“A $15,000 scholarship would have been life-changing.”

Money talks, and so do we

Money can be a touchy subject, but I was fortunate to grow up in a household where it wasn’t taboo.  

  • When our family planned vacations, we talked about the associated costs and the impact that said costs had on where we went.  
  • When my Dad’s workforce went on strike, we talked about how it would impact us (while eating mounds of that inexpensive Canadian kitchen staple, Mac n’ Cheese).  
  • When I desperately wanted an indoor aquarium to house a pod of bottle-nosed dolphinswe talked about how much that would cost and why it couldn’t happen 

Fast-forward to 2002, I was a recent graduatebusting out of High School just before the ‘double cohort’ at the tender age of 18. I had been accepted to all the Universities I applied to – that was the easy part – the hard part was figuring out how to pay for everything.  

Searching for Scholarships

In case you didn’t already know, post-secondary education can get a little pricey. The average cost of tuition in Ontario is about $6500 and that doesn’t include daily expenses like food, rent, books, gas, insurance etc. At this point RESPs were still fairly new…and I didn’t have one. I knew if I was in an absolute jam I could go to the ‘Bank of Mom and Dad’, but it was clear that this was my journey to fund.  

Back then, the internet was accessible by plugging a phone cable into the back of a clunky desktop. Oh, and you could only use it until someone needed the landline. And let’s not even get started on speed! Google existed, but not to the same extent it does today. MSN was the #1 search engine and finding information on scholarships and bursaries was a cumbersome task. There wasn’t a huge repository or list of money available for taking. I spent days searching and then spent weeks fine-tuning the essays I had to submit to qualify for as much financial support as I could find – often bits and pieces ranging from $500- $1000. still get chills thinking about hand addressing and physically licking all the stamps and envelopes. 

Jessica Lymburner, Scholarship Super Sleuth

I was fortunate to land a well-paying summer job and my sleuthing paid off – my first year’s tuition was covered as well as a good majority of excess expenses. Howevermost of the scholarships and bursaries I came across had very specific criteria – a) you had to be a first-year student and b) you had to be enrolled in an accredited Ontario College or University for a 3+year program. This was fine for me, but it meant that none of my research could be shared with my younger brother who was more suited for trades.  

A $15,000 scholarship would have been lifechanging. For me, it would have meant not trying to balance coursework with 3 part-time jobs in years 2 and 3 to cover my costs. It certainly would have meant a higher GPA, which, in turn could have led to more scholarships in the following years.  

Fortunately, I graduated with very little student debt. Having said that, though my loan balance was low, the cost of balancing my workload both in and out of school of was high. 

Written by Jessica Lymburner, Executive Administrator