-month grace period after graduating where you are not charged interest for the Ontario portion of your loans, but you are charged interest for the Canada portion of your loans. So, essentially, it works in your favour to get as much loan money as possible while you're a student, as long as you and your partner have the discipline not to spend it all.

MyHilariousUserName

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Instead of asking OSAP if they would make a mistake, I would call and ask them to explain the calculations, using more a tone of curiosity and wanting to make sure you're on top of your finances. Something along the lines of, "Hi, I was looking over my OSAP statement for this semester and noticed that I qualified for a larger amount than last semester. I was wondering if you could help me understand what allowed me to qualify for a larger amount?"

Thanks for responding. I can try that, but is there a reason not to ask if they've made a mistake?

Regarding bursaries and grants, most university websites will have an "estimated" annual cost of tuition and cost of living expenses per semester. Just use that amount as a guide. In addition, I would also look into scholarships, given all of the special circumstances that make you different from the typical university student. I would apply to as many scholarships as I qualify for. That's money you do not have to justify or pay back. Look at private scholarships as well (not just ones administered through the school). Even if you get 4 or 5 scholarships at $1000-$2000 each, that adds up quickly.

You want to apply for as much interest-free money as you qualify for. Even if you don't spend all of the money and just stick the money into a GIC earning 2% per year, at the end of your studies, you can still return the principal to the government and keep the interest. If I recall correctly, you're not charged interest for OSAP loans as long as you're a student. You then get a 6-month grace period after graduating where you are not charged interest for the Ontario portion of your loans, but you are charged interest for the Canada portion of your loans. So, essentially, it works in your favour to get as much loan money as possible while you're a student, as long as you and your partner have the discipline not to spend it all.

Where do you apply for private scholarships? I've applied to a couple of scholarships this year. It's been surprising how much help is available. I didn't apply for any colleges in high school because I was in foster care and no one tells you that there's help. I've been putting loan money, that I don't think we need to use, in savings, if I can get to it before my husband notices it. Not that he's bad with money, but he's not as uptight about it as me.

I've applied to another scholarship and grants for a scientific project I want to participate in in May-June in Europe. They're inviting undergrads to join in and I'll get academic credits. We'll need to use OSAP loans to pay for the flight and school fees because those bills will arrive long before aid arrives. I keep second guessing going, but I'm excited I got accepted and worried about leaving kids behind. The plan is we use the loan money but when aid arrives, we replace loan money with the aid money. I don't know if that's lacking discipline, but it's a huge opportunity that I think would be a mistake to miss out on.

Freedomin5

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Just politeness, I guess. I don’t want to actively point out that I think they can’t do their job correctly. “Did you make a mistake?” comes across as being accusatory and makes the person defensive and possibly less likely to help you, or more likely to actively look for a mistake and reduce the amount. “Can you please help explain to me...?” comes across as being less abrasive/aggressive. Also, given that a computer system takes all the inputs and calculates the amount, a mistake is highly unlikely.

I’m a bit concerned that your husband feels that loan money can be spent on his wants/needs. He does understand OSAP is designed to cover education-associated costs, right? And that it has to be paid back? So it’s technically not even your money? If you’re concerned, maybe stick it in a 30 or 90 day GIC to prevent him from being able to access the money?

For scholarships, when I was at Western,  I started with the university’s financial aid website and applied for all in-house scholarships for which I qualified. They had a link to external scholarships, and I followed that link and applied for all external scholarships. I also checked my school email regularly for scholarship announcements. That’s how I ended up with 3-Year scholarship worth $6000, because no one else checked their email and/or applied.

You can also Google “scholarships” and “Canada” or “Ontario”, and whatever special circumstances you have, for example...

“Scholarship Canada foster care”
“Scholarship Canada physical disability”
“Scholarship Canada deaf” (I not saying you’re deaf, it’s just I don’t know exactly what disability you have, so I’m just using it as an example)
“Scholarship Canada mature student”
“Scholarship Canada [your major]”

I googled “Canada scholarships” and the first site listed is www.scholarshipscanada.com. There are several of these sites around. People love to help people who “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.”

You can also check individual company websites. Usually Fortune 500 companies have some kind of scholarship program but that’s a lot of work. It’s easier and probably a better use of time to just through the aggregate sites — the sites that compile all that info into one site.

Oh yes, and the library will also have big books of companies that offer scholarships and application information. Eg, “Scholarships, grants, and prizes 2018” and “Ontario Scholarships - 2018 edition” both turned up on an Amazon.ca search. I wouldn’t buy the books - I would first see if the library has copies.

PoutineLover

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Definitely ask them about the calculation and make sure the amounts are correct, I know a few people who had to repay extra osap early because it was recalculated after the fact and it really sucks. Usually the money has been spent by then and you can't get more until you settle.
Most universities have bursary programs for students who have financial need, and most of the time they have a lot of money to give out so don't feel shy about asking for as much as you think you need. I used to create a budget with tuition, rent, bills, spending and figure out the total amount for the semester with a buffer, then figure out how much of that would be covered by osap or my job, and I'd usually get the remaining amount as a bursary. I also saved any extra money I got and used it to pay off a lump sum of osap as soon as it began accumulating interest. Finally, make sure to file your taxes every year because repayment is limited to a certain amount per year, and anything above that is forgiven, that saved me thousands.