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What you need to know about student finance

If you're preparing to go to university, at some point you'll need to address the issue of money.

How will you finance your three or four year course? Although it may not be at the top of your priority list, sooner or later, you'll need to look at your finance options. We've put together this post to help guide you through your student finance options and provide you with some practical advice for making your money stretch further as a student.

'What you need to know about student finance in England'

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How to budget as a student

Before we get down to specifics, let's look at how you plan to budget your finances while at university. Most students go from living at home and having the benefit of their family's financial advice to living in their own accommodation with flatmates and being solely responsible for their incomings and outgoings.

It's important that you have a plan in place before you get to university. We suggest you create a simple spreadsheet with a list of all your possible outgoings in one column and your total incomings in the other. Add each column up and what you'll probably find is that living the student lifestyle is going to be more expensive than you thought, especially if you're moving into your own accommodation.

Student finance calculator

One of the best tools we've found for preparing your university budget is GovUK's student finance calculator. This handy tool keeps things simple with a series of multiple choice questions. Before you get started, there are two pieces of information that you'll need to know:

  1. How much your tuition fees will cost.
  2. What your parent's combined household income is.

Once you have this information to hand, you can complete the questionnaire and find out how much of  a tuition fee and maintenance loan you're entitled to.

For more practical tips on how to budget as a student, check out our post how to do university on a budget.

Applying for student finance in England

The following information about student finance is mainly aimed at students studying in England. Although most of this information will still be useful to students studying in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, applying for financial support in these countries is slightly different.

In order to apply for student finance, you need to set up an account with Student Finance England and apply through their online application form. To complete the application process, you will need to provide details about your personal finances and living arrangements. You'll also need to provide proof of identity.

Students from Scotland should apply through the SAAS website, students from Wales should apply through Student Finance Wales and those from Northern Ireland should apply through the Student Finance NI website.

Student loans in England

Unless you're eligible for a bursary or a scholarship, most students in England need to pay tuition fees to cover the cost of their university course. However, are eligible to apply for a student loan to temporarily cover the cost of the fees.

Tuition fee loan

A tuition fee loan is designed to cover the cost of your fees. As with any type of loan, you will need to pay the amount that you borrow back after you have graduated and start earning over a certain amount of money (details below). You can take out a student loan of up to £9,250 a year (for full-time students).

Most students who started their undergraduate degree after 1 August 2023 will be on plan 5 – which means you'll only start paying back your loan when you earn over £25,000 a year. However, you can start paying back your loan early if you want to.

Student maintenance loan

If you decide to move away from home and live on your own or with flatmates while at university, then you may want to also consider applying for a student maintenance loan. This type of loan covers the cost of your accommodation and living expenses.

For the 2024/25 academic year, you can borrow up to £10,227 (£13,348 if you are studying in London). If you live at home with your parents, you can borrow up to £8,610.

As with the tuition fee loan, you’ll generally start repaying the maintenance loan once you start earning more than £25,000 per year.

Working out your finances as a student can be tricky. However, as with most aspects of university life, being organised makes things a whole lot easier. At Success at School, we would suggest that if you're thinking about going to university, then it's never too early to start thinking about you will support yourself financially.

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