University is said to be the best time of your life, a time your lives transform in many ways but also a time for you to set the foundation for your future. However, for many students in UK University’s it might also be a time of financial hardship which means you will have to support yourself without student finance. Student finance is essentially a package that includes a tuition fee loan and maintenance loan that is offered to help pay for university and help with the living cost for those who are eligible. Though for students like me who have grown up in the UK but are not British citizens we are not fortunate enough to have the support of student finance and as a result we are treated as overseas students, which means we can’t access student loan. I was not aware of this until I completed my UCAS form only to be told that I couldn’t receive student finance but also would be classed as an international student even though I had spent half of my life in British education with no awareness that my status would affect my chances of going to university. I was fortunate enough to have the support of my family especially my Mum who has supported me over the past 3 years at university and by the grace of God; I hope to finish my final year of university. However, not all students are fortunate enough to have that support but there are other forms of support systems in place to ensure that you can still successfully complete university and have the best time of your life.
Scholarships and funding: Scholarships are one way in which students who are not eligible for student finance can still successfully study at university and with the help of campaign groups like ‘Let us Learn’ more universities are creating scholarships for young people to access university. Examples of these universities are De Montfort University, SOAS, UCL, LSE, Sussex, Birmingham, Royal Holloway, Kingston, etc, who have either extended eligibility criteria for young people with limited or discretionary leave to remain or created new scholarships for students like me. To find out more about other universities who offer scholarships and funding follow the #younggiftedandblocked campaign by Let us learn
Fundraising: I am sure we have all seen the various crowd fund pages made for students who are unable to complete their university course or are left in financial uncertainty. Fundraising is one of the ways to actively raising money to fund your studies but also campaigning and bringing more awareness those who might be in the same predicament to make sure to check their immigration status and eligibility before it is too late.
Part time job: This is not just for students without student finance but also for all students. I knew university wouldn’t be an easy ride and I would have to find a way to support myself when times get difficult which it was most time. So I made sure to ceased every opportunity I got to earn some money whether it was working as a temp for my university employment office as a helper during open day which resulted in working as a student ambassador for my university that way I had a permanent job for the year but also gained some work experience which went a long way. The experience I had from working as a student ambassador gave me the confidence to apply for a much better job for my third year, which by God’s grace will help to cover my living cost in my final year but also means I have a stable form of income which relieves any financial constraint during the year. I would advise students to get a job as long as it doesn’t interfere with your studies. Preferably a job on your university campus because this makes travelling easier and cheaper but also most universities offer jobs such as student ambassador or temp jobs within the university, which also pay well and are considerate of your studies.
Banking and savings: One lesson I also learned over the past 2 years is budgeting the money I have and learning to live within my means as hard as it can be. Most students get a student account which offers an interest-free overdraft for the length of your course which can useful when it comes to times you need extra money. However, keep in mind that this is not free and you will have to pay it back. I myself decided not to get a planned overdraft but instead had a £50 buffer zone put on my account, which meant I could go into an unplanned overdraft of £50 without any fee’s or interests on my account if I go into an overdraft. For some people, this might not work, but for me it helps to manage how much I am spending and a guidance of living within my means and budget the money I have to ensure I don’t fall into an unexpected problem. There are also other ways to save money whether it’s getting a national express coach card, NUS card, as well as the various student discount accounts like Unidays come in handy as well.
Utilise support systems at university: My second year was one of the hardest time I had at university. As expected finances can take a toll on you and I was at the point of being deregistered from my university because I hadn’t paid my Tuition fees. Although at the time I wanted to deal with it alone and not speak to anyone about it this did not help when it came to my studies as things started to slip. I had to seek help and one thing my university is good for is the support system like the well-being service and financial aid that are ready to offer support and help to ensure I kept my place at university. I would advise any student who is going to university to please utilize these support system but also look at the financial aid provided by your schools and if you are experiencing any issues to let them know. There are also hardship fund provides which can help with short-term loans if you need it.
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