Money – that thing that has us crying with despair when we log onto our online banking. That thing that seems to disappear without our recollection after a few too many pitchers at Spoons. That thing that there is never enough of.
We hate it, we love it, we want it, and we definitely can’t escape it. Money is what ensures our place at university, gives us the means to live and to enjoy that life. But for those of us who don’t have a lot of it, it can become a constant worry that latches itself onto our minds.
Accommodation rent, living costs, university supplies and supporting our social lives can mean that the expenses tend to pile up. University is not cheap and this can be a concern for prospective undergraduates, especially when coming from a low income home. But I’m here to fight off those fears of financial instability and reassure you that university can be and is an achievable goal for every financial bracket.
First of all, if your household income is collectively more than £50k a year, you should probably turn away now as my advice speaks to the substantially lower income bracket of £25k or less. My initial advice – don’t panic! I am about to share with you the pearls of my wisdom which will allow you to live comfortably whilst at university without tearing your hair out every time a seminar leader gives you a new textbook to buy.
We’ve all heard of student finance, and we’ve all probably applied for it and so we know what basic help there is out there for students. If you come from a low income household, then in terms of maintenance loans you are already at a huge advantage as you will receive the maximum loan somewhere around £8,000. This sum is already enough to cover your rent for the year, the first major financial hurdle of a student’s life (unless you have managed to secure such fantastic 5* accommodation that your walls aren’t as thin as a UCAS application letter with a single kitchen cupboard to your name, in which case, share with me all of your secrets).
Now I can only speak to the University of Sheffield students, but a further bursary is available for low income students from £500 all the way up to £1,500 depending on your postcode and grades. And this will be automatically assessed based on the information you provide to student finance so that the university will automatically allocate you these funds without you even having to apply. Sounds good, right? Hold on to your hats, because it gets even better.
Many universities also offer a range of scholarships across a plethora of disciplines; from STEM to arts and humanities, they have most likely got you covered. Now, as I reach back through my memories to 2017 (and forgive me if I am incorrect as it has been a long two years), I am almost entirely certain that I received an email about the available scholarships of which I was eligible to apply for. This might not always be the case, however, so a quick internet search may be required on your end to find out exactly what your university has to offer and for whom. Where these scholarships differ from the available money previously mentioned is that these aren’t awarded to everybody eligible for them – only the successful applicants. So get your smartest, brightest, wordsmith head on to be able to craft your application so as to leave you at a significant advantage to the rest that may apply.
Over the course of the year, you may also find the opportunity to do paid work experience within your favoured sector through the university. These bursaries offered by the university are highly competitive. You have to do the work for it yourself by contacting an employer and requesting work experience either over the Easter or summer period and then providing this confirmation to the university along with a detailed application. But if successful, this can secure you up to £1,400 and enable you to take part in relevant, useful work experience that otherwise would not have paid you, instead of taking on a less relevant part-time job over the break that paid.
The university knows how finances can shape a student’s experience, and they want to do all that they can to help. So make sure that you use of all the opportunities available so that you do not waste a second of your 3/4/5 years here and have all the resources to help you succeed. I promise that if you follow this advice, you have everything you need to be successful.