Planning for Post-Secondary Education

Welcome to Post-Secondary Economics 101, where you'll learn how to get a handle on costs for your own post-secondary education, or a family member's. There's some homework you'll need to do, but first we have some questions for you. Tip to parents: your child should be doing this in advance, not you, so send them a link to this page.

Where will you study?

At a local university, in another province, or abroad? The final decision will depend on where you get accepted, of course. Tuition fees differ from one institution to another, and other countries may have additional costs for international students. Dig a little deeper and find out what your tuition will cost and don't forget to budget for books and remember that certain disciplines also require lab fees, supplies and other equipment.

Where will you live?

If you’re planning on staying in your home city and you have a good relationship with your family, living with your parents is a great way to save money. On the other hand, if you’re attending school out of town or craving independence, you’ll need to factor in costs for an apartment, residence or dorm. And even if you’ve been promised the greatest care packages ever, you need to factor in additional costs for food, snacks and entertainment. Going home for the holidays or summer? If you’re living out of province or in another country, set aside some extra cash for travel.

How will you get around?

If your city is large enough to have a college or university, it probably has public transportation. Add a transit pass into your plans for lowest travel costs and maximum flexibility. If you commute by car, add insurance, maintenance, gas and parking. Then again, if you’re going to live on campus, maybe all you need is a bike (for autumn and spring, anyway). Think about where you’re going and all the things you might need to do while you’re there, including a part-time job off-campus.

Will you work?

"Work? What's that?" you ask. If you plan to study full-time in a demanding program, a part-time job might be out of the question. On the other hand, if you’re able to take fewer courses each term, you may be able to juggle employment and coursework at the same time. Knowing there’s a regular paycheque coming in can ease money worries when you’re a student, but it can also mean precious time away from the books. Think carefully about what you handle when the pressure’s on and plan accordingly.

Create a budget

Now that you’ve thought through some of the choices that are ahead of you, it’s time to create a budget. Write down the costs associated with each year of post-secondary education (guesstimates are okay), multiply it by the number of years you expect to be in school, and you’ll arrive at the total cost of your education. No matter what the number turns out to be, give yourself an “A” for planning ahead. If you have concerns about how you're going to pay for all of this, you might want to refer to our page on financing a post secondary education.


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