How much does it cost to go to school?

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How much does it cost for an education after high school? Ah, the elusive and very personal question, which varies person to person.

Making a plan for continuing your own, or your child’s, education after high school can feel overwhelming.

And sometimes, getting started is the hardest part.

We estimate that it can cost anywhere from~ $7,000 - $30,000 each year for college or university tuition in Canada. This depends on your school and what you want to study. That number is big. We get that. That’s why planning ahead can really help.

But, some good news, you’re in the right place.

Be proactive but flexible. Your planning can evolve, things can change and that’s okay. This process looks different for everyone.

What are the biggest costs for school?

There are two main expenses that have the biggest impact on your overall cost for attending school: where you live and the program you take.

What are the “studying” costs and how much are they?

Tuition, textbooks, lab fees… They all pile up. Where you choose to study and which program you take have the biggest impact on the cost. What do you mean? Well, certain majors, and various schools, are more expensive than others. Take engineering, the average total tuition for an 4-year engineering undergraduate program in Canada is $33,703 vs. the average total tuition for a 4-year political science undergraduate program in Canada is $26,772.

Some have extra fees to pay, but in some cases, you will be paid for the work you complete during your work term. It really does change person to person, program to program, so always check your prospective school’s website to get all the details before you make your decisions.

What are the “living” costs and how much are they?

This bucket of costs includes everything that you need to pay for to live day to day that isn’t related directly to your school fees. Where you live will not only determine what amount of rent you pay but other costs of living, such as food, technology, transportation, and gym memberships. For instance, for many students who spend their first year in residence, they also get their food on a set meal plan, internet access supplied by the school, a complementary transit pass in some cases and free access to facilities like gyms, arenas or pool BUT if you were to try to do this on a budget yourself off campus, you could reduce costs significantly. At home making a quick healthy breakfast could cost around $1 - $1.50 but on campus breakfast could EASILY be three times as much.

How do you offset these big costs?

We get it, all of this can sound and feel pretty overwhelming. BUT we’re about to come up with some ways you can solve the main stressors: managing your expenses.

How do you offset big “studying” expenses?

Studying expenses seems to be set in stone, but there is certainly some wiggle room. Depending on what and where you want to study, you can be selective about the program and location of your school. A general rule is that smaller and less “prestigious” schools offer lower tuition. We put prestigious in quotes because this concept is SO arbitrary. When you get to the working world, there are a lot of other things employers look at besides the school and program you took and in many cases schools with more practical learning components (like colleges and trades schools) equip students with VERY desirable and employable skills training. Within the university system, perceived prestige is not everything either, in many cases smaller more rural schools offer other great advantages such as a lower professor-to-student ratio for you to get individualized help.

While you’re breaking down the merits of programs, take a look at all the supplementary fees you will have to pay, such as lab costs, e-texts, and additional readings. A good place to start collecting and comparing the costs would be going to a post-secondary fair.

If you’re a superstar, look at scholarships and bursaries you are eligible for. Scholarships are given out for academic achievement (such as getting a mark above 80%), community involvement (such as taking part in volunteering or extracurriculars), or a combination of both. You can find them through community sites, university admission pages, or on your school board’s website. Scholarship Canada, GrantMe, and ScholarTree are just a few examples. Check out how much you can get through scholarships and bursaries here!

How do you offset big “living” expenses?

Where you choose to live while studying can make a huge difference to your cost. Living on campus is generally more expensive than renting an apartment near your school. Even better, in some cases living at home means you can save BIG on rent, food, hydro, internet and cable, among other things…If you live too far away to commute, you can also explore choosing a city or town with a more affordable cost of living. Smaller cities are generally cheaper than bigger cities, but the transportation costs may be higher to get around. If you know that you will be traveling often, try to get a monthly student pass instead of paying for each individual ride, looking into bike share programs, or exploring your car share options.

You can also go above and beyond just saving and proactively start making money. Look around at your campus job fairs, student clubs, or even campus cafes, for part-time jobs or start your own side hustle. You can always reach out to your student advisor for additional help. We’ve found TikTok to be a great place for inspiration around side projects no one knew they needed until they saw it.

What are some other ways I can start saving?

So you’re a student and you need some help cutting down your costs? We got you! Here’s some tips for savings:

  1. Find student discounts. With a student card, you can get discounts in transportation for example the GoTrain student discount, restaurants, and tech.

  2. Take advantage of your school’s free offerings. Look out for free gyms, movie nights, counseling, and softwares!

  3. Choose your extracurriculars carefully. Some clubs have extremely high fees to pay, while others provide you with opportunities to make money for school events or part-time jobs.

  4. Say “no” to name brands or logos. The generic brands often get you the same result for a fraction of the price. Unfortunately, the same applies with school spirit wear. But, the difference in cost will seriously add up over time and it’s worth it.

  5. Resell your stuff. Free up space and fill up your wallet! Make your space emptier and your wallet fuller. Some student clubs, like the Environmental Club, will purchase your old clothing and repurpose them. There may be a school program on social media or in person, or campus bookstore, for you to resell your old textbooks, too!



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