With university tuition costs rising, most students can't drum up the cash up front. Luckily, the Ontario government has OSAP to help you pay for your education. The OSAP program can be confusing, so here's a breakdown of what it is and how it works.

What is OSAP?

The acronym OSAP stands for the Ontario Student Assistance Program. It's a financial assistance program provided by the federal and provincial governments that supply loans, grants, bursaries and scholarships to post-secondary students. You will likely be required to repay your OSAP loans. 

Who's eligible for OSAP?

There are many factors that determine your OSAP eligibility. First, to be eligible for OSAP, you must be an Ontario resident who is a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or protected person. But even if you fulfill the first requirement, your family's income, financial resources, academic progress and so on may deem you ineligible. Check ontario.ca and apply for OSAP in advance to avoid any surprises. 

How much money will you get from OSAP?

The amount of money you receive depends on many factors, mainly your financial resources. You can plug your information into the aid estimator before you apply for OSAP to gauge how much funding you'll receive for the school year.

When should I apply for OSAP?

The deadline to apply for OSAP for the 2017–2018 year is 60 days before the end of your study period for full-time students. The application typically takes six to eight weeks to process; however, the sooner you complete the paperwork, the sooner you'll receive your funding and this can ensure that you have money when classes begin. You will need to apply for OSAP every year. The application is usually available in May for the upcoming academic year.

When does OSAP come in?

You'll get an OSAP estimate in July or early August. When you log back into your OSAP application at that time, there should be a date for when your OSAP is released. OSAP comes in seven to 10 business days from when it is released. Don't forget to check your OSAP status regularly on the OSAP website or on Western's online student centre. Some students receive all OSAP payments in September, whereas other receive them in two instalments with the second in January. 

How do I repay OSAP?

After you graduate, there will be a six-month grace period where you don't collect interest on your loans. After that, you'll be required to pay back your loans. You can use OSAP's repayment calculator to see how much you owe and what you'll need to pay back. During the six-month grace period, you'll receive a package from the National Student Loans Service Centre that provides details about your payment. You can get repayment assistance based on the size of your debt, family income and family size. For more information, you can check out the Ontario government's Pay Back OSAP page. 

Lastly, if you still find OSAP baffling, you can book an appointment at Western Student Services for financial aid counselling. 

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