Last week Thursday I was at the library doing some work and “somehow” I “mysteriously” ended up on Twitter. I noticed that OSAP was trending and usually when a student loan program is trending, that’s usually not a good sign.
Sure enough, I clicked on the trending topic and it was trending because student loans were getting cut and people were very upset. People like me were trying to figure out how the heck we were going to be able to pay for school next year.
This seemed to really be affecting a lot of people so I put together a twitter thread summarizing all the tips and tricks I had for paying for school. The tweet went absolutely viral. At last count it had over 3 thousand likes and 2 thousand retweets. Not bad for an account with only about 250 followers. This meant 2 things: it was positive because I was happy that my message had a large organic reach, but it also spoke to the fact that the OSAP funding cuts are really affecting a lot of people. So I started thinking of how else I can spread my message.
So I know some people may not see it on twitter, may want me to go into more details or maybe they don’t like reading so I created a blog post, slide deck, podcast episode and video based on this talk, so people can follow along in any format they prefer.
Without further ado, here are 10 tips to paying for school and secure the bag.
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1. Apply for Scholarships (original tweet)
- Scholarships! First thing you should look into. It’s literally free money
- Lots of really good sites where you can find scholarships like @atilatech: https://atila.ca
- Don’t worry I’m not just going to plug my website 😂
- ScholarTree, Yconic, ScholarshipsCanada are also good
- You don’t need high grades or extracurriculars for a lot of scholarships
- On a per hour basis, scholarships pay better than a part-time job!
Why You Haven’t Applied to Scholarships and Why You Should Start Now
A lot of people already know scholarships exist but the two reasons they typically don’t apply is they think they’re not good enough or it takes too much time. On the first point, for example, someone I messaged on Twitter said that the reason she didn’t apply to scholarships is she worried that her grades were not good enough and she didn’t have enough extracurriculars. This is a valid concern but we can easily debunk this.
I showed in the video at 22:22 that of the 3 scholarships I found when I found female scholarships for her, none of them had strict grade requirements. One of them required a B- average, which is about a 60% average, and the other one required admissions into an honors program but no explicit grade requirement. I also suggest searching for “essay” or “essay contest” scholarships as those typically don’t have strict requirements. Though, they do require your time, which is another common concern people bring up.
Scholarships take a lot of time. But I would propose that spending time applying to scholarships is a better use of your time and has a higher return on investment than working a part time Job! Let’s do some math real quick.
Suppose that you spend 20 hours on each scholarship you apply to. Each scholarship pays about $2,000 and you have a success rate of getting accepted for about 20% of the scholarships you apply for. This means that you will need to apply to about 5 scholarships to win one scholarship, but on a per hour basis, you actually made $20/hr, way better than most part time jobs. [Watch the video at 23:33 to see me walk through the math in more detail]
On a purely financial basis, you can definitely make a strong argument that you are better off spending 100 hours applying to 5 scholarships as opposed to spending 100 hours at a part time job. There are also the intangibles, one of the first jobs I ever had was as a janitor in the city of London making about $14/hr. While the job was decent and my manager was good, the main thing I got out of that job was just money. I didn’t really gain a lot of transferable skills I could put on my resume, LinkedIn or talk about in interviews. Whereas when you win a scholarship there are a lot of intangible benefits. You could be invited to a dinner and networking with the donor, get your name on a website or newspaper, “humble brag” about it on your LinkedIn, talk about it in an interview or even leverage it to get more scholarships.
2. Create Event for Scholarship deadline
- When you find a scholarship you want to apply to. Create a calendar event for the due date and set a reminder 7 days and 24 hours
- I find that setting an event makes me less likely to procrastinate,
- Especially when the reminder is 24 hours before it’s due!
3. Save Scholarships in Google Docs and Google Drive
- A lot of scholarships will ask you similar questions that allow you to reuse answers.
- Put all your scholarship answers in a Google Drive folder
- That way you can easily search for similar questions that have been asked before and use that as a guide.
- I recommend Google Docs and Google Drive because they work offline and the search makes it easy to find old scholarships
4. Look for Offline Scholarships 🤫
- Once in a while go to your school’s financial services building or guidance office.
- Some people will send the school a scholarship poster which may not make it on to the website.
- Those can be the best ones to apply for because less people will know about them.
5. Read applications of past winners (and losers)
- Try and see if you can see submissions of past winners (and losers)
- @atilatech has a page where students can share their essays: https://atila.ca/essay
- RBC also shares past winning essays for their scholarships: https://www.rbc.com/essay/
6. Apply for Interest-free loans
- Interest Free loans: These aren’t AS good as scholarships because you have to pay them back
- BUT you can get loans where you don’t pay any interest for the first N years!
- e.g. FCCP Student loan: https://atila.ca/scholarship/fccp-interest-free-student-loan
- More Interest free loans: https://atila.ca/search?q=interest+free
7. Student Line of Credit
- If you are in high earning program (MBA, med school, business schools etc.) The interest rates are very good,
- I have a TD student line of credit where my interest is just prime.
- At one point I was only paying 2.75% interest!
- Tend to be a bit more selective but if you can get your parents to cosign or show signs of earning potential you might be able to negotiate.
8. Get a Job
- Ok, This one seems very obvious but hear me out
- You know how everyone says they want experience before they hire you, but you can’t get experience because no one will hire you?
- There are programs that give jobs specifically for students like us with no experience
- Ontario Government will literally fund your summer business!
- Jobs for Recent Grads: TalentEgg
- Alternative to working for a big company, consider a startup on Angellist
- Trevor’s advice on How to Get a Summer Internship
- Tomiwa’s advice on how he got Interviews at Facebook, Google and Bridgewater
9. Brand/Campus ambassador
- A lot of companies are very interested in connecting with young people and getting them to try their products and services
- Many will actually pay students to promote their products to other students.
- It’s not just companies like Tinder, Bumble and Red Bull either.
- Companies like Google and Deloitte do this as well
- Best part is you don’t need 15K Instagram followers to qualify
- Google search: “X campus ambassador”, where X is any product or company you’re interested in
10. Student Deals
- Sometimes when I’m feeling extra broke/bold I will randomly just ask a store if they have any student deals.
- 50% of the time they actually say yes or they will just pity you and give you a deal anyway 😂
- J crew gives good student discounts
- Stores like Metro have student days where they give you 10% off groceries if you show your student card.
- If you have an SPC card you can get even more deals
Hopefully, after reading this thread you won’t feel so overwhelmed by how you are going to afford to fund your education. While school can be very expensive there are plenty of options out there available to you. If there are any other topics you would like to talk about or tips you want to give, leave a comment in this twitter thread.
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