But whether you’re a new student or one who’s in the middle of their study journey, it’s worth properly understanding all your options, so you can make the best decision for yourself. Though every student will have their own individual situation, we’re breaking down the basics of applying for student finance, so you can start planning your year ahead, thinking about night outs and paying your utility bills!
Understand the options
Firstly, a loan differs from a grant in that the former is paid back while the latter isn’t – unless of course, you drop out early. With most yearly tuition fees at around £9250, a student from any financial background are able to apply, but international students typically are not eligible and face higher fees.
Generally, you’re only required to repay a student loan once you are employed and earning above £26, 575 in England and Wales. Still, it’s worth checking to see the terms of repayment so you’re not saddling yourself with debt at the start of your working life – especially as there are yearly interest fees associated.
A Tuition Fees Loan is a popular choice that lets you borrow the full yearly amount for tuition, but a Maintenance Loan is what you’ll need if you want finance for general living costs beyond that – up to around £9000 a year, and a little more in London. Finally, if you feel you should be eligible for extra financing on the grounds of a health condition or are a parent or carer, you may be able to secure additional funding.
See if you’re eligible
Half the battle is won if you can identify the loans and grants that you are actually eligible for. It’s a good idea to check directly – your eligibility depends on the qualification you’ll be earning, your age, where you live and your residence status (with extra considerations for EU students). It will also depend on your university, whether you are part-time or full-time, your income or your parents’ income, and whether you’ve studied before.
For example, it’s not possible to get funding for a second degree, if your course is part-time, or if you are an international student. However, if you’re doing an approved course full-time at a recognized university and it’s your first degree, you should have little trouble applying for a tuition loan, a maintenance loan, or both. The Gov.UK Student finance Calculator can help you understand what you could expect if you did apply for funding.
Consider everything not covered by a loan or grant
Even if you do receive finance of one kind or another, chances are you will still need to budget carefully and plan how to pay for basic living costs such as rent, food or travel. Depending on where you live, you could expect to pay around £800 per month, although this varies considerably, especially if you are sharing accommodation. When planning out your student finance, you’ll need to carefully consider how you’ll split things like rent and utilities – a bill splitting app like ours can be helpful to sum utility bills and divide them fairly amongst housemates, so you know exactly what you need to pay.
Though financing can help, you may still find yourself coming up short when you factor in other costs, so budgeting is essential. If you’re unable to secure ordinary student finance, you may want to consider other potential sources of funding – such as savings, contributions from family, your salary, crowdfunding, Job Seeker’s Allowance, an overdraft or credit card, an NHS bursary, or even a traditional bank loan. Your university might be able to alert you to any specialist bursaries or programmes you might be eligible for.
Apply in time
Once you’ve researched exactly what options are available and which are specifically open to you, and once you’ve considered whether these loans and grants could comfortably cover your student life, it’s time to take the plunge and apply. The most important thing is to apply in a timely fashion – apply during the Spring before your course is scheduled to start. The earlier the better if you want to be paid immediately as your first term starts.
Depending on your area and university, deadlines usually fall around April, May and June. While it’s possible to apply for finance up to 9 months after your course starts, this can be chaotic and cause disruptions. Applying early, however, gives you a chance to plan and budget properly.