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Money Matters

For a lot of us, university is the first time that we fully manage our own money. This can be a daunting and overwhelming experience for many. Here at Melanin Medics we are not financial advisors but we can help you start to think about what you need to consider when funding life at university.

Firstly, it is important to understand what you are entitled to. This can be a bit complicated as what you are entitled to and who funds this can depend on a multitude of factors, such as where you live and where your university is. For example, for a first time university student who has been living in England and has chosen to study in England, the key sources to know about are:

  • The Student Loans Company (who administer Student Finance England)

  • The NHS

  • Your university.

There are different organisations operating in the other devolved nations including Student Finance Wales, Student Finance NI, and the Student Awards Agency for Scotland. The British Medical Association has a good summary on what is on offer in different parts of the UK here.

In England, the Student Loans Company can provide you with a loan to cover your tuition fees (up to £9250) and a maintenance loan to help with living costs. The amount of maintenance loan that you are eligible for depends on criteria such as having dependants or the location of your university. For example, those studying in London tend to be offered a higher maintenance loan. It is also important to note that part of the maintenance loan is means-tested. This means that how much you receive is partly dependent on your household income. For a large number of you, household income will equate to your parents’ total salary.

The amount borrowed to finance university will need to be paid back, but only once you have finished your course and are earning above a certain amount. For a comprehensive guide to student finance, check out this guide here. Additionally, the Student Loans Company is hosting its annual Student Money Week from 1st to 5th March with a host of online interactive events where you can ask questions directly to those that will be processing your applications for funding.

Another source of funding for medical students is the NHS and your specific university. With regard to your university, it is important to find out what your university offers as this is unique to each institution. Some universities may offer significant grants or scholarships so it is vital that you explore this avenue. As for the NHS, undergraduates are able to apply for bursaries in the later years of their course. The NHS also offers hardship grants for those in need.

Now that we’ve looked at funding, let’s talk a bit about money management. Knowing how to budget is a key life skill that unfortunately is not commonly taught. It is essential that you know how much money you’ve got coming in and how much you’ve got going out. This is vital information to have to ensure that you don’t end up struggling or in debt. When it comes to calculating your expenditure make sure that you consider all of the following:

  • Rent

  • Travel

  • Food

  • Bills

  • Money for socialising

  • Saving for long/short term goals

  • Emergency Fund

Once you’ve calculated your expenditure, subtract this figure from your income, and then divide this number by the number of weeks in a term. This will show you how much you have to spend each week. There are a lot of good websites and apps that have budget calculators and spreadsheets to help you along the way such as this guide here and it’s never too early to start preparing!

In summary, money matters! Understanding your finances when starting university is a new experience for many, but will teach you the important life skill of budgeting. There are many resources out there that can help you in your financial journal and spending a bit of time preparing your budget will save you a lot of stress in the future.

Dr Katy Chisenga

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