How to apply
To apply, I began by creating an account with Student Finance England. Once I had started the process, they told me what information they required in order to process my application. This involved providing my course start date, my bank details, national insurance number, and a form of identity – I used my passport.
I was also asked to provide details of my parents/guardians so that I could be offered the right funding and best support. In turn, my parents were then directed to set up an account so they could declare their details and most recent income for the past financial year.
The account I created stayed with me throughout my degree. Each year I am required to log on and confirm that my details are correct and that I am continuing to study the same course. I found the process easy to navigate and it didn’t take too long once I had collected all of the evidence I needed to support my application.
When to apply
I have found that it is best to apply as early as possible to ensure that you receive your payments on time. Applying late could mean that there may be delays to you receiving your funding. You want to ensure that your claim is processed well before the beginning of term as many thousands of other students are also applying for financial support. It usually takes around six weeks to process your application once all of the evidence has been received. I applied for student finance before the summer holiday whilst I was still at college so that there wasn’t any additional stress leading up to starting university. This meant that my application was processed quickly and I received my funding for the beginning of my first semester.
Types of loans
There are two types of loans available – the tuition fee loan and the maintenance loan. I applied for both in order to fund the course itself and the costs of my university accommodation, food, and travel.
The tuition fee is what you pay to study on your course. This loan is paid directly to the university at the start of each term so you will never actually see this money or have access to it.
The maintenance loan is used to support students with the cost of living – paying for things such as accommodation. This loan is not a fixed sum and varies based on your household income and what you request from the finance provider.
How it is paid to you
Payments are only made once you have enrolled with the university. This will take place during induction week where a member of your course team will check your ID and confirm with the finance provider that you have started your course. As previously stated, the two loans are paid out at the beginning of each term (September/January/April), with the tuition fee loan being paid directly to the university, and the maintenance loan into your designated bank account.
Repaying your loan
You are only required to repay your loan once you have graduated and are earning a certain amount of money per year. You can find specific details of this earning figure on the GOV website. So, you may not start paying back instantly or even at all! Whatever is owed 30 years post-graduation is written off and you are no longer required to pay. I think this is a great thing because it means that you can forget about repayment until you are able to do so and it's not putting you under any financial pressure.
I recommend you apply for student finance
Applying for student finance is a crucial part of starting university, as for most students it's essential to cover the costs of your course and other living costs. I would very much encourage you to apply and make sure you sort it out early to save the hassle and last-minute stress nearer to term starting. That way you’ll start your course knowing you’ll receive the right amount of financial support on time and can enjoy your university experience. Don’t be put off by the fear of student debt or paying the loans back, as these loans are here to support you and will only be paid back when you’re able to do so.