A student loan is often essential in allowing a student the chance to study at university. As most people entering university are under the age of 21, it is unlikely that they will have had a need to borrow money, and those that have will have found it difficult to obtain a normal loan because of a lack of credit history. Because of its importance, applying for a student loan can be a very daunting process. In most cases these loans are obtained from the Student Loans Company (SLC) and are much different to any other type of loan in terms of application, repayments and interest rates.
Should I get a student loan?
This is the first, and most important, question that you should ask yourself. Whether or not you should apply for a student loan will depend on if you have the financial support available throughout your studies. While, help from family and a part-time job may be enough to support current students, the rise in tuition fees from 1 September 2012 will make this more difficult. A student loan will provide you with enough money to cover tuition fees and financial help with maintenance costs. Loans are available to both full-time and part-time students.
Am I eligible for a student loan?
While everyone is not guaranteed eligibility for a loan, most people are able. Before submitting a student loan application you should find out whether you are eligible by contacting the Student Loans Company (SLC). You should check at the earliest possible time.
Certain universities and courses will not qualify for student loans and all applicants must meet specific criteria, such as age (must be under 60) and be living in the UK (contact the company for specific criteria).
When should I start applying for a student loan?
The answer to this question is: as early as possible. Hundreds of thousands of students apply for loans at the same time and the sooner your application is in, the sooner it can be processed. The application process is complex and extensive. Things such as mistakes when filling out the form, awaiting evidence of household income and confirmation of your university place can take a long time to process; the earlier the application is in, the more time you have to amend any problems.
You can currently apply for a student loan approximately a year before staring a full-time course and one month before starting a part-time course. Applying for a student loan after starting university can be done up to six months after the start of a part-time course and up to nine months after starting a full-time course.
The application process
The application process for a student loan is as follows:
1. Visit the SLC website and open an online account to start applying for a student loan.
2. Start filling out the application form at the earliest possible time.
3. Submit any evidence if required. Proof of earning for people in your household may be needed.
4. Sign the declaration and post it back to the Student Loans Company (SLC).
At the end of each university year, you will be asked if your situation has changes so that the correct adjusts can be made to your loan for the coming year. It is important that the Student Loans Company (SLC) is notified of any changes as soon as possible.
After the completion of your student loan application, if a decision is made that you do not agree with (i.e. the type and amount of student finance you have received), it is possible to go through an appeals process. More information on this can be found at GOV.UK.