Student Finances – What you Need to Know
Congratulations, your A-level results are in and you’re off to University! Lauren Lucien’s University Life offers a helping hand to get you started
Think you have a summer of unadulterated freedom ahead of you? Not quite. Now is the time to start seriously thinking about the practical side of university life and this includes financing your next three (at least) years of study.
Getting a student loan is pretty much part of every student’s life. You can get a tuition fee loan easy enough. You can also get a maintenance loan which is there to contribute to your living costs, rent, food and anything else you need through your time at university.
The amount you can borrow for a maintenance loan is relative to your household income, where you live, when you start your course, what year of study you’re in, and what help you get, if any, through a maintenance grant (see below).
Student finance forms can seem daunting at first. Here are some tips to help:
- Get all the forms you need from www.direct.gov.uk. If you make a mistake you can reprint the whole form.
- Make sure that you put the right address on the envelope, of if you are completing the form online make sure that you send it back way before the deadline.
- Check that all your personal information is correct, otherwise your application could be delayed.
- Write down or store the number for the student finance helpline – you’ll most likely need it at some point.
- Print out a copy of your payment schedule and write is all down on your year planner. That way you know when to set up your direct debits for bills and other things you need to pay.
A student grant is money that you don’t have to pay back. The amount you can get depends on your household income and it’s your Local Education Authority (LEA) that decides on how much you receive. When you are applying make sure you include all your details correctly so that you can get the money that you’re entitled to. If you are eligible to get a grant, do make sure you apply for all of it. The extra will definitely come in handy for bills and rent or if there’s an emergency.
For more information on both loans and grants, visit the Student Loans Company (SLC) at www.slc.co.uk.
Bursaries and Scholarships
Most universities offer some sort of bursary, which is normally paid over the course of each academic year and you don’t have to pay it back. Amounts do vary depending on your parents’ income or your own, so your best bet is to give your university a ring or check its website for how much you may be entitled to. Most universities also offer extra money for students who come across hardship, so definitely do some digging around if you think you may be entitled to additional help.
If there is an opportunity to apply for a scholarship, go for it! You will usually have to have good A-level results to be a candidate for this, as many university scholarships are based on academic ability. The best way to go about seeing if you get a scholarship is to look on your university’s website, as there will be links to the scholarships and awards that it currently offers.
Some companies will pay for your studies if you’re guaranteed to be working for them when you graduate. Be cautious, you may be a different person once you’ve graduated to when you first start out, and your career plans may have changed quite a bit. If you do allow a company to sponsor you and it makes this stipulation, make sure you have taken this into consideration.
With so many banks competing with each other for your student finances, it can be hard to see which one is right for you. The best advice is: compare, compare, compare. Try to ignore the free mug or vouchers a bank is offering you to sign up and have a good think about what you need your account for.
How big do you want your overdraft to be? Most banks offer a generous overdraft to students, but if you go over the agreed limit you may be landed with some hefty charges. Get all the information for each student account and compare them to see which one ticks the most boxes for you. Remember that just because your friend is going with a certain bank it doesn’t mean you have to, and the bank you grew up with doesn’t have to be the bank you stay with if there is a better offer elsewhere.
Go online to see what other students recommend, look on all the main high street bank websites and read up on the terms, conditions, and most importantly, the small print. Armed with all this information you’ll be ready to make your final decision.
Managing your Money
Once you know the amount of your student loan and/or grant, you need to look at you likely expenditure and work out how you’re going to fit it all in. It’s important to plan, because although you will probably have an overdraft available for those emergency bills, overspending or holiday security, it’s best not to live on one if possible.
The best thing is to learn as you go. Try recording on paper what you spend each day, including your daily food consumption, coffees, travel – every little thing counts. For a kick start, type ‘student budget planner’ into an internet search engine and have a look at the sites and links that come up. There are new budget planners being created all the time, so if one doesn’t work check back and try another. By the end of your first year things will have settled down financially and you’ll see what you spend most of your money on. You may have a part time job by then to give you more cash and be a complete pro at budgeting as well. It just takes practice.
About the Author
Lauren Lucien is a Creative Writing with English Literature graduate from Kingston University. She started writing University Life in the second year of university, frustrated there wasn’t a book that students could relate to.
University Life is written to help students navigate university and get the most value for their money.