If you're heading off to university this year, it's time to start planning your costs, investigating loan/grant options, and planning your finances. If you're struggling to know where to start, take a look at our handy guide.
It's important to have a system in place to assess the state of your finances, giving you a reliable budget for the future. Our free Money Dashboard budgeting software is an easy way to get a quick overview of all of your bank accounts in one place. As well as giving you a clear view of your finances, you can quickly and easily add multiple accounts as you put your student finances in place.
The first thing to estimate is exactly how much your studies will cost over the duration of your course. Key areas to research are:
- Tuition fees
- Accommodation costs
- Course requirements (books, software, materials etc)
Once you know how much you'll need, you can work out the best way to cover your costs.
Government grants and bursaries
Grants and bursaries exist to support students, and don't have to be repaid.
The government offers maintenance and special support grants for students from low income families, with a disability, to cover childcare, and plenty of other reasons. You'll find them on gov.uk, and can use the student finance calculator to check whether you're eligible.
Students living in Scotland and staying for their first degree also receive a grant to cover their fees.
Other grants, bursaries and scholarships
Individual universities also offer help. Each institution will have a dedicated web page, and it's wise to check as early as possible as some schemes are competitive and have early deadlines.
Companies like Ford, government employers like the Royal Navy and charities like the Wellcome Trust also offer scholarships and grants, sometimes alongside a guaranteed work placement scheme after you graduate.
Full-time students from England studying for their first degree are eligible for loans of up to £7,751, depending on where in the country they study, and whether they will be living at home. In Northern Ireland, loans of up to £6,780 per year are available, and Welsh students can receive tuition fee loans of £3,575, topped up with a grant of up to £5,425. As with grants, you can check the student finance calculator to see how much you're eligible to receive.
Remember, student loans do charge interest. If your course finishes after 2016, you will be paying inflation + 3% while you study. Once you graduate, interest will just match inflation while you earn under £21,000 per year, then rise up to inflation +3% again as your earnings (hopefully) rise to £41,000 and beyond.
You can find rates for earlier course start dates and read more about loan repayments in our handy guide to student debt.
Once you have the cash lined up, think carefully about where to put it. Current account providers are keen to attract students, so there are some lucrative offers up for grabs.
Look for accounts offering a decent sized 0% overdraft to give yourself some leeway with your finances, or seek out cash and freebies if you're confident you're covered. And don't forget to keep track of your finances as you go using Money Dashboard's free finance software.
Posted by Marc Murphy, Marketing Manager at Money Dashboard.