If you’re thinking of starting a university course in September, now’s the time to start looking into and applying for your funding: as well as tuition fees, you will also need money for your general living and course costs e.g. food, travel, books, socialising, etc.
Sound scary? Don’t panic – here’s what you need to know:
Government support (Student Finance England or other regional funding body)
Depending on your circumstances (which usually includes residency, household income, and previous higher education experience), you could be eligible for loans towards fees and living costs (if you’re planning to study a Masters, there is a single loan to help with these costs). These loans are not usually expected to be repaid until you have finished your course and have an income over a certain threshold. Applications for undergraduate funding are open now* – apply early if you can as it can take up to 6 – 8 weeks to be fully assessed (this may take much longer if you wait until the summer). You don’t need to have a confirmed place at university to apply – use your preferred choice and then update later, if needed. When planning your budget, don’t forget to check your notification letter for when and how much you will be paid or see the online calculator for a quote.
*Applications for postgraduate loans are expected to open soon
University bursaries and scholarships
Universities and colleges have a range of bursaries and scholarships that you might be eligible for, depending on your circumstances; this may include exam results or household income. If you’re awarded a bursary or scholarship, you usually don’t need to pay it back – in other words, it’s free money! Even if you’re automatically considered for an award, it’s worth checking out whether you meet the eligibility criteria as well as how much you might get and when, so that you can factor this into your budget. Further details about our bursaries and scholarships can be found here.
Financial Assistance Fund/ University hardship fund
Most universities and colleges will have some hardship funding to help students who struggle financially; ours is called the Financial Assistance Fund. To apply, students usually need to provide details of their income and expenditure. Not all students will be eligible for an award, but funds like these can be very helpful if you’re down to your last tin of beans. You probably won’t be able to apply before you enrol, but as funds tend to be limited, it is worth investigating what is on offer – including deadlines – before you start so you don’t miss out.
Finding a job can not only help top up your bank balance, but can give you valuable experience and skills to enhance your CV too! Whether you prefer retail or bar work, leafleting or mystery shopping, there are usually lots of different jobs available for students that can fit around your lectures, seminars, and social life. See our ‘Should I find part-time work?’ blogpost for further details.
You might be lucky enough to already have some savings, or your family might have set up a savings account for you just for university. If not, it’s never too late to get started; even if you only start to put away a little now (if you are able to), you’ll still have more at enrolment than what you started with. Even if you never need it, knowing that you have some money in savings if times get tough can be a psychological boost. You will also need to bring some money with you when you arrive at university to cover your essentials for the first few days or so as your first instalment of Student Finance-assessed funding is not usually paid until 3 – 5 working days after your enrolment.
Help from family
Depending upon your household income, Student Finance may decide that your parent/s or partner contribute towards your living costs while at university; for further clarification, see Money Saving Expert and Save the Student websites. You may not be fortunate enough to have a family who can throw tenners at you every time you’re short, but they might agree to buy you vouchers for your favourite shops and online retailers as birthday/ Christmas presents and/or to buy you some food shopping every once in a while.
If you apply for a student account, you might be offered free gifts like vouchers or a railcard, but even more useful than this is an overdraft; it’s not free money (sadly!), but it can provide an extremely useful ‘buffer’ in case you run out between loan payments. Best of all, if you don’t go over your approved overdraft limit, you will not usually be charged interest or a fee (at least while you are a student). See our ‘Student bank accounts’ blogpost for further details.
We can’t guarantee that you’ll be rolling in money at university, but if you investigate and apply for your funding early, you can plan ahead which will help you manage your finances alongside your studies.
If you have any problems or queries, please contact the Financial Guidance team.