Financial Aid Terms You May Need to Know

Financial aid for postsecondary education comes in many forms: grants, bursaries, scholarships, etc. And sometimes these terms are used interchangeably.

Below is a list of financial aid terms and their definitions that students and parents may find helpful:

Academic award: An academic award may be granted in monetary or gift form.

Bursary: A bursary is free money based on individual financial need and which may include a minimum expectation of academic achievement or other criteria. Students are generally required to apply for bursaries outlining their need for resources. Bursaries can be offered through governments, schools, or private organizations.

Scholarship: A scholarship is free money based on various criteria such as academic achievement, leadership, community involvement, or other earned merit, or a combination of these elements. Financial need may be a consideration as well. The scholarship usually reflects the values of the donor. Scholarships can be offered through governments, schools, or private organizations.

Student grant: A Canada Student Grant is free money from the government based on financial need. When you apply and qualify for student financial assistance, you are automatically assessed for both Canada Student Loans (see below) and Canada Student Grants (except for the Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Permanent Disabilities which requires a separate application). You may be eligible to receive more than one grant. For other options for financial assistance that are offered in the form of student grants, see here.

Note: In most provinces and territories, the federal and provincial governments work together to provide Integrated Student Loans and Grants. For example, in Ontario, financial assistance is delivered through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). Canada Student Loans and Grants are not available in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Quebec. These governments have their own student financial assistance programs.

Student loan: A Canada Student Loan is money that must be repaid when you finish school. Interest is charged on the loan amount. When you apply and qualify for student financial assistance, you are automatically assessed for both Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants. Canada Student Loans are assessed based on financial need.

Work study. A work study program offers part-time, on-campus jobs to assist students with financial need. Inquire about this program at the Student Awards / Financial Aid office of the school you will be attending.



The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) is a financial aid program that can help you pay for college or university. Funding is offered in the form of grants and / or loans. You can use OSAP to go to a private or public college or university anywhere in the world, as long as it’s been approved. You can use the OSAP Aid Estimator to find out how much money you could receive. Or you can apply for OSAP as of November 8, 2017, for the 2018-19 academic year. This year, the Ontario government opened the application window four months early to give students more time to “assess their financial options.” You may be eligible for additional funds depending on your circumstances, e.g. if you are an Indigenous student, Crown ward, first-generation student, etc.


  • If you apply for OSAP, you can decline the loan, and request the grant(s) after your application is approved.
  • You can request a funding review if you have not received the amount you believe you need. Note the deadlines to request a review.
  • Note the conditions in which your grant can be turned into a loan!
  • Students will not have to start repaying the Ontario portion of their student loans until they are earning a minimum of $35,000 a year. See here for more info.

And . . . that’s enough information for today! Be sure to keep reading this blog for the most current information out there on financial assistance for students pursuing postsecondary education!