Returning to studying: financing a Masters

I decided I was going to undertake a Masters course fulltime which meant leaving a job I really loved and a reliant income that I’d become attached to. Although I’d only been working for three years, returning to studying felt like a big change. I was nervous about how I would cope financially. I’m now over half way through and think I’m starting to get the hang of it. So, here are just my thoughts on how the year has gone so far, how I feel about returning to studying and how I’m financing my Masters.

The Postgraduate Loan

My choice to do a Masters was only possible due to the postgraduate loan. I researched this online a lot and even contacted the university about it before applying. As it’s now available to everyone it meant I was able to consider the course without having to worry it might burden my family or partner.

The loan arrives as three equal payments at the start of each term. However, I knew I’d have to pay the largest part of my course costs in September.  This meant, in the end, I took out the full loan to always cover the cost of the course. Later, it gave me some extra to support myself.

It’s always been easy to contact student finance England, which has surprised me. As soon as I had my offer confirmed I made sure I had my loan sorted. It definitely put my mind at rest before starting the course.

TIP: Once term starts don’t forget to register your attendance with the University. This almost led to a delay in my loan payments!

Every little helps!

Behind the bar at The Trembling Madness

I knew the loan would only go so far, so always intended to get a part-time job for living costs. I got a job in one of my favourite bars in town, just before the start of term. Alongside this, I started working as a student ambassador which was great to do occasional work for extra money.

Leaving a pretty much nine to five job, at first I felt like I needed to fill all my days. In September, I took on too many bar shifts and other commitments outside of my studies because I found myself feeling a bit guilty when I went to the library and not being in work difficult, which
I hadn’t expected.

Eventually, I had to remind myself why I had chosen to do a Masters. I definitely won’t be putting money away as savings this year but it has been possible to adjust back to student living.

Now I work twice a week in the bar and make sure I allocate days to doing academic work as well. It took a while to get the balance right. I’ve learnt its key to let myself have the time to do the studying I am here to do.

TIP: If you’re able to, save a little bit of money before the start of the course. Putting away some of my last two pay packets helped as a cushion when my income dropped.

Unexpected changes

There’s lots of information out there to help you prepare for returning to studying, whatever background you come from. However I’ve found a Masters year happens really fast and the work load changes each term, it’s best to be adaptable. This has meant changing my spending some times and being more frugal.

To finish, here are just a couple of the best things that took me by surprise in returning to studying:

  • I forgot that as a student you do not pay council tax. It felt like winning the lottery when the exemption letter first came through!
  • Even alongside a couple of part-time jobs and a busy academic schedule, it was possible to join the wider University community. It’s been great to attend open lectures in my department and to be part of the postgraduate community in my college.

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Hello, my names Ed and I've returned to studying to do a masters in Social Justice and Education. I've lived in York for six years now and still love the city.