Hey everyone, it is coming to that time in your university journey that you have to start thinking about your finances to support you throughout the academic year and beyond. Coming from Northern Ireland, my experience with student finance was slightly different but not that scary at all.
Applying for your student finance well in advance before the closing date is so essential as sometimes, the application forms do not get approved straight away due to a small mistake or the incorrect information being given.
The first thing I did when applying to student finance was talk to someone who had already been through it. I spoke to my cousin who had been through it a couple of times and she was the one who told me to look online before I started. She also told me that it was easier if I applied for student finance online rather than through the document that was given to me at school. This was because if there was a mistake in the hard copy of the application it would take longer to send back and then have to post it away again once it was corrected. The student finance Northern Ireland website actually advises this as well.
As you probably already know, you need to be careful about what application form you download and so, there are a couple of things you need to check before you start to fill in the application form. Firstly make sure that you are applying for the correct academic year, that you chose the undergraduate or postgraduate form and if you are a full time or part time student. This information is essential to check before beginning the form.
The application form is quite long but as I said there is a lot of guidance on the website that you can download. I found these really helpful as the process can be quite overwhelming and some of the questions can be confusing. Just remember to keep checking over what you have done to minimise the chances of it being sent back again.
Also, when it comes to the part in the application that requires you to fill in household income, it might be useful to have your parents/guardians around you to ensure that you get the correct information as this will affect how much money you recieve. On the student finance NI website there is a guide that parents and guardians can read/download if they need any additional support or clarification about what information is needed.
As I am in my second year of university, when I get my finance is different from my first year but they are usually around the same time. I get my first instalment of student finance in September (around the 15th/16th mark) just in time before I start classes (and freshers!). My second instalment usually drops right after Christmas time when school starts back again (mine came on the 6th of January 2020). My final instalment usually comes in after Easter just in time for the end of the academic year for me.
Like I said, the website is very useful and full of information if you need it but do not be afraid to give them a call for anything at all. I rang when I didn’t understand what I needed to do when applying for my second year student finance and the person on the phone was very calm and talked me through what I needed to do.
I hope that you found this useful and are excited to start your university journey, Lauren Fitzsimons.
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”-Beverly Sills-