Applying for student finance 2017/18
Don't get stumped by student finance – get funded! Our application walk-through has everything you need to know…
While we can’t promise to put the ‘fun' into funding – we’re money experts, not miracle workers – we can do our best to make it as painless as possible. Here’s everything you need to know about applying for student finance without the drama.
What's on this page?
Student Finance 101
Student Finance is the official government funding you apply for in order to pay for university tuition fees or living costs while studying.
The cash is bankrolled and regulated by the government, then doled out by an official student finance organisation – there’s one for each country in the UK.
Student finance is open to UK and EU nationals who normally live in the UK. You may also be able to apply if you have refugee status, or if your folks are either Swiss nationals or Turkish workers.
There’s no upper age limit for tuition loans but, if you're on the hunt for a maintenance loan to cover living costs, you’ll need to be a UK student aged under 60 (or 50-something in Scotland) to be eligible.
You’ll also need to be studying a valid course at an approved institution (check with the uni if you’re not sure), and studying in higher education for the first time.
If your circumstances aren’t that clear cut for any reason, your best bet is to head over to Student Finance for the full buffet of rules and regs!
Each country has a slightly different set-up but, generally, the funding pie comes in two flavours:
Just like it says on the tin, this is borrowed cash that you’re expected to pay back at some point. The Tuition Fee Loan (for UK/EU students) covers your course fees and is paid directly to your university or college, so you never actually see, smell or touch any of it.
UK students can also get a maintenance loan (click here to see how much you'd get) which, like the mother of all tooth fairy payments, lands in your bank account at the start of each term (monthly in Scotland). You can use it for whatever you like, but the smart thing to do is put it towards your priority costs (rent, bills, food and savings) first.
Bursaries and grants are like food you've licked – they're yours to keep (i.e., don't have to be repaid). It's well worth taking the time to see what's going and what you're eligible for.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are grants or bursaries for living costs, as well as some form of fee waiver that means you may have less to borrow to pay for tuition fees, or none to borrow in the case of Scottish students.
EU students can take advantage of tuition fee waivers, too (except for in Scotland) – you’ll be charged the same as local students, and can get a loan to pay for it – but not any maintenance money going.
In England, maintenance payments have had a massive shake-up. Well, technically it's more of a shakedown: students starting courses after 2017 won't get less money to live on – but anything you do get will be a loan (which earns interest and has to be repaid). If you got in before the big freeze and already get a maintenance grant, don't panic! You'll be able to re-apply for it each year just as you do now. Make the most of that bad boy!
UK students can also apply for extra support in the form of a Childcare Grant, Parents’ Learning Allowance, Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) or Adult Dependants’ Grant.
Depending on what you’re studying, there may also be other bursaries and travel grants up for grabs – Student Finance will let you know if you’re eligible once they get your application.
Credit: imgflip.comIf you’re eligible for the Tuition Loan, you can ask for as much (or as little) as you like, no matter how much income you or your folks have coming in.
On the other hand, maintenance loans are awarded on a sliding scale: the higher your household income, the less support you’ll get.
How much you can apply for also varies by country.
All of this means we can’t give you precise figures, as it’s different for everybody. What we can give you in the meantime is a heads-up. Here’s the maximum you can apply for if your course starts in 2017:
|Type of funding||England||Scotland||Wales||NI|
|Tuition Loan||£9,250||No fees in Scotland,|
£9k in rest of UK
£9,250 rest of UK
A few points to bear in mind:
- Maintenance Loan shown is for living away from home (you could get slightly more for studying in London).
- You'll get less maintenance money in your final year of study.
- There’s extra cash going if your course lasts longer than term-time 30 weeks, or if you spend a year studying abroad.
- The maintenance grant shown for Scotland is the Young Students' Bursary. The Independent Students' Bursary comes with less cash.
- Welsh students can get a non-income assessed fee grant that caps what you have to borrow for tuition (full details in our dedicated guide for Welsh students).
- In Wales and Northern Ireland, you may be able to apply for an income-assessed maintenance grant or a non-assessed Special Support Grant (SSG), for example if you’re a single parent or have disabilities. The benefit of SSG is that it doesn’t count as income, so it won’t affect any benefits you get.
What else can I ask for?
That’s your lot from Student Finance – but there is more cash out there up for grabs – it's just a matter of digging it out.
Ask your uni about scholarships, bursaries or extra support for students from low-income backgrounds, or start sniffing out the goodies for yourself.
Applying for Student Finance
You can apply online-only in Scotland, otherwise choose either online or by post if you're applying elsewhere in the UK.
Either way, you may need to post evidence – things like your passport or birth certificate, or paperwork if you’re applying for extra support such as dependants’ grants or DSA.
The form has enough questions to rival University Challenge so, depending on your circumstances, and how organised you are with paperwork, allow a couple of hours to complete – and always double check your application!
After that, the Student Finance bods reckon it can take at least 6 weeks to crunch the numbers and get back to you – it could be longer if you leave it until peak time during the summer holidays.
In the meantime, prep yourself as much as possible in order to stay on top of things:
- Estimate how much you’ll need and, crucially, how much of it Student Finance will cover. Use your budget to see how the numbers pan out, and get a back-up plan in place for any shortfall.
- Scout out scholarships, uni bursaries and charity grants.
- Start squirrelling away cash to tide you over when you first land on campus – you won’t get your first instalment from Student Finance until a few days after registering on your course.
Credit: imgflip.comIn short, you'll need paperwork, parents and steely eyed determination to hand.
More specifically, you'll need:
- A working email address if you're applying online. When you first register with Student Finance, they'll email you a reference number – keep hold of it! You'll need it to get official funding for the duration of your course.
- A bank account in your own name. Any maintenance money you get will be paid directly into your account, so get one set up before you apply, and make a note of the account number and sort code.
- School, uni and course details (if you don’t have a confirmed place, use the one you’re most likely to start and update it later).
- An in-date UK passport. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to send original documents (passport or birth certificate) to Student Finance – allow a few weeks to get them back!
- Income info (National Insurance number and details about any savings or pensions) for your parents or partner, or for yourself if you’re applying as an independent student or for one of the dependants’ grants. Top tip: find out what income doesn't need to be declared to avoid being short-changed on funding.
- Information about any support you’re already getting, and health evidence if you’re applying for DSA.
We've listed the deadlines to ensure you hit them if you want to get paid on time for courses starting or continuing in 2017.
You can still apply after this time (up to 9 months after the start of the academic year), but you might not get the cash when you need it – so get in early! Applications tend to open in Feb-March each year.
Student Finance England
New university students: 26th May 2017
Returning students: 3rd June 2017
Student Finance Wales
New university students: 12th May 2017
Returning students: 9th June 2017
Student Finance Northern Ireland
New university students: 7th April 2017
Returning students: 30th June 2017
Student Awards Agency (Scotland)
New university students: 30th June 2017
Returning students: 30th June 2017
- Apply early: The sooner you get your application rolling, the better – plus you’ll have extra time to sort out any teething troubles before your course starts.
- Do your research: try to ask for everything you think you’ll need (and are eligible for) up front
- Double-check everything before you submit: any bungles now will only delay when you get paid.
- Don’t forget to re-apply for finance each year!
- Don't panic if you miss the deadline: You can apply for student finance up to 9 months after the start of the academic year but the longer you leave it, the more of your own cash you’ll have to shell out in the meantime.
You’ve got the cash. Now what?
We can’t say this enough: make the most of the money you get. Whether that’s making it go further or turning it into an income, you need to be proactive to make it pay!
Take a look around Save the Student to get some serious schooling in the art of student thrift – get started right here.
Reckon we’ve missed a trick? Give us a shout in the comments below and we’ll credit your tips!