OMG UPDATE: Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get updates on updates!

Updated on Tuesday, April 21


OMG: I have a bit of a serious OMG. I was recently accepted into the University of Waterloo for Software Engineering, but I come from a highly dysfunctional family. My parents drink a lot and refuse to support my desire to go to school.. I was just wondering if anybody knows what I can do? Even if I get OSAP and get a job on campus, I still need some help with moving my stuff to campus.

Are there students that are homeless at Waterloo? What types of social services are there for people like me? I know there's a food bank?


  1. First off, this depends on if you are living in residence in your first-year or if you are opting for somewhere off-campus. If you live in residence, it does cost more than living off-campus, but it comes with a lot of support services and help that many first-year students need. This is up to your own discretion and nobody on this site will really be able to help you with that.

    Next, keep in mind that you'll be in co-op after your first term, and making some money. I also don't know if you are a really great student who will land a decent-paying job their first term or what, but know that after your first term, you will have *some* income. This is really important when you start thinking about trying to find a job on campus, because you do not want to be overloaded. First year is a big transition, and many students will find it tough to make that transition to living on their own/away from home while balancing school. Furthermore, you want to focus mostly on your grades too. I'm not in SYDE so I don't know how hard it might be, but I would assume it is a fairly large amount of work considering it is an engineering degree.

    To answer your questions: yes, there certainly are students who are homeless at uWaterloo for a variety of reasons, and you need to make sure whatever you do, no matter what, do not fall into this situation. It would be better to fall into deep debt as a student than to try living homeless, because it will fuck up the rest of your life significantly. Not having your own shower to clean yourself before an interview would make it tough to impress the employer, right? Not having your own desk to study at during exams would make it tough to do well, right? Seriously, this should not be an option.

    There are definitely social services available, depending on what youa re looking for. There is the food bank in the SLC that is run by Feds, which you are definitely able to rely on if you need to. You pay for health services and health and dental coverage, so make use of those if you need to as well. Have glasses? Don't spend as much money on them by getting them covered by the health plan. Your Watcard acts as a buspass, which you have to pay for, so you won't ever need to buy bus tickets or a buspass for the Grand River Transit. There is also the housing office which can help you figure that sort of stuff out too.

    I don't have an answer for you on moving your stuff to campus. Once you get to campus, you'll have help with getting it all into your room (if you live in residence) from all the orientation leaders and dons and everybody. Try talking to somebody from the residences, and seeing if there is some sort of service like that. Worst-case scenario, just load all your belongings up and pack up as much as you can, and hop on a bus to the campus, though this could be pretty difficult depending on where you come from.

    Bottom line: you will have support. Do NOT try and go homeless. And if you need to talk anymore and need help navigating stuff, don't hesitate to contact people at the university with information, they are always very happy to help.

    1. 1 here - woops, I misread your post and thought you said SYDE, but you said Software Engineering. My mistake

  2. Hi there OP - congratulations on your acceptance! :)

    Concerning your situation, I come from a very financially unstable family, and my parents were (and still are) incredibly disinterested in my education, so I can relate to an extent.

    Depending on how far/close you live, you could try to find someone who is driving back to waterloo and willing to help you out with moving. If you're living in residence, since its furnished, you could probably condense your stuff in order to make moving more manageable.

    Co-op is another thing that helped me out immensely from a financial perspective. I had to take out an immense loan from OSAP, receive a scholarship, and work 3 jobs to make it through school before co-op helped. Now I can live fairly comfortably from term-to-term and recently I've been able to shake off OSAP completely (although I still, take advntage of the OTG which is 30% off tuition), and from what I know, software engineering jobs tend to pay quite a bit more than jobs for my program (Science).

    When I struggled financially, I also turned to counselling services, and they helped me immensely by referring me to other services that offered free meals, career help, affordable clothes, etc.

    Then, after I finished first year, I stayed during the summer, found a very affordable place ($230/month, furnished) and I worked several jobs for 40 - 50 hours per week which allowed me to save money for the fall term.

  3. First off, Congratulations on your acceptance!:)) Software engineering is a highly competitive program that gets more competitive each year not to mention is one of the most well known programs at UW. In terms of the rest, I applaud your courage for posting. There have been many people in a similar position but not many talk about it. You should definitely get in touch with student awards and financial aid for bursaries. Also the registrars office might be able to help advise you for your personal situation. Coop will definitely help. Both of my parents had no support from their parents and we're kicked out at 17 but thanks to the coop program they were able to pay for their education all on their own and graduate debt free. Coop salaries vary by faculty but engineering has some of the highest paid students...provided you work hard in school to get decent grades. A word of advice: don't get caught of in the party madness in the engineering faculty. Many engineers don't make it past their first term and think of the advantage you'll have on your classmates (aka competition). That being said it's important to still socialized and make time for leisure activities for your happiness, wellbeing, and grades! In terms moving your stuff, where are you moving from? I'm sure some UW students, myself included, would lend a hand:) Wishing you all the best!

  4. 1- Financial aid:
    Bursaries are meant to take situations like this into account.
    Also, there are a ton of scholarships out there, many of which will favor need.

    2- Income on coop:
    In SE, you should be able to come out of university with more money than you came. Coop jobs pay well for top talent, you can use this to budget keeping in mind that SE is at the top of the given salary ranges:

    3- Income on campus:
    You can only start donning in your 2A term (that's when I started), but you should absolutely try it. You get free residence and some locations get a free meal plan. This, combined with coop, would allow you to start being cash flow positive after first year.

    4- I can't speak to going homeless, but if you legitimately cannot make ends meet, you could consider a non-OSAP line of credit, such as this RBC one at 3.85% (not bad at all):
    Those lines are likely collateralized off your parents' accounts, but they don't pay anything as long as you don't default. Hopefully your parents would agree to that.

    5- If you decide to come, you can
    a-Live on campus, or
    b-Live somewhere furnished, with other people. You could share their common stuff like kitchen pots/pans.
    Essentials can fit in a large luggage bag and a backpack, and you can just take it onto the GO bus (or similar transportation).

    If you still have financing difficulties, you can post on here again. I'd be down to meet up for coffee and maybe we could work out a personal loan or something.

    1. PS- congrats on the acceptance. SE is a great program. Hope you're able to make things work.

  5. One of the candidates who ran in the recent Feds election claimed to have spent time homeless, ask her.

  6. As far as moving your stuff to campus goes - if you're over the age of 18, U-Haul will let you rent a van for a day at a relatively inexpensive price. If you choose to live on-campus (which certainly makes the moving process easier since the residence rooms are fully furnished), move in at the start of Orientation Week, there will be a bunch of Orientation volunteers waiting for you when you pull up and they will help move all your stuff into your room.

    1. You have to be 25 to rent a vehicle in Ontario.

    2. 6.a no you dont. You just have to pay a premium

  7. Glad you got accepted OP. I wish you luck, screw your parents. They're just jealous because they wasted their lives.

  8. Your main concern should only be sufficient to get you through first year. In software engineering, your first co-op term will be after your 1B term where you will be earning around $12k, which is more than enough to pay for tuition, housing, and other costs for the following term, and more to contribute to any loans you may have taken out for first year.

    Congrats on getting into software engineering. It's a very good program so I wouldn't be worried about not securing an okay-paying co-op job the first time around. Take out any loans or credit lines you need, as all the other comments have pointed out and consider it a very low-risk investment. I guarantee you that if you graduate you'll end up being able to pay off all your loans and a lot more due to all the income from co-op.

  9. Everyone above is giving great suggestions so I will just do a few more that maybe they haven't mentioned:
    Contact your bank and see if they will fund for you to go to school- they can give it to people that they see are responsible and have potential to pay them back really quickly (which software typically does) There are work study programs to help you with school and the foodbank as well that helps students who don't have the means. Your program is also coop so it really is just a matter of getting through first year expenses.

    I wish you all the best and congratulations for getting into the program :)

  10. Congrats on your acceptance!!

    Please don't let anything get in the way of your success - including your parents and their problems! A lot of students pay for their own schooling individually. I had to take out a $10,000 dollar student loan from my bank to be able to afford to go to school, but once I started co-op, I was able to support myself and pay down my debt before I graduated. Whatever your circumstances, don't let money come in the way of your education.

    With that said, I think that you could benefit from a lot of social services offered on campus that will help you out in other ways than financially. You mentioned that you're parents are not supportive of your decision to go to University, so I think it will be paramount for you to gain a strong support system here at Waterloo! If you decide not to live in res because of financial reasons, make sure to participate in Orientation and join groups on campus! You will need close friends to help you through the personal hardships of University, and it's less lonely!

    It will all work out for you!

    Congrats again.

  11. Just a thought: you can emancipate yourself from your parents, which could free up available aid you might not get otherwise. Good luck with everything!

  12. Can sleep on campus, use the lockers and take a shower at the gym.

  13. Hope that OP will post an email contact so those who can offer help, perhaps with the move and other advice and help can make contact, make up an extra gmail account if you have to and can post here. The one little problem with some of the advice is not that it isn't good but someone like OP might need direct step by step assistance and contact information to get that start and set the wheels in motion. There needs to be a way for someone to be able to contact OP and make sure things are taken care of and hopefully live a bit better than off food banks and can focus on the incredibly hard schoolwork ahead.

  14. One of the biggest issues with banks is that they are really shitty at lending in this type of situation. Try

  15. One of the biggest issues with banks is that they are really shitty at lending in this type of situation. Try

  16. CIBC on campus has a promotion for engineering students - prime + 1% for a loan capped at 30K, which is extraordinary! :) Check it out!

  17. Besides finding the finances to initially get here (personally I think OSAP / bank loan would be best then income from co-op will help immensely too), there are groups on Facebook through UW that can help you save some money throughout the term.
    -Free Food Waterloo lets you know about free food events on campus:
    -Carpool group may help you out with moving to campus or getting around to job interviews:
    -Free and For Sale has a lot of random stuff being sold by students, at the end of term you can usually find some good furniture for cheap:
    -Housing/Subletting groups can help you find sublets (in the spring they're mad cheap) so you won't have to sign a lease and potentially pay for it while you're gone on coop: or

    Also watch FEDs and EngSoc, usually will put on a bunch of free events with free food and whatnot. In the community there are also places that will accept student cards to give you a discount, or get an SPC card. Check out the deals at Turnkey too, cheap movie tickets and a bunch of other cool stuff.
    Good luck and congrats!!