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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. Are. Not. Alone.

Man with money and circular arrows

Credit: Dean Drobot, Simon J Beer – Shutterstock

We are, of course, forever grateful for the Student Loans system and the fact it allows us to 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.

With more than a decade's worth of experience of living off the good old Student Loan system, the Save the Student editorial team are well acquainted with the rollercoaster of emotions involved (and you will be too after reading this).

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

If any of these points ring a little too true, or you're just a bit confused by the whole process, try de-stressing with a cup of tea and our simple guide to Student Finance.

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 is taking TOO LONG

    woman annoyed holding research

    Credit: Pemberley Digital

    It's 30 minutes until the Student Finance deadline, and you assumed it would just 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, and you really will have to eat boiled rice every day.

    Also, don't forget you have to apply for Student Finance every academic year – and 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 quite so long and torturous?

    If you've gone back to university early to catch up on studying, or live that dream of independence full-time, 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 tonnes of 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 – and still waiting

    Breaking Bad characters on a bed of money

    Credit: AMC

    You're sat 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 that you're incredibly hard done by.

    Why does it feel like everyone and their dog has got their Student Loan through already, while you're stuck at home watching the Hollyoaks omnibus and eating Sainsbury's Basics super noodles?

    Well, 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 dosh 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

    Okay, we know, waiting is absolutely pants. But there's not a lot you can do other than suck it up and wait for it to come through (bar throwing an angry pout or two).

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

    If your loan is genuinely delayed, though, make sure to contact Student Finance at the earliest possible moment – and read our guide to getting by if your Student Loan is late, of course.

  5. Refreshing your bank statement at midnight

    woman on her phone at night

    Credit: tommaso79 – Shutterstock

    You know your Student Loan payment is due the next day and, well, it's technically already tomorrow, so why wait until you wake up in the morning, right?

    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


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

    If you like the feeling of watching the money pouring in (and who doesn't?) check out our guide to finding a part-time job to get that pay-day feeling and the Student Loan feeling – double win.

  7. Going on a big shopping spree

    Thrift shop macklemore

    Credit: Warner Music Group

    Suddenly, now that you've got money in your bank, it feels impossible to resist those trainers that you've had your eye on (and totally can't afford). And, for some reason, it really feels like overpriced pizza 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 on the bum later in the term when you really need money for essentials like... erm... your food shop and energy bills?

    So, 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.

    And who are we to deny you a good party? Just try some money-saving tricks for nights out, like starting the night off with pre-drinks and cocktails at home, and only taking as much as you intend on spending.

  9. Buying EVERYONE drinks when you're out

    Rebel Wilson with a bottle of wine

    Credit: Warner Bros.

    When you feel like you're swimming in cash and you're a few G&Ts down, it's often time for the generous soul within you to emerge. Shots all round?

    If you are splashing the cash, at least make sure you're only buying for your genuine bezzies – and 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 ALL 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 it 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 energy bills. That way, there's more money left over for all the lols.

  11. Wondering why you bought unnecessary things

    captain picard from Star Trek facepalming

    Credit: Paramount Pictures

    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 – and with a bare bank account – 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 so you know what you're entitled to.

    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 quite that much on tequila and kebabs when you've got a whole term to get through.

    It's never too late to start budgeting though, and we've got shedloads of great budgeting advice on how to get through the uni year financially unscathed.

  13. Getting your last ever Student Loan instalment

    help me I'm poor Bridesmaids meme

    Credit: Universal Pictures

    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 – here's how to find a job.

  14. Paying back your Student Loan

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

    Thankfully, you won't start paying anything back until you're earning a decent wage, and it'll always be 9% of what you earn over a certain amount. The threshold will depend on what 'Plan' your loan is on, so 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...


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