Over the years, I have applied for student finance in an array of different situations from my undergraduate degree to my masters course. The idea of applying for student finance can often seem like an overwhelming prospect, but if started early it doesn’t have to be too daunting. Hopefully some of the answers I give below can assure you that it is more than worth the effort.
How I knew to apply?
Studying at a very involved sixth form, our teachers made sure we were well aware of student finance as early as possible. Before applications opened, we were told why it was important and what we had to do to ensure it was as easy as possible. Thankfully, it was then ingrained in me to apply in enough time, so the following applications were a little easier. If your sixth form are not as involved in this process as mine were, you can find out the key deadline dates and information on the student finance website.
What information did I receive and where from?
When I first applied for my undergraduate degree, the information wasn’t readily available online and so I had to rely on my teachers to help me with the process. However, as time processed, information became far easier to access so I was able to find most of the material needed on student forums or the Student Finance England website. When it came to a masters loan, government funding was still relatively new, so it was helpful to have some information on the university website provided by the Student Money Team.
At sixth form, I remember receiving information and having to think about the financial thresholds used to calculate my allowance. However, with the masters loan, I was quite surprised to read that it wasn’t income-tested. This was a massive relief for me as my application as an undergraduate had a few issues due to this financial factor (my parents split up in the middle of the process, causing a lot of confusion around household income).
Having the option to live chat online to Leeds Beckett was a massive help, and I was able to bombard them with questions to make sure I knew exactly what I was doing.
Why it’s important to apply, what the application process is like and how did I find it?
Without student finance, the vast majority of students wouldn’t be able to pay tuition fees, never mind the living costs as well. Studying within higher education is an investment in your future, and student finance acts as a financial springboard to help you achieve that.
It is a lengthy application that personally took me a while to complete and I found rather difficult having to complete it on my own, so I would say it’s important to allow enough time and not leave it until the last minute. Initially you fill in standard information about yourself and the course you want to study, with most of the course information easily found on the university website. Then, you will input your parents or guardian’s data, for example their income, and they will act as a sponsor for your application. Once you input all the data, you will then be asked to provide evidence of your parental income, which you can send to them in the form of a payslip or P60.
This requires you to scan in many documents and send them to the student finance head office, which is often the most time-consuming element of the application process and is where things could go wrong if you don’t stay organised. I would highly recommend keeping track of all documents you’ve sent and when they are received. The online system does this for you but it’s always best to keep a note and record yourself too just in case there are any system errors or documents get lost.
What advice would I give to people looking to apply?
The most important thing for me was starting the application process early, as with doing anything new there’s often a few mistakes that can crop up along the way. If you give yourself plenty of time to complete the application and check through it to fix any errors, it will be a much smoother experience. I would also definitely recommend finding someone who can help you with it. Your college or sixth form tutors should be able to help, and the university also has a Student Money Team who are able to assist and advise you on matters related to student finance.
Hopefully some of the information above will help demystify the process of applying for student finance and will assure you that mistakes and problems are almost inevitable but can be solved with good time management and planning.
Leeds Beckett Student Money and Advice team - 0113 812 5593