Every student in the UK who goes to university to study for their first degree can apply for student finance. This pays for your tuition (direct to the university) and you could also apply for a maintenance loan.
Students embarking on long courses, such as medical students and vet medicine students, disabled students and those with children can also qualify for extra funding.
Picking your way through all of the information available on different types of funding can be hard. We have put together an at-a-glance guide to student finance, with links to the relevant website to signpost you on your way.
The student finance department you need to apply to varies depending on where your family home is in the UK:
All applications from UK students are completed online and you will need to supply one of these to prove your identity:
Your parent/s or household also need to provide information so that you can get the full loan that you are entitled to:
It is important to apply earlier rather than later because student finance can take months to process, irrespective of the student finance division you are dealing with. If your course is due to start during September (not earlier) you can apply from the beginning of that year and your deadline is 31st May.
You can still apply after this date, but student finance cannot guarantee that your money will be available when you start university. This could mean that you will experience significant financial hardship.
Note: that you don’t need to have had an offer of a place to submit your application for student finance.
As the tables show, there are many variables that need to be taken into account to find out how much money you will receive to live on at university.
The easiest way to find out what you are likely to get is to use the online information from student finance.
Additional grants are available from student finance and directly from your university for students who experience financial hardship or who have special needs because of their family circumstances or a disability. See our guide to student loans.
Your application for student loans and grants are usually made online. It makes sense to keep a written record of your log in details and the dates you logged in and the information you have provided. It is all too easy to go through and fill in a long online form and then not remember what details you have given and which you still need to supply.
You will also need your parent/s to support you in your application by providing the details of their income and circumstances. If you apply well before May 31, you can also access help from your college if you run into difficulties.
You will need to confirm your acceptance of your place with UCAS and your university but then you need to check that you have taken all the steps to ensure your maintenance and tuition fee payments are made on time, shortly after the start of term:
This final step is very important and as your maintenance loan will not be paid immediately, you need to make sure you already have some money in your bank account to cover you until it arrives. Many students need to supplement their maintenance loan by getting part-time work or by receiving support from their parents.
Your parents cannot be made to support you financially at university, even if they can afford to. This is purely voluntary. It is a good idea to handle this as maturely as possible and arrange to sit down with your parents/guardians/partner during the summer and work out what support they can offer you. If you are lucky enough to have parents with a high income, you will need to discuss the amount of money you will receive from student finance, your accommodation costs and your likely living expenses to work out a reasonable deal that you are both happy with.
Many students with the full maintenance loan may still find they are short of money once the bulk of their finance has gone on their accommodation. Most parents will try to supplement your money as far as they can but there will be limits.
Some students will also find that, no matter what their circumstances, parental support is not available, so supplementing your maintenance payments requires you to study and work.
If you know there is going to be a significant shortfall between the income you will get from maintenance payments and parental contributions, you need to plan ahead. You may have already done a combination of part-time work or work experience. Make sure that your summer planning includes getting an up-to-date CV prepared that lists all your experience and skills.
Do some research online, or in person if you can, in the area where you will be living to identify opportunities for work. By the time you arrive at university, this can give you a head-start that can be all-important. Many students will be looking for work and places are inevitably limited.
Student support should be able to help and your university may even hold a job fair. Go along to that and find out all you can in your first week about work opportunities and arrange interviews if you can. If you don’t manage to get a job, keep trying. Put aside some time at weekends to send off applications, take CVs in and talk to people about job openings.
Students are able to earn up to £8,105 that is not taxable; anything over that up to £34000 is then taxed at 20%. If your term-time job takes tax and national insurance at source you will need to fill in a tax form and you then may receive a rebate.
Students do apply late for student finance and the supply of relevant information from parents can be problematic. If you arrive at university and contact student finance and find out that you will have another six to eight weeks to wait, what should you do?
If you are mature student and you have never been to university before, you can apply for student finance. If you have children, are over 60 or have a disability, you may also be able to get extra grants.
If you have previously taken a university degree course, you are not eligible for any support from student finance. If you apply for, and are accepted on a course, you will need to pay your tuition fees yourself and support yourself financially throughout your course.
You don’t need to worry about this before or during your time at university. From 2012, students in receipt of tuition fee and maintenance loans will only start to pay back their loans once they have graduated and when they are in a job that pays £27,295 per year or more.
Your repayments are then calculated on your income, not on the size of your loan.
Currently payments are calculated as 9% of your income over the £27,295 per year cut off point. That means that if you earn just £27,295, your monthly salary before tax will be £2,274 and your loan repayments will be zero. If your salary rises to £30,000, your monthly income before tax will be £2,500 and your loan repayment will be £20.34 per month.
The repayments are taken directly from your income, before you get it. So there is no way to fall into arrears and the debt you have from being a student does not affect your credit rating.
After 30 years, or if you die before then, any remaining debt is cancelled. Although it will be possible to pay off your student loans early, most experts think that this would be of no advantage.