The Lowdown on Student Loans + Notes on OSAP

Note: Much of the information below can be found on the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario websites respectively. The information has been condensed (although some of it is word for word) for readability and efficiency. The first section is for all Canadian students. The second section is only applicable to students in Ontario.

Many students who attend a postsecondary institution apply for a Canada Student Loan. In most provinces and territories, the federal and provincial or territorial governments work together to provide Student Loans and Grants. The loans are assessed based on financial need. Interest is charged on the loan amount. When you apply and qualify for a loan, you are automatically assessed for both Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants – no separate application is needed. A Canada Student Loan is money that must be repaid when you finish school. However, for the first six months after you leave school, you will not have to make payments to your Canada Student Loan or your provincial student loan — this is called your six-month non-repayment period. Interest does accumulate during this period. A Canada Student Grant does not have to be repaid. You can use the loans / grants at designated institutions, in Canada or internationally.

*Please note: You will need a Social Insurance Number. You will also need a bank account in your name and photo identification before you can submit the loan agreement (MFSAA — see #5 below).

Applying for a Student Loan

Step 1: Get a Canada Student Loan and Grant application form. Only one form is needed to be assessed for loans and grants. Application forms are available online; contact your provincial or territorial student financial assistance office. Wondering if you are eligible for a student loan or grant? Use these tables to calculate the loan or grant amount you are eligible to receive.

Step 2: You will need: information about your postsecondary institution and program, your parents’ Social Insurance Number, your tax information (found on an income tax return) and your parents’ tax information.

Step 3: Complete and send your application form to your province or territory of permanent residence. Application procedures are based on your province of residence, not the province or territory where you plan to go to school. You can speed up the process by submitting the application online.

Step 4: Wait for your Notice of Assessment. It may be sent to you via email, online, or by mail. It will tell you if you qualified for a loan and / or grant, and the amount of financial assistance you will receive in loans and grants. If you qualified, you will need to complete a Master Student Financial Assistance Agreement (MSFAA). This is the loan agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of the loan. (You will only need to complete this agreement once over the course of your education, unless you take a two-year break from studies or move to another province.). If you are not approved for funding or you are not satisfied with the approved amount, contact the student financial assistance office in your province or territory. There is a formal reassessment process for students who disagree with the financial assistance they have been awarded.

Step 5: Review, sign, and submit your loan documents (MSFAA). Include your banking information and a void cheque if you want your money to be deposited directly into your bank account. Otherwise, it will be forwarded to your school to pay your fees (tuition). You must choose one of these methods to receive your money; however, it is faster if you sign up for direct deposit as there will be a delay if you do not provide your bank information. Mail the student loan documents to the National Student Loans Service Centre (NSLSC). You need to bring your identification with you to a Canada Post outlet. And . . . in case you are one of those people who does things last-minute, make sure you know the office hours of your local post office!

Step 6: Receiving your loan / grant money. Your money will be deposited directly to your bank account, or forwarded to your school to pay your fees (e.g. tuition) on or after the first day of classes. If you want to make other payment arrangements, contact your school. You get two disbursements of money in a year, depending on when you apply: one will be during your first semester and the other during your second semester.

IMPORTANT: A student must inform their provincial or territorial student assistance office if their financial situation changes at any time (with the exception of Ontario students who must notify the Student Financial Services office at their school). This includes any awards, bursaries, or scholarships they receive. It can impact their government funding (Student Loans or Grants).

Check out government aid in the province where YOU reside!


For Ontario residents—Notes on OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program)

  • OSAP expects that you and your family have planned for your fulltime postsecondary education. The purpose of OSAP is to supplement your resources. In general, you’re expected to contribute $3,000 towards your education costs. A financial contribution may be expected from your parents depending on their income.
  • You can check the estimated tuition costs and find out how much money you may receive in grants and loans here. Find out if your school is approved for OSAP here.
  • When you apply for OSAP, you can decline the loan, and request the grant(s). Just select the No Loan Option that appears on your application funding summary. Also, note the conditions in which your grant can be turned into a loan!
  • You can request a funding review if you have not received the amount you believe you need. Note the deadlines to request a review. For example, fulltime students must request a review no later than 40 days before the end of the study period.
  • 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.
  • Most schools also offer emergency loans. For example, you could be eligible for a short-term loan (90 days) to cover tuition if you’re waiting for OSAP to arrive. Contact your school’s financial aid office to learn what is available.
  • 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.

There are have been other recent changes to OSAP:

  • Students from families with a combined income up to $175,000 will benefit from grants and loans to assist with college and university expenses.
  • Savings in an RESP for college or university no longer count against the money a student can receive from OSAP.
  • Any students who receive OSAP will get a bill from their postsecondary institution that’s already been reduced by the amount of OSAP they’re getting. And if there are any remaining eligible OSAP funds, the money will be sent directly to the student to cover additional costs. That includes things like books and living expenses.

For step-by-step instructions on how to apply to OSAP, see here.