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Our simple guide to the application process outlines the steps to follow to take the stress out of your student finance application.

  1. Create a student finance account – You do this on gov.uk
  2. Fill in the application form – You will need to know the start and end date of your course, your National Insurance number and also your bank details (bank account must be in your name).
  3. Gather supporting information – This includes items such as payslips, P60 to prove household income, and passport to prove your identity. (If you don’t have a passport you can send originals of your birth certificate).
  4. Sign declaration with e-signature and submit online
  5. Receive Student Finance Entitlement Letter – This will tell you how much you are entitled to and when you will be paid (usually in 3 instalments across the year). Keep this letter safe as you may require it when you enrol at university.
  6. Attendance confirmed by institution – This will trigger your first payment, so ensure that your name appears exactly the same across all documents, such as UCAS application, Student Finance.

Useful Tips

  • Click to share income details with your university as you may be entitled to a bursary depending on your circumstances.
  • Have the evidence ready, so let anyone who needs to support your application know when you are intending to apply.
  • Apply early – don’t wait for offers before you apply.
  • Give yourself time – it can take a few hours to complete.
  • Check, and double check before you submit, as errors will hold up your process.

What ifs…

What if I change my mind about my course or institution?

This is easily changed by contacting Student Finance. The time-consuming part of the process is the processing of financial information. The information relating to your course and institution might impact the amount of money you are awarded (If you’re moving away from home, or staying in London), but this won’t take long for Student Finance to amend.

What if I’m care-experienced or estranged?

There is lots of support available for students who have experience of care, or who are estranged. First of all, make sure you have declared this on your UCAS form to ensure you get the right support at university. In terms of finance, you will be assessed as an independent student, which means your application is based solely on your income. Your local authority will also have their own support package (it differs from authority to authority), but make sure you find out what is available to you – your social worker should be able to help you. Additionally, every university will have their own package of support for you too. Search on the university websites for ‘care leaver or estranged student’, or you can look on the Propel or NNECL websites who have more information.

What if I have a disability?

You can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance if you have any form of disability. In this context the term ‘disability’ refers to any physical or mental health condition, or specific learning difference such as dyslexia or autism. Each application is based on individual circumstances and you will need to attend a Needs Assessment. Not everybody with a disability gets awarded Disabled Students’ Allowance, however, you can access support available at your university. You can find out more about what is on offer at the University of Chester.

What if my or my parents/carers’ income has changed compared to last year?

Student finance is assessed based on a full tax year of income and so they request information relating to the previous tax year to the one you are applying in. However, circumstances change, particularly at the moment with Covid-19. If the figures for your current circumstances have dropped by 15% or more compared to last year, you can request that your application is assessed based on the current tax year. You do this by filling out the Current Year Income Assessment form. Further information can be found on the relevant student finance websites. For English students you can visit gov.uk and for Welsh students you can visit SF Wales.

What if I don’t want the whole amount I’m entitled to?

When you receive your payment schedule, this will show the maximum amount that is available to you. You are not obliged to take all of the money that you are entitled to. Once you have done your budget, you can decide how much you realistically need, however many people take the full amount.

What if I apply after the deadline?

The deadline this year has been extended to 30th June. However, you can apply after the deadline, so don’t panic if you miss it. You can actually apply up to nine months into your studies, however if you do apply after the deadline, you are not guaranteed to have your funds at the start of term. This can cause stress, so the best thing to do is to apply as soon as you can.

What if my parents are divorced or separated?

Your student finance is based on who you live with most of the time. This might also include a partner if they live in the same house too.

What if I live on my own?

If you live on your own, or if you are financially independent (pay your own bills, but live with someone else), you will be assessed as an independent student. You will also be assessed as an independent student if you are over 25, or are the carer for anyone under the age of 18, amongst other criteria which can be found at Student Finance. This means that your parents/carers’ income will not be used in your assessment, and it will be based on your own household income.

What if I struggle with money at university?

University is often the first time you have been fully financially independent, and it can be a tricky process. This is why we recommend that you plan and budget your money to help you spread out the money you do have for all that you need. However, if you do find yourself struggling financially at university, you are not alone – there is help at hand. Every university has funds available for students who are in need. At the University of Chester, we have a Financial Assistance Fund which is non-repayable, and a Delayed Funds Loan which is repayable and used for those who have not received their student finance on time. Further information about additional financial help is on our website. 

What if I’ve been to university before?

One of the eligibility criteria for student finance is that you have not been to university before. This means that you are unlikely to get funding for a second degree, even if the first was self-funded. However, there are some exceptions depending on the type of qualification and course. Further information is available on the Government website about eligibility.

What if I want to repay my loan while I’m studying?

You are not obliged to start repaying your loan until the April after you have finished university and earning over £25,000 per year. Repayments will be taken from your wages automatically similar to tax and will always be based on how much you earn and NOT how much you owe. However, you are entitled to set up your own individual extra repayments alongside this at any time from receiving the loan. However, the gov.uk website advises that ‘you should only make extra repayments if you think you can pay off the full balance before the loan term ends. This is because your loan will be written off at the end of the term.’ There are no early repayment charges if you do pay your loan off in full before the term. This is one of the several ways that student loans differ from other commercial loans such as a loan from a bank.

What if I move abroad after graduating?

If you live outside of the UK for more than three months, you have to let Student Finance know. You are still liable for repayments based on your income, but each country has different threshold depending on the cost of living in that country.

What if I want to get a mortgage or other debt in the future?

Your student loan will not appear on any credit reports like other debts such as bank loans or credit cards do. For this reason, you will not be impacted when applying for other forms of credit in the future. Your student loan repayments may come into consideration if an application checks affordability and looks at your monthly outgoings however, as it will show as a deduction on your payslip. This is another way that makes student loans different to any other loan you might have in the future.

What if I’m studying in a different country?

If you are studying in the UK but in a different UK nation from where you live, you apply to the Student Finance body in the country where you usually live. If you choose to study outside of the UK for part of your course as part of a Study Abroad programme, you will still be eligible for funding while you are out of the country. However, if you choose to study your entire degree overseas, you will not be eligible for student finance from the UK. There may be some form of scholarships or grants available from the country or university you choose, but it varies widely so should be researched.

What if I decide not to go to university after I’ve applied for finance?

Once you have made a student finance application and it has been assessed, the money being released is only triggered when your university confirms you have enrolled. If you choose not to enrol, then your application is not progressed, no money is released and you have not entered into the contract with the relevant Student Finance body. It is for this reason why applying early is a good way to prepare, even if you are not fully decided on going to university.

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