Top tips for student finance
Ruth Round, a senior education adviser for finance at the University, offers her top tips for funding your studies and ways to help student budgets stretch further.
1. Research how much money you might be entitled to
With the scrapping of grants for students many people are concerned they may not be able to afford to go to university. There is actually more money available to students under the new system, it is just that it is all now in the form of a loan.
The exact amount you get will depend on the income of the household you live in at the moment and whether you plan to live at home or move away to study.
2. Apply for funding early or as soon as possible
The student finance application process normally opens in February so apply for funding in plenty of time to ensure your money is in place for the start of term. You don’t have to have a confirmed place at university before you apply.
If you get your place through Clearing and so haven’t yet applied for your funding then don’t panic! You just need to go to www.gov.uk/studentfinance and apply as soon as possible. If you have applied for funding but are now going to a different University or to study a different course then you need to log back into your student finance account and click on the ‘change your application’ link. You can then enter the new details to ensure you are paid on time
3. Find out about scholarships and bursaries
Most universities will offer a variety of scholarships and bursaries to students who meet certain criteria. These can be on the basis of academic or sporting excellence or aimed at certain groups of students such as care leavers or those from households with a low income.
This is free money so do your research to find out what you can get.
4. Open a student bank account
As soon as you have an offer for a place through UCAS you can talk to the banks about opening an account. The advantage of this is that student bank accounts normally have an interest free overdraft facility which is useful if you accidentally overspend.
This will usually be activated once your first instalment of loan goes in.
5. Research accommodation options
If you are thinking of living away from home then make sure you find out what accommodation is available. Most first years live in halls but there is a large variation in price depending on where you are studying and what kind of accommodation you choose.
En-suite bedrooms are nicer but more expensive so if you choose one of these you will have less money for socialising.
6. Learn to budget
The student loan is paid in three instalments – at the start of each term. This means that the first payment may look like a lot of money but it has to last until January and you will want some left to enjoy Christmas.
Once you know how much your accommodation or travel costs will be for the term you can then divide the remaining loan by the number of weeks until you get your next loan.
That is how much you have to live off each week.
7. Get an NUS card
An NUS card costs £12 a year but should save you a lot more than that.
Many shops, restaurants, cinemas and online retailers will offer a discount for students but you will need to show your NUS card to get them. Once you have a card get into the habit of asking if they offer a student discount wherever you go.
8. Get a part-time job
Many students work part time alongside their studies. This is not just good for your bank balance, it is also good for your CV when you come to look for a job after graduating.
You need to make sure it doesn’t impact on your studies but, depending on the intensity of the course, five to 15 hours a week is usual manageable. Don’t forget that you also get three months off in the summer when you can work to save up money for the next year.
9. Research travel costs
If you are staying at home and travelling in to university to study then consider what will be the cheapest way to travel. If you know that your course requires you to come into university each day then it will probably be cheaper to buy a monthly or term-long travel pass, particularly if you have an NUS card so can get a discount.
However many courses only require you to attend for three days a week so it may be better to pay a daily fare. If you are planning on driving to university don’t forget to factor in the cost of car parking.
10. Learn to love the library
Academic books can be very expensive and you don’t need a brand new copy of all of them. Many will be available in the library so make sure you are organised and reserve any you need in plenty of time.
If you do need to buy books then look at getting them second hand or use your NUS card to get a discount.
- Ruth Round is a senior education adviser for finance at The Gateway @The George at the University of Wolverhampton.
- For more information visit our Money Matters pages: https://www.wlv.ac.uk/study-here/money-matters/
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