Being nearly two and a half months into the new school year, it seems that the dreaded season of application deadlines and thoughts of post-secondary opportunities are just around the corner.  Like many other high school students, I found myself incredibly busy in my senior year; I was overthinking my future while also attempting to manage my grades, extracurriculars and social life. In the midst of that, I forgot that university brings A LOT of unexpected costs and fees.  For many high school students, the topic of financial literacy and post-secondary costs isn’t one that is regularly talked about. The common consensus is not knowing where to start and who to ask for help – but not to worry, everyone one either has or will be in your shoes one day. After being in your position just a few months ago, here are a few tips that helped me feel financially ready for the next four years.

Start thinking or planning as early as possible

Grade 12 might not seem far off, but the earlier you start, the more prepared you will be. If you’re just starting now, don’t worry, you’re most definitely not late to the game.  Starting can be as easy as thinking about what program you might want to consider. Look into your interests and hobbies, and try and draw themes out as to who you really are and your life’s purpose.  Counsellors, teachers, and your family are also great resources to talk to as they can provide more insight on some of the costs and programs.

Applying to Post-secondary Institutions

Knowing how to manage your finances with the different programs you have chosen will help set you up.While in the process of applying to schools, a great way to track your costs is to make a budget sheet! I’ve included a simple one below that you could follow. Take note that for some programs (Ex. Business) there are supplemental costs on top of your base fee.    For instance, the Ivey Business school has an additional $125 application cost. To find if your desired program has supplemental costs, you can find them on the school’s website and through OUAC when you’re applying. 

Name of SchoolCost
University of British Columbia$118
SFU Application$90
OUAC (Western, Toronto, and Queens)$156
(Insert school name) Supplemental Application$125

Researching Cost of Living and Budgeting

Personally, I created an excel sheet outlining some of the costs that came with the various schools. I would suggest looking more into tuition, meal plans and food, the cost and moving to the school (if applicable).  I found it incredibly helpful to do this when I started narrowing down my choices by being able to compare the different costs. This step will not only help you budget for post-secondary but also help with answering some of the tough questions.

  • Am I financially able to support myself if I leave home for school?
  • Is living on residence a viable option for me?
  • If I leave home, will there be other costs such as transportation (flights) and cost of meals?

Student Loans

Post-secondary is an investment, but there are student loans to help. If you are an Ontario resident, be sure to apply for OSAP(More information in the link)  or if you are from another province, each province has their own bursaries and grants available for high school students.  As well, there are also federal loans available, where there are interest-free options and statuses!


Hundreds of scholarships simply go to waste every year simply because people do not apply.  I found it very useful, to research all the scholarships available and input the deadline dates onto my Google Calendar. From that, I would know exactly when things are due and would know to take the time to do the application.

Here are just some of the scholarships available:

Additionally, there is a database  of all scholarships available in every province that I looked at almost every day. Shhh, let’s keep this a secret between us!

The time of the year, it might feel like there are 100 things you need to do. Breathe, don’t worry, you can do this! Financial planning is no easy topic to grasp and master, but planning ahead and researching for your future education is a step in the right direction. Keep pushing through, and be sure to have your eyes peeled from any upcoming scholarship in your school or community, they will go a long way when you are budgeting.