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In This Guide
If you have finished your college education – or have graduated from sixth form – the next step in terms of education will be university or equivalent. Whether you are intending to look into studying an honours degree, an alternative diploma or a specialised course invested in areas such as teaching, medical or law, there are plenty of avenues and options open to you when it comes to making sure that you are fully financed to study and live independently.
The government and student finance institutions are available to help support those students who need assistance with covering not only their tuition fees, but also the cost of living, too – and finding money to cover all bases can be particularly difficult for young people, especially when it is not always possible to earn a wage alongside, even part time.
We’ve set up this guide to help you understand a little bit more about becoming an undergraduate and which options are open and available to you in terms of financial help.
What is Undergraduate Study?
Undergraduate study applies to study which you enter into once you have left school or sixth form college. This path generally allows you to start applying for universities and university centres across the UK, and once you have your final grades from your college level education, you will be able to start accepting offers and making moves towards the courses you wish to enrol on.
Changes to fees over the years have meant that universities can now charge over £9,000 in overall tuition, which also means that, on the whole, students will need to make sure they are fully covered to be able to fit the bill before they can move away and study.
Therefore, there are a number of loan, grant and bursary options open which are set up to ensure that you are always fairly funded for what you want to do.
Tuition Fee Loans
As mentioned, universities can charge up to a certain amount for tuition fees and this will be requested before you can study. Unless you have the financial capital available to fund your study outright immediately, you will need to apply for a tuition fee loan – which requires a minimum of information from you – and which can be applied for completely online with the relevant body for your localised area.
There are various bodies based in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and as rules and available finance for each body can vary, we strongly encourage you to read further about what to expect from localised finance through our specialised guides. This should particularly apply to Scotland, where the undergraduate degree system and financing in general is very different to that which you can expect elsewhere in the UK.
Tuition fee loans are repayable – but you won’t be expected to pay everything back right away, nor will you need to do so for some years after you graduate. In fact, you won’t be expected to start paying anything back until the first April after you graduate or after your course finishes.
Once you are employed, if you are paid through payroll, you will expect to see a slight deduction on your monthly income. This is set at 9% above a certain threshold depending upon where you study. For example, if you studied in Scotland, you will need to be earning at least £18,330 to be able to start paying back your loan – this is slightly higher in the rest of the UK at £25,000. The amount you pay back will increase with your wage, too – so do keep a close check on how much you are receiving and paying out.
If you’re interested in running your own business after you graduate, you’ll need to make sure that your account for student loan repayments in any tax returns you file each year with HM Revenue and Customs. If you opt to move abroad after you graduate, you will need to set up a plan with your student loans company to ensure that you can pay back the money you have borrowed in a manner which fits your budget.
Maintenance loans are a slightly different bag, but they are just as important as the financial support you’ll receive for tuition fee coverage. Maintenance loans make sure that you have money available with which to live on and pay bills. Part of the university experience is inarguably the fact that it is a huge independent step – many students live away from home for the first time at this point in their lives, and if you are aiming to do the same, you will need to make sure that you have enough money to be able to comfortably live.
It can be difficult to juggle working and studying – which is why there are means-tested loans available to help ensure you have enough money to cover you while you are studying and away.
Maintenance loans are, however, based on your existing household income – which means that either your parent(s) or partner will need to effectively support any applications you make. This means that they will be requested to forward a certain amount of data with regard to income they have received for the past tax year – this is so that a loan amount can be fairly calculated and agreed to help cover you for your study.
Whether you are a full or part time student, you can get access to maintenance support in the form of a basic loan or even a long course loan if your study extends past 30 weeks and three days (fairly specific, but worth taking note of!). To find out how much you may be entitled to, there are a number of calculators available online – The Student Room, for example, has a comprehensive guide and calculator so that you can set your expectations early.
Once again, as with tuition fee loans, you’ll need to pay back any money you receive in this way – meaning that it will once again be applied to debt that is deducted from future income.
Other Types of Bursary
Loans aren’t the only type of financial support available to undergraduates, as there are also grants and bursaries which can be applied for without you needing to worry about making payments back. Your eligibility for these awards will, of course, be based entirely upon your circumstances. For example, there are grants available for those who are disabled, adult dependent, or even those who have childcare to meet. For those studying from abroad, there are also grants, awards and bursaries available – as fees for international study in the UK, particularly in Scotland, can get to be quite costly – and that’s before the cost of living is taken into account!
You may also wish to look into student finance options with bodies and charities registered elsewhere in the UK – if you are set to study medicine, for example, the NHS (National Health Service) still offers a grant system to those who wish to make their mark on the healthcare industry (which is, of course, massively important). There are also assists available for teachers in training, and certain institutions will also offer scholarships and bursaries if you show particular aptitude or promise in your particular field or specialism. This is all in the effort of helping you to progress in your career without financial burden – and any help should be taken if it is offered to you!
Deadlines for Applying
Finally, let’s take a look at deadlines for applying for student finance. While you may be able to still file an application after your course starts in some cases, it is highly recommended that you arrange and file for financial assistance as soon as possible so that you can both start to benefit as soon as necessary and so that your application can be given the full attention of bodies involved. Some advise that applying around nine months in advance is a good idea – though you may not always be able to apply until your grades have been finalised.
Instead, it’s worthwhile taking note of GOV.UK’s guidelines for when you should be applying for student finance by. These may change occasionally, but the timescales are generally the same from year to year.
If your course is due to start between 1st August and 31st December of a given year, you will need to make sure that you apply by 31st May.
Additionally, if your course is set to start a little later – between 1st January and 31st March – you will need to make sure that your application is filed by the 30th September of the year before.
If you’re not due to start until 1st April or up until 30th June, make sure you apply for finance by 31st December of the year before – and if you’re due to start next July, have everything in and filed by the 31st March. Don’t worry – if you’re concerned about deadlines, speak with your institution’s admissions team when convenient!