After losing her job, Stacy Kraemer decided she wanted to try her hand at nursing school.

But unable to afford tuition on her own and not qualifying for students loans, she had to seek out alternative ways to fund her education.

“I was relying on OSAP, but when I realized I wasn’t going to get it, I just went from there and went with bursaries,” she says.

Applying for awards and bursaries was a last-ditch effort for Kraemer.

She figured her B+ average wouldn’t give her a great shot at two of the three she applied for, while the third gave preference to single mothers – and though Kraemer did have small children, she was happily married.

Instead, she netted all three awards, and $4,500 to put toward her tuition.

“I almost covered my tuition for the year with my scholarships, which is amazing,” she says.

It’s a result she never expected, and she says it may be due to most students not even bothering to apply.

“I think people are discouraged to apply because they think they’re not going to get it anyway,” she says.

Conestoga College financial aid and awards manager Patrick Bennett agrees that many students don’t realize how many awards are out there and how good their chances are of coming up successful.

“If you meet the eligibility criteria, it does not hurt to apply,” he says.

“The more you apply for them, the better chance there is that you’ll get something.”

CTV’s Rosie Del Campo is examining student debt in a four-part series airing this week on CTV News.