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Student Finance

14 stages of the loan cycle every student goes through

Student Loans occupy a unique place of love and loathing in the hearts of most students. But don't fret – you're not alone!

Man with money and circular arrows

Credit: Dean Drobot, Simon J Beer – Shutterstock

We are, of course, grateful for the Student Loans system. It's great that it can help us eat more than just boiled rice for the entire academic year.

But, only just. We'd be lying if we said it was all plain sailing.

The Save the Student editorial team has more than a decade's worth of experience living off the good old Student Loan system. So, we're well acquainted with the rollercoaster of emotions involved. You will be too, after reading this.

Please, share in our pain and learn from our mistakes. Do it for us.

Still a bit confused by the whole process? Our simple guide to Student Finance can help.

What to expect during the Student Loan cycle

Every student will likely go through these 14 stages when getting a Maintenance Loan:

  1. The application form takes too long

    red alarm clock

    Credit: samritk – Shutterstock

    It's 30 minutes until the Student Finance deadline, and you assumed it would be a 10-minute job.

    Now you've lost your National Insurance number and your mum's off to aerobics so she can't fill out her part of the Student Finance application form. Learn from our mistakes and make sure you complete your form well in advance.

    Missing the deadline can mean your Student Loan payments are severely delayed.

    Also, don't forget you have to apply for Student Finance every academic year. This will often be before you've broken up for the summer holidays. Don't say we never look out for you.

  2. Finding the wait to get your Student Loan painful

    Who knew the wait for cash could be so long and torturous?

    If you've gone back to university early, waiting for loan day can seem like a small lifetime of its own.

    The wait will end eventually, we promise.

    If you're looking to diversify sources of cash income, we've got many great ideas on how to make money quickly. Plus, here are some tips on how to survive if your loan is late.

  3. Watching everyone else receive their loan instalment – while still waiting

    You're sitting at home feeling very broke and very sorry for yourself. You sneak a casual glance at your Twitter feed and BOOM. Suddenly you're overcome with the feeling of injustice.

    Why does it feel like everyone and their dog has got their Student Loan through already? All while you're stuck at home watching Netflix and eating super noodles...

    The reason for this isn't that the world hates you. Really.

    The Student Loans Company tailors loan payment dates to your university and course.

    That's why your mates at different universities get their money first. But don't worry. It's likely the tables will turn in two weeks' time, when they've spent all their cash.

  4. STILL waiting for your first Student Loan payment

    woman looking in purse frowning

    Credit: Pormezz – Shutterstock

    Okay, we know, waiting sucks. But there's not a lot you can do other than suck it up and wait for it to come through.

    Make sure you have a decent budgeting system from the start (yes, we know, we sound like your parents). That way, you won't have to scrimp and save prior to your next instalment.

    If your loan is genuinely delayed, contact Student Finance at the earliest possible moment. Also, read our guide to getting by if your Student Loan is late. It could be that your payment is in progress – which means your Student Loan is on its way.

  5. Refreshing your bank statement at midnight

    You know your Student Loan payment is due the next day. And, it's technically already tomorrow. Why wait until you wake up in the morning?

    You can almost feel the sense of camaraderie in student halls as you all refresh your phones and head promptly to the SU bar supermarket.

  6. Feeling like a small-scale millionaire

    Look how many numbers there are on the balance screen! All the possibilities!

    When you've become so used to counting your pennies to see if you can afford a cucumber at the local Tesco Express, we really can't blame you.

    Like the feeling of watching the money pouring in? Check out our guide to finding a part-time job to get that pay-day and Student Loan feeling.

  7. Going on a big shopping spree

    colourful shopping bags

    Credit: ConstantinosZ – Shutterstock

    Now that you've got money in your bank, it suddenly feels impossible to resist those trainers that you've had your eye on (and totally can't afford). For some reason, it really feels like Domino's is in the air.

    It takes some serious self-restraint to stop the money splurge when your Maintenance Loan comes in. But do try to control yourself.

    Unnecessary purchases will only come back to bite you later in the term. That's when you really need money for essentials like... erm... your food shop and energy bills?

    At the risk of sounding preachy, we urge you to try and resist (a bit).

  8. Having a huge night out with friends

    Even if you're not tempted by the lure of material goods and all the chocolate you could ever want, it can be extremely hard to say no to the night of your life in the local bar.

    Who are we to deny you a good party? Just try some money-saving tricks for nights out. For example, you could start the night off with pre-drinks and cocktails at home.

  9. Buying everyone drinks when you're out

    When you feel like you're swimming in cash and you're a few G&Ts down, the generous soul within you may emerge. Shots all round?

    If you are splashing the cash, at least make sure you're only buying for your genuine friends. You could also impress upon them the importance of getting you a drink afterwards. It's only fair, after all.

  10. Forking out big payments on rent

    One minute you're rolling in it, and the next minute it's gone. And probably not because you had the party of the century, unfortunately.

    Once your rent and bills have left your account, you can be left feeling like your money was gone before you ever really got the chance to enjoy it.

    If you're keen to stretch out your loan as far as it can possibly go, check out our guide on how to get the best deal on your bills. That way, there's more money left over for other things.

  11. Wondering why you bought unnecessary things

    lady holding a pound coin putting into a wallet

    Credit: Yulia Grigoryeva – Shutterstock

    When did you decide you even liked leopard print anyway? Who knows what you were thinking when you bought all this stuff. But in the cold light of day, regret will be looming.

    For some items, if you bought them less than 28 days ago (14 if bought online) and they're still good as new, you can usually return them to claw back your cash. When returning items, make sure you understand your consumer rights.

    Or, if you're not able to return something, we've got some stellar tips on how to sell your unwanted things on eBay.

  12. Feeling extremely poor and vowing to budget

    Don't say we didn't warn you earlier! But, you will eventually come to the realisation that you shouldn't have spent that much on tequila and kebabs.

    It's never too late to start budgeting though. We've got lots of great budgeting advice on how to get through the year.

  13. Getting your last ever Student Loan instalment

    As the third term of your final year rolls around, a strange feeling will engulf you: this will be the last instalment of your Student Loan. Ever.

    From here on, you'll have to find your own cash to cover weekly costs like rent and food. We've got tips on how to find a job, though.

  14. Paying back your Student Loan

    It's insanely tempting to think of your loan as free money. Unfortunately, you will end up paying it back eventually.

    Thankfully, you won't start paying anything back until you're earning a decent wage. Even then, it'll always be a percentage of what you earn over a certain amount. The threshold will depend on what 'Plan' your loan is on. You can check out our Student Loan repayments guide to find out more.

    If you want to prepare yourself for how much you'll see exiting your student bank account, you can find out in a few clicks with our Student Loan repayment calculator.

Phew, that just about sums up the rollercoaster of emotions with the Student Loan cycle. But remember, if you save a bit more money, you should hopefully be able to spend more time doing #7, and less time doing #12.

Check out these vital money lessons you should have been taught in school...

Jem Collins

WRITTEN BY Jem Collins

Jem Collins, founder of Journo Resources, is an experienced journalist who has written for the i, Metro and more. For Save the Student, she's shared tips on topics related to careers, health, saving money and more.
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