What’s the difference between scholarships, grants, and bursaries in Canada?

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

Paying for post-secondary education doesn’t have to be a burden. Students can supplement savings from their RESP and summer jobs with scholarships, grants, and bursaries – there is plenty of money to be awarded. Undoubtedly the best part of obtaining one of these awards is that it’s funds that do not need to be paid back, unlike student loans, which require a repayment plan.


A scholarship is an award given to students that have achieved a high grade in an area of study or with overall high grades. Along with academic performance, some scholarships are handed out according to success in other areas, such as athletics, community service or clubs. There are also scholarships that require additional criteria exclusively for cultural groups, first-generation Canadians, etc.

If you check the financial aid section of any school’s website, you may come across some different types of scholarships such as:

  • National scholarships – Awards given to students across Canada.
  • Entrance scholarships – Awards given to students enrolling in a post-secondary institution for the first time. Schools assess the incoming first year class and scholarships are distributed based on academic achievement.
  • Renewable scholarships – Awarded to the student every academic year, provided the student maintains a minimum grade.
  • In-course scholarships – Given not at the beginning of your studies, but after your first year.
  • External scholarships – Given to students by organizations or individuals that are not affiliated with a post-secondary institution.


Grants are similar to scholarships because they can be awarded based on academic achievement, but are different in the sense they are also awarded based on financial need. This is especially helpful for students from low-income families, who otherwise would have a difficult time paying tuition fees.


Unlike scholarships and grants, bursaries are not awarded based on academic achievement, rather only on your financial need. Bursaries are typically sorted in categories similar to the different types of scholarships, making them just as attainable for students in need of financial assistance, but lack the grades to be considered for scholarships.

While many scholarships, grants, and bursaries can be found on school websites, it’s also worth searching for more online, such as scholarships offered by organizations that are not affiliated with a post-secondary institution. One institution that stands out as one of the most generous institutions to offer scholarships is Knowledge First Financial; you can learn more about their scholarship offers here or here.

Current and future students are often not aware of the numerous scholarships, grants, and bursaries available to them. Now that you know the difference between the three, you’re ready to start planning for a rewarding post-secondary education.

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