Student finance is a government benefit that lightens the load for many students that wish to pursue further education. The student finance plan provides a loan to help pay for university living costs (usually rent) and tuition fees. Additional allowances also may be on the table if you are significantly disadvantaged, i.e., you are possibly disabled, earn a low income, or have children.
You can apply for finance once you’ve enrolled at university. For a course that starts in September 2021, the student finance application form opens March 2021 and the deadline is in May 2022. Generally speaking, you have up to 7 months after your course start date to apply for student finance.
The answer above is only a summary, therefore, I urge you to read on to find out more about student finance and how it may apply to your time at university.
Disclaimer: There is a slight difference in criteria for international and local UK (or EU) students. Even within the UK, the requirements may fluctuate slightly – checking with the corresponding government website is crucial. This article outlines the process with a focus mainly on UK nationals, due to the writer’s knowledge.
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When is the Student Finance Application Deadline?
Applications for student finance usually open during February to March every year with varying deadlines, hence being early is the best option. The application deadline will vary depending on the university, so it is best to check in advance to ensure you are prepared.
The deadline for student finance is up to 7 months after your course starting date. As mentioned above, for a course that starts in September 2021, the deadline is May 2022. This is especially helpful as once you are at university you will have access to help and guidance from university staff, who should be able to help you process your student finance application if you are having any problems.
Even though you have plenty of time to apply for student finance, if you leave it very late there will be a delay in receiving the sum to pay for your costs. If you are needing to pay living costs such as rent this could be an issue for you. Due to this, it is always best for you to apply early for student finance to give yourself extra time to avoid any potential problems.
How Do You Apply for Student Finance?
Applications can be done online, and it’s dependent on your nationality and your previous years of study. Students who are doing part-time and full-time studies can apply online. The steps to apply online are as follows:
- Make your student finance online account with the help of this website*.
- Once you register, fill up the application form accurately.
- Confirm and include your household income.
- Attach your proof of identity if needed too.
* This link specifically refers to England, check out the further links on the website for Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.
Applying online is not an accessible option for everybody. You can also get physical copies of forms by downloading it from the government website and print it out, or you can call the helpline for further assistance.
Student finance can open a lot of doors for you. It provides many students a chance to get an education they may not be able to afford on their own. Taking a loan like this may seem daunting, but it is an investment into your brighter future.
What Are the Different Types of Student Finance?
Student Finance isn’t simply one lump sum given to students; it is actually comprised of different sums of money to aid the student in different ways. To break it down simply, there are two options available to you through Student Finance.
1. Tuition Fee Loan
Created to cover the full cost of university fees, the tuition fee loan is entitled to all full-time students. The tuition fees in all four regions of the UK aren’t the same. Keep in mind that there is a cap on the limit it can cover, and it is directly transferred to the university and doesn’t enter into your personal bank account.
2. Maintenance Loan
All students are also eligible for a maintenance loan, designed to pay for living costs whilst at university. Generally, the higher your household income, the lower the loan amount will be. The region of your stay also plays a part in it. Every term, the loan is paid into your bank account in instalments.
If you want to find out more about the two student loans mentioned above and the actual cost of university, check out this helpful article.
What Do You Need to Know When Applying for Student Finance?
There are certain things to know before applying for student finance that will make your application a lot easier. Making a checklist of the following can be very helpful:
- What type of student finance are you applying for? *
- Do you hit the main points to qualify student finance?
- Do you have all the necessary documents required?
- Have you gone through the corresponding website depending on your location?
- Is your course and university applicable for student finance?
- Are all details up to date and not susceptible to changes?
- Do you have financial backup in case you’re late to apply?
* There are two main types: student loans and maintenance grants.
Remember that once you have reviewed your student finance application, accepted the terms and conditions and submitted the form, you can no longer make any changes to it. Albeit, circumstantial changes that are unforeseen can be mentioned to the regional office to update the conditions of your application.
Once you have gone through the application process, processing durations can take a minimum of 6 weeks, or even longer if it is last minute or during peak season.
What is the Eligibility Criteria for Student Loans?
There are many factors that are part of the consideration process for student finance. Going through the respective government website for the important links and small details is an important part of the process, a great place to start is this website here.
1. Nationality and Home Status
Your place of residence defines if you’re eligible for home fee status, tuition fees and also maintenance cost support. For student finance in any of the 4 UK nations, your status must be “settled”. Essentially, there must be no restriction on your stay limit and you must have lived in any part of the country at least 3 years before the beginning of your course. As an extension, you cannot qualify if you have come on a visa that allows you to stay on in the country.
If you don’t fit within the boundaries listed previously, there are exceptions, but they aren’t a guaranteed entry into the programme. For example, being granted humanitarian protection or if you are stateless but lived legally for 3 years before the start of your course, you still have a chance. The examples here are not exhaustive, and there are more instances where it could work out for you.
When it comes to international students, there is unfortunately little to no chances of being entitled for student finance in the UK. Unless you come under the category of exceptions mentioned before. In case you wish to learn further about any alternatives or solutions, visiting the UK Council for International Students Affairs is recommended.
2. Place and Course of Study
The institution that you choose to study at makes a considerable difference. Only publicly funded universities or private institutions that are publicly funded are part of the approved criteria. Some highly prestigious, publicly funded establishments include Oxford, Cambridge, University College London and the University of Edinburgh.
In the private scenario, the tuition fees are likely to be higher than the aid you receive. The difference between the two then has to be funded by yourself independently. Moreover, the different levels of study are considered independently. Firstly, for undergraduate courses, your study must be a “recognised” one under the student finance programme. Postgraduate studies regulations, on the other hand, vary by nation.
Lastly, for part-time courses, it depends on the level of course intensity; 25% is the minimum level. Depending on your household income, you also may be able to get support with living costs. Checking with your university is the best way to ensure that there are no mishaps when it comes to this.
As a strong starting point, you can use this Student Finance calculator to estimate the amount of student loans and extra funding you can receive (this is only directed to the students from England and the EU).
Fortunately, there is no firm, strict maximum age limit for applicants who are aspiring to get grants. Being 60 on the first day of the course is how it works in most cases. But in England, candidates over 60 who are applying for an undergraduate degree can still access a loan that covers living costs, but it is a case-to-case basis sort of thing.
Different nations have slightly varying conditions, so as per usual, check with the local government website and your university for exact information.
4. Previous Study
It is important to remember that student finance is accessible only for first degrees of higher education in almost all cases. This holds true even if that degree was self-funded. As always, there may be rare exceptions to the rule.
If you already have a basic degree, and are thinking of pursuing the field of study further, you still may get limited funding to help you with the costs. Selected subjects like certain sciences, medicine, architecture and even agriculture could boost your chances of reaping the rewards of student finance with a second degree.
How Do You Repay Your Student Loans?
The last and arguably most crucial step is ironing out the particulars on how you will repay the loans. Understanding how you pay back your student loans is vitally important to help relieve any apprehension you may have about applying for student loans, it definitely isn’t as scary as you may think.
The maintenance, tuition fee and postgraduate loans need to be paid back. When you start repaying them back depends on the repayment plan assigned. Even if you leave your course early, the loan you have taken must be paid back.
You aren’t required to pay anything back if your income is below a certain level, the threshold as we stand today is an annual income of £27,295 (£2,274 per month). The interest on your loan doesn’t start being added to the loan until the first repayment has been made so, no need to stress about rushing to pay back your loans if you are under the threshold.