Don’t get stumped by Student Finance – get funded! Our application walk-through has everything you need to know…
While we can’t promise to put the ‘fun’ into funding (we’re money experts, not miracle workers) we can do our best to make it as painless as possible.
Here’s everything you need to know about applying for Student Finance without the drama.
What is Student Finance?
Student Finance is the official government funding you apply for in order to pay for university tuition fees or living costs while studying.
The cash is bankrolled and regulated by the government, then doled out by an official student finance organisation – there’s one for each country in the UK.
Who can apply for Student Finance?
Student Finance is open to UK and EU nationals who normally live in the UK. You may also be able to apply if you have refugee status, or if your folks are either Swiss nationals or Turkish workers.
There’s no upper age limit for Tuition Fee Loans, but if you’re on the hunt for a Maintenance Loan to cover living costs, you’ll need to be a UK student aged under 60 to be eligible.
In Scotland, however, you’ll need to be under 50 years old when your course starts, or aged between 50 and 54 and planning to return to employment after graduating.
There’s also no lower age limit for any Student Finance funding, but if you’re under 18, you’ll need a parent or guardian to act as a guarantor until you can ratify the loan agreement yourself.
You’ll need to be studying a valid course at an approved institution (check with the uni if you’re not sure), and studying a higher education course for the first time.
If, for whatever reason, your circumstances aren’t that clear cut, your best bet is to head over to Student Finance for the full list of rules and regs!
What financial support is on offer for students?
Just like it says on the tin, this is borrowed cash that you’re expected to pay back at some point. The Tuition Fee Loan (for UK/EU students) covers your course fees and is paid directly to your university or college, so you never actually see, smell or touch any of it.
UK students can also get a Maintenance Loan (click here to see how much you can get) which, like the mother of all tooth fairy payments, lands in your bank account at the start of each term (monthly in Scotland).
You can use your Maintenance Loan for whatever you like, but the smart thing to do is put it towards your priority costs (rent, bills, food and savings) first.
Bursaries and grants are like food you’ve licked – they’re yours to keep and they don’t have to be repaid. It’s well worth taking the time to see what’s going and what you’re eligible for, as there are loads of unusual funds out there!
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are grants or bursaries given by the government for living costs.
In England, however, things have had a massive shake-up. Well, technically it’s been more of a shakedown – students who started their course on or after 1st August 2016 are no longer eligible for Maintenance Grants.
Crucially, the amount of money on offer hasn’t gone down – it’s just that the support is now entirely in the form of a loan, which not only has to be paid back, but also accumulates interest over time.
If you got in before the big freeze and already receive a Maintenance Grant, don’t panic! You’ll be able to re-apply for it each year just as you do now. Make the most of that bad boy!
UK students can also apply for extra support in the form of a Childcare Grant, Parents’ Learning Allowance, Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) or Adult Dependants’ Grant.
Depending on what you’re studying, there may also be other bursaries and travel grants up for grabs – Student Finance will let you know if you’re eligible once they get your application.
How much Student Finance support will you get?
If you’re eligible for the Tuition Fee Loan, you can ask for as much or as little as you like (up to the cost of the fees, obviously), no matter how much income you or your folks have coming in.
Maintenance Loans, on the other hand, are awarded on a sliding scale: the higher your household income, the less support you’ll get. How much you can apply for also varies by country.
All of this means we can’t give you precise figures, as it’s different for everybody. However, if you head to the following guides, you’ll see how much you can get across the UK:
What other financial support is available?
There is more cash out there up for grabs – it’s just a matter of digging it out.
Ask your uni about extra support for students from low-income backgrounds, or start sniffing out bursaries, grants and scholarships for yourself.
Applying for Student Finance
How to apply for a Student Loan
If you come from England, Northern Ireland or Wales, you can either apply online or by post. Scottish students can only apply online. But wherever you’re from, we’ve got your Student Finance website and deadline listed.
How long does it take to apply for Student Finance?
The form has enough questions to rival University Challenge, so depending on your circumstances (and how organised you are with paperwork) allow a couple of hours to complete your application. And always double check it!
After that, the Student Finance bods reckon it can take at least six weeks to crunch the numbers and get back to you. That said, it could be longer if you leave it until peak time during the summer holidays.
In the meantime, do the following three things in order to stay on top of your finances:
- Estimate how much money you’ll need and, crucially, how much of it will be covered by Student Finance. Use your budget to see how the numbers pan out, and get a back-up plan in place for any shortfall
- Scout out scholarships, uni bursaries and charity grants
- Start making some cash to tide you over when you first land on campus. You won’t get your first instalment from Student Finance until you’ve registered at your uni, so you may need to get by until your Student Loan lands.
What documents do you need when you’re applying for Student Finance?
In short, you’ll need paperwork, parents and steely-eyed determination to hand.
More specifically, you’ll need:
Student Finance application deadlines 2019/20
We’ve listed the deadlines to ensure you hit them if you want to get paid on time for courses starting or continuing in 2019.
You can still apply after this time (up to nine months after the start of the academic year) so if you go through Clearing don’t worry! Just be aware that this might mean you get your Student Loan late – so always get in ASAP!
As for when you can start applying, the process tends to open in February/March each year.
Student Finance England
New university students: 24th May 2019
Returning students: 21st June 2019
Student Finance Northern Ireland
New university students: 12th April 2019
Returning students: 28th June 2019
Student Awards Agency Scotland
New university students: 30th June 2019
Returning students: 30th June 2019
Student Finance Wales
New university students: 10th May 2019
Returning students: 7th June 2019
5 tips for applying for Student Finance
- Apply early as the sooner you get your application rolling, the better. Plus you’ll have extra time to sort out any teething troubles before your course starts
- Do your research and ask for everything you think you’ll need (and are eligible for) up front
- Double-check everything before you submit! Any mistakes now will only delay when you get paid
- Don’t forget to re-apply for Student Finance each year!
- Don’t panic if you miss the deadline. You can apply for Student Finance up to nine months after the start of the academic year, but the longer you leave it, the more of your own cash you’ll have to shell out in the meantime.
How to make the most of your Student Loan
We can’t say this enough: make the most of the money you get. Whether that’s making it go further or turning it into an income, you need to be proactive to make it pay!
Take a look around Save the Student to get some serious schooling in the art of student thrift, including our huge list of easy ways to save money.
Left it late to apply for funding? Check out our guide to surviving if your Student Loan is late.