Helping students think about money while choosing a university

Tom Allingham from Save the Student, shares their latest advice and guidance.
Posted Wed 1 March 2023 - 08:45

For many prospective students, university will be the first time they’re responsible for their own finances. But having to do this during a cost of living crisis is a real baptism of fire, and students need to be made aware of the challenges ahead, as well as the support available.

Student finance is one of the most common sources of cash for those at university. Our guide to Maintenance Loans explains all aspects of the funding, including indicative amounts that a student might receive based on their household income and, crucially, their living arrangements. This can help them to decide if they’d be better off living at home, as well as whether to study in or outside of London.

From our research, we’ve also been able to list the average living costs at universities across the UK. Although no two students are the same, this should give a good idea of their potential outgoings at each university they’ve applied to.

However, our most recent Student Money Survey found that, on average, the Maintenance Loan falls short of living costs by £439 every month. It’s vital that students work out what they’re entitled to long before starting university, so they can look at bridging the shortfall with other forms of income, like parental contributions.

While it’s never an easy discussion, students should be encouraged to speak with their parents about how much – if anything – they’ll be able to give them. The Government expects parents to top up their child’s loan to the maximum amount, and it’s important that all parties are aware of this early on. Our parental contributions calculator helps families work out what this figure is likely to be, aiding these conversations.

Of course, not all parents will be able to help, especially right now. So, what other funding is available?

Students from lower-income households especially may find that they’re eligible for bursaries, scholarships, or grants. If these funds are supplied by student finance or a university, students will often be assessed and paid automatically – but not always.

Sometimes students will need to find and apply for this money themselves. We have a list of bursary sources which features all of the best places to look, plus a guide to some of the more unusual funds available, highlighting just how much free cash is out there.

But again, not all students will be eligible. Fortunately, there is one safety net that almost everyone can benefit from: the 0% overdraft available with student bank accounts.

We’d advise students to apply for the account with the largest 0% overdraft, not the most enticing freebie. After all, an extra £1,000 of low-risk cash is a far better perk than a free rail card. Our guide to the best student bank accounts lists all the options, plus how to use this facility safely.

And, above all, it’s important to emphasise the importance of open and honest conversations about money. The cost of a degree has never been higher, and while funding is out there, it’s often not enough. A student burying their head in the sand won’t solve anything.

For more free information and advice, or if you’d like to get in touch, head to

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