Last week I started off my new series 'A Guide To Starting University' with talking about some of the things you need to do before you leave. Today I'm going to carry on with that topic and give you some tips on some other important things you should think about doing before you head off to uni.
This week I'm going to focus on probably one of the most important things to sort out and that's money, because without money you're a little bit screwed. The first step for sorting out money is...
Make sure you've applied for your student loan! Most students need a loan to cover their tuition fees and also a maintenance loan to help with general living costs like accommodation, food and clothes. To apply for your loan go to the student finance website and follow the steps to apply. Your tuition fee loan goes straight to the university so you don't really need to worry about this, the rest of the money is split into 3 payments that are transferred to your bank at the start of each term (September, January & April).
The amount of money you are given is dependent on the income of your parents. Some students will get a grant from the government and the higher your grant, the lower your loan, and this is again dependent on your parents income. However you don't ever have to pay back your grant unlike your loan which you pay back after you've graduated.
Student Bank Account
If you're lucky your loan might last you all term, or it might not even cover the cost of your accommodation. Thats why it's important to also get yourself a student bank account. These are specifically tailored to students and most offer interest free overdrafts, meaning you don't have to pay back your overdraft until you've graduated and also that you won't pay interest on the amount you've borrowed either.
Overdrafts can be quite controversial, and some students say they'd never have one, while others have no choice but to get one, decide what is best for you and don't feel ashamed if you spend all year living in your overdraft if you have to. That's what its there for. Personally, I need an overdraft, and although I spend more than I should, without it I wouldn't be able to eat some months! Different banks offer different overdraft limits, which usually increase each academic year, so make sure to see what's best for you, whether you need a big overdraft or whether you'd rather not have one otherwise you'll spend too much.
Some banks offer different freebies to entice you in, and these can be good offers such as railcards or NUS cards, however only go for these accounts if the other aspects of the accounts are what you need. Make sure to never go over your overdraft limit as the charges and interest can be very high! If you need to increase your overdraft speak to your bank and they may be able to help you.
The next logical step is to budget the money you have. Once you've worked out how much money you'll have to play with each month give yourself a budget. This amount will be different for everyone, but be realistic! You're most likely going to spend a lot of money during your first few months while you get use to university life, so if you can, factor this in.
You'll probably spend a lot more money than you think you will, so maybe re-budget after a month or so at uni and keep track of what you're spending and see where you can cut back. Maybe you're buying lots of clothes, or shopping at Waitrose rather than Aldi. Maybe you need to keep your bank card at home on nights out, or your spending money on taxis when you could be walking.
Budgeting is hard, I'm starting my third year of uni and I still haven't got to grips with budgeting so don't be too hard on yourself if you end up having to call on the bank of mum and dad a few times. There is a way to get yourself some more money though...
This is obviously the best way to get yourself some extra cash, however it might not be as easy as you think. If you know you're going to need a job, start looking asap! Remember you're competing with students from all years, and also remember retail jobs will often only employ you if you're able to work the christmas season. Make sure your CV is up to date and print off lots of copies and walk around your town/city handing them out to as many places as possible.
One of the best places to try and get a job is your Student's Union, as they understand that you're a student and can usually be flexible if you have assignments to complete, they also understand you might not be around outside of term time. First year is a good time to try and get a job as you have the least amount of work and pressure, where as second and third year have a lot more pressure and you might not want to be working.
Lots of funding, scholarships and bursaries are available from universities and the government. These usually aren't available to everyone and have different criteria depending on the type of funding. Make sure to have a look on your uni's website to see if there are any you would qualify for.
Hopefully this post will have helped you sort yourself out money wise for uni. Don't stress too much about money, not many students have much money so you're all kind of in the same boat together. Don't feel pressured to spend more than you want, but also don't feel pressured to not spend, you can do what you want with your money. Just make sure you're prepared and know how much you've got.