BY ELIZABETH DIEMANUELE, STUDENT SUCCESS CENTRE
When students have the support they need, they adjust the best and perform the best. This message was one of the key takeaways from last week’s Smart Start workshops, where 260 incoming students and their parents/guardians learned the ins and outs of paying for university.
As Liz McDonough, coordinator of Customer Service at Student Accounts and Cashiers, shared, “Smart Start is a proactive financial information session for incoming students and their parents, focused on opening dialogues about money, building a realistic financial plan and budget, managing student accounts, and building critical life skills for financial success during their years at McMaster and for life after.”
“Getting your finances in order means you can hit the ground running at the start of school and be focused on your academics not money,” continued Gina Robinson, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Director of the Student Success Centre. “That means having a plan that looks at what you have in savings, how much more you need to borrow and the most economical options available. It is important students and parents/guardians work together on a plan – university education is a big financial commitment.”
Smart Start tackled these objectives with students and their parents/guardians by presenting them in three steps: apply for OSAP, start discussions about paying for university, and create a financial plan.
Of these steps, submitting applications for OSAP by Friday, June 30, 2017 should be the highest priority for incoming students and their parents/guardians. Meeting the June 30 deadline can help ensure that funds arrive in time and will proactively alleviate some of the stress facing incoming students, who will be adjusting to a new environment and academic system come September.
This year, OSAP presents their new online application, which allows students to submit their documents and track progress online. For those who are new to OSAP, keep in mind that students will still need to mail their MSFAA to Canada post following the initial application. All of these details are outlined in the application process.
While parents/guardians remain influencers for students when it comes to spending habits, it is important for students to learn how to budget and financially plan. As Smart Start’s workshops suggested, having those conversations about money can take away the stress and address challenges before a crisis situation occurs. These conversations need to include a discussion about expenses and resources, as well as where to go when assistance is needed.
“University does not only teach students academics, but life lessons as well,” said Leanne Ruiz, Manager of Student Services Student Financial Aid & Scholarships. “University is stressful. Students benefit by understanding the supports and resources available at McMaster.”
Smart Start workshops are only the beginning for students who are looking to continue the conversation throughout their undergraduate careers. Mac’s Money Centre, an initiative between the Student Success Centre, McMaster Students Union, Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, and Student Accounts, offers students and recent alumni the chance to develop their financial literacy and create a realistic financial plan for university and life after. Through Mac’s Money Centre, students and recent alumni can take workshops, attend one-on-one counselling appointments with a certified financial counsellor, and attend events geared towards their financial wellness – all at no cost.
As incoming students ready themselves for the challenges and excitement that come with attending university, there are some new projects they can look forward to at McMaster University. Starting this year, McMaster University will operate as one of Ontario’s pilot schools for the net tuition project. This project will provide new tools for students to better understand their finances, such as understanding the cost of university outside of tuition, living and textbook expenses. Additionally, current students can look forward to no longer reporting their RESPs and PSSSPs on the OSAP application, increasing the financial support available to students.
For more information, visit the Mac’s Money Centre website.
To book a one-on-one appointment with Mac’s Money Centre’s certified counsellor, visit OSCARplus.