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The basics
Study abroad : Student Finances

Financial aid for Canadian students studying abroad

We take a look at the kinds of financial aid you can get to support you during your studies abroad

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Studying abroad can be extremely expensive and, for some, entirely unaffordable. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a huge amount of financial aid on offer for Canadian students, so you don’t have to go it alone. We have broken this down, in order to help you get an idea of how much help you are entitled to.


Government student loans and grants

Government student loans and grants are two methods of helping to pay for your higher education abroad. The Government of Canada and most provinces work together in order to provide financial aid for prospective students.


Loans are awarded for each year of your programme, and must be applied for with each new academic year. As their name suggests, these must be paid back. Grants, however, do not need to be repaid and are offered to students from low-income households. Both forms of financial aid are dependent upon satisfactory grades. If you do not achieve these, you risk losing financial support.


The loan and grants you can get differs depending on the province from which you are applying:

  • In Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Integrated Student Loans are available.
  • For students applying from Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Canada Student Loans and Grants are available.
  • In Nunaut, Northwest Territories and Quebec, Canada Student Loans are not available, as these locations have their own programs.
  • In Yukon, Canada Student Loans and territorial Grants are only available to permanent residents of the Yukon.


For more information on these individual loans and grants, you will need to contact your province’s student financial aid department. Contact details for these can be found here.


Am I eligible for a student loan or grant?

In order to qualify for a Canada Student Loan or Grant, you must:

  • Be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident of Canada or designated as a protected person
  • Be a permanent resident of a province or territory that issues Canada Student Loans (remember – Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Quebec have their own financial aid available, so their eligibility requirements may differ)
  • Demonstrate your financial need
  • Be enrolled in at least 60% of a full course load (40% for students with permanent disabilities), if you are a full-time student
  • Be enrolled in 20-59 percent of a full course load if you are a part-time student
  • Be enrolled in a programme offered by a designated post-secondary school which runs for at least 12 weeks within a 15 week period
  • Pass a credit check if you are aged over 22 years and applying for your first Canada Student Loan
  • Not have exhausted your maximum lifetime limit for financial assistance


How do I apply?

Applications for student loans and grants can be made either online through the student financial aid website of your province or territory, or in paper form at your secondary school or local student finance assistance office. If you do apply by post, allow 4-6 weeks for the application process, while online applications tend to see a much faster turnaround.


If you contact your local financial aid office, they will be able to direct you to the appropriate forms. Their details can be found here.


Once your application has been processed, you will receive a Notice of Assessment, which will tell you if you have qualified for a loan or grant. This will be either by post or by email. If you qualify, you may receive a Master Student Financial Assistance Agreement (MSFAA), which you must read, sign and return to the NSLSC, along with your bank details. Part-time students, however, will receive two separate documents: a Certificate of Eligibility Part-Time Student Loans and Grants, and a Canada Student Financial Assistance Agreement for Part-Time Students.


If you do not qualify, don’t panic. You can contact your local financial assistance office and request a formal reassessment.


Bursaries and scholarships

Bursaries and scholarships are another way you can pay for your studies abroad. While both bursaries and scholarships are sums of money awarded to students which do not need to be paid back, they differ in their eligibility requirements. Bursaries tend to be awarded to students from low-income households, whereas scholarships are awarded to students who display academic excellence, usually irrespective of financial need.


These are awarded either by individual universities or by privately-funded organisations. In order to find out what bursaries and scholarships are available through your chosen university, as well as how to apply, you will need to contact them directly.


For financial awards from privately-funded organisations, you will also need to apply through them.


However, you are not alone in this. We have written a guide on how to understand these, which can be found here.


Thanks to our guide, you should now feel slightly less concerned about how you are going to fund your studies abroad. You may even be entitled to a grant, bursary or scholarship – why not find out now and start planning your adventure?

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