Life after high school: How to support yourself

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If you’re unsure about your next steps after high school, you’re not alone.

After finishing high school, there are a few options may consider:

  • taking time off
  • getting a job
  • doing another year of high school
  • travelling
  • volunteering
  • going to post-secondary school (ie college or university)

It’s OK to have questions and be unsure about life after high school. There are no right or wrong decisions. If you need help making a decision, check with your school guidance or career counsellor — they can help you weigh your options and make a plan based on the best decision for you.

It’s important to remember that many people change their minds as time goes on and circumstances change — you may switch jobs, change academic programs or even take time off later in life. What you do over the next few years doesn’t have to be what you do forever.

If you’d like to talk about your options, you can always call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.

Post-secondary education

Post-secondary education is an option for some people. If you’re considering college or university, it’s important to think about the profession that you’re interested in, where you want to go to school and how you’ll pay for it.

Deciding on what type of post-secondary education is right for you depends on the career path you’d like to take. Generally, college programs are designed to prepare students for specific jobs, while university programs offer broader areas of knowledge. To help you prepare, you can visit the schools you’re considering and speak to people in the programs you’re looking at.

How am I going to pay for post-secondary school?

Although post-secondary school can be an investment in your future, it can also be very expensive. Here are some ways you can fund your post-secondary education:

  • Loans: there are many different types of loans that you can apply for in order to pay for things like tuition (fees for attending the school), rent and everyday expenses.
    • Government/student loans: some young people are eligible for student loans, which are funded in combination with the federal and provincial governments. These can cover part of or the entire cost of tuition. Student loans are usually paid back over several years (often with interest) on a monthly basis.
    • Bank loans: you may also consider a bank loan. You can speak to your bank about your options. It’s important to ask about interest rates and how they’ll affect your monthly repayments after graduation.
  • Scholarships and bursaries: these are sums of money awarded to students based on academic merit or financial need. Unlike a loan, you don’t have to pay this money back. Students are allocated scholarships and bursaries for things like high school grades, volunteer hours and their current situation (e.g. financial need). You can speak to your school’s guidance counsellor for more information about the options available to you.
  • Work: working part time can help you earn money for tuition, books, living expenses and more. (You could also take a year off school to work and save.)
  • Savings: the earlier you start saving for school, the better. You may have savings from your job in high school, an education fund or gifts you’ve received.

What about student life?

Once you’ve made a plan to fund your post-secondary education, you can consider how you’ll budget for:

  • Housing: if you can’t live at home, you may live in a student residence or in nearby housing. Many post-secondary schools can provide housing support.
  • School supplies: you’ll need to buy books, stationery and likely a computer in order to be prepared for classes. You may be able to purchase used items or borrow what you need from the school library.
  • Living expenses: you’ll also have groceries, Internet, a phone and other expenses to consider. (Don’t forget about social events and leisure activities as well!)
  • Roommates: sharing an apartment or house is a great way to save money. Plus, you’ll have the chance to meet new people (and make new friends).
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