“Often they apply and think that’s it,” he says. “They don’t have a letter back and by the time they get to university they find out they were meant to supply more information.”
Next September, students at English universities will pay tuition fees of up to £9,250 a year and receive loans to cover the fees, paid directly to their institution. They’ll also be eligible for means-tested maintenance loans, paid directly into their bank accounts at the start of each term.
But to secure the loans they must first apply to the student finance body relevant to the part of the UK they’re from. Loan arrangements differ for different regions of the UK, but students funded by Student Finance England will be due to start repaying the loans once they’re earning more than £21,000, from the April after they stop the course.
Meanwhile, they’ll need to budget. “The first term is a long term to last on one payment, so don’t do the obvious thing of wasting the loan in the first month,” advises Fergus Macphee, 22, now in his third year at Manchester University after gaining a place through clearing to study drama and film. “Christmas is expensive, and if you run out of cash you will be totally miserable in the run up to January.”
His other piece of advice is to remember when rent payments come out of your bank account “so you don’t end up owing estate agents a lot of money”.
Different universities and cities will involve different living costs and you should be able to get some idea of what these are likely to be by checking out the various institutions’ websites.
It is important to find out what most students there actually spend, rather than what you could get away with spending, in theory, if you never went out or celebrated your friends’ birthdays, and managed to secure a bargain place to live.
One of the disadvantages of getting a place through clearing is that you can miss out on the most sought-after accommodation, which may be cheaper or closer to the institution, so it’s important to sort this out as soon as possible.
It’s also a good idea to think about whether or not you will need a part-time job, says Ellis. Again, the best jobs – particularly those on campus – are often snapped up early.
The financial support individual students receive can vary significantly because of means-testing and because some parents are much more generous – or better off – than others, so realistic prioritising is essential.
“Students have to manage money to have a good experience,” says Ellis. “If they spend aimlessly they cannot afford to spend on what they enjoy.”
Top financial tips
- Update your course and university details with Student Finance as soon as possible after securing a place through clearing, and send through any supporting evidence.
- Don’t assume your finance is sorted. If you haven’t received a letter from the loans company saying it is, check.
- If you’ve applied for finance online, quickly send back the signed declaration, which agrees to the terms and conditions of applying for student finance, to avoid delays.
- Remember, you won’t receive any finance until you register – and physically attend – university.
- Decide what your costs and income are likely to be and draw up a budget.
- Bear in mind that paying your rent is more of a priority than the student union’s tequila night.
- In fact, it’s more of a priority than anything else.
- But don’t forget Christmas, or the TV licence, or contents insurance, or the cost of your housemates’ birthdays.
- Work out early in the term whether you’re going to need a part-time job and certainly before you run out of money to pay the bus fare to get to it.
- If you’re struggling, ask for help. The earlier you get support the less likely it is your finances will get out of control.