How to apply for a student loan

If you are about to head off to university, you might need some financial support. Check out our step-by-step guide on how to apply for a student loan.

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With tuition fees and living costs combined, university is far from cheap! Most students will need some financial help during their time in higher education. This is where student loans come in. If you are about to head off to university, then this step-by-step guide on how to apply for a student loan is just the thing for you.

Let’s take a look.

First steps

Before you launch into applying for a student loan, there is a little bit of groundwork that needs to be done. Here are three things to do before completing your application.

1. Check whether you are eligible

Whether you qualify for student finance depends on your university or college, your course, whether you have studied in higher education before, your age and your nationality. You can find out more about the eligibility criteria on the website.

It is also worth knowing that there are different processes for students applying in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

2. Find out how much you could get

Your student finance will come in two parts: a tuition fee loan and a maintenance loan.

The maximum amount you can get on either loan will depend on what type of student you are (e.g. new full-time, new part-time, continuing full-time, etc.).

The size of your maintenance loan is based on where you study and your household income.

3. See whether you can get extra help

It’s wise to find out whether you qualify for extra help. For example, students with children or those who have an adult who is financially dependent on them could qualify for extra support. You can use the student finance calculator on the website to estimate what you would be eligible for.

Completing your application

In order to apply for a student loan, you need to head to Student Finance England*. Here, you will be able to apply for Tuition Fee Loans, Maintenance Loans and Maintenance Grants.

The good news is you can apply up to nine months after the start of the academic year of your course. So if you are about to check into your student digs but still haven’t sorted out your loan, you still have time!

But it is worth noting that applications can take up to six weeks. So in terms of supporting yourself while at uni, it’s best to get your loan in place before you start your course.

Here’s how to apply for a student loan:

  • Create an online account with Student Finance England. You will be asked to provide personal details, and you will need your passport, National Insurance number and bank details.
  • Set a password and a ‘secret answer’ that you will need when you want to access your account again. Completing the application should only take about 30 minutes.
  • If you are applying for a maintenance loan that is means-tested, you will need to provide proof of income. People in your household will need to confirm their income. If this is your parents, they will receive an email from Student Finance England talking them through the type of proof they need to provide.

*There is a different process for students from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Budgeting as a student

This may be your first time living alone and managing your own money. After you get your first student loan instalment, it may be tempting to head straight down to the Student Union.

But understanding how much you have coming in and what fixed costs you have can make a big difference to your financial wellbeing in higher education.

Therefore, before you get caught up in your new studies, it would be a worthwhile exercise to work out when you will receive each student loan instalment and how much it will be. Then take a look at when you need to pay your tuition fees and rent. Finally, take a look at what you think your living costs will be between payments, and work out a weekly budget to stick to.

Adopting good budgeting practices early on means you can avoid falling into a debt trap as a student. If you can stick to your budget and manage your money, then you won’t need to rely on things like overdrafts or credit cards.