“University is only for the wealthy”. A statement I’m sure you’ve all heard at some point in your life. A statement which has probably induced many a panic about applying to university. A statement, most importantly, which is utterly false. As someone who came to university from a low-income background, I was particularly stressed about the financial aspect of university. I’m sure there are many other prospective, or current, students who are also experiencing this. So through this blog I want to try and debunk some myths and put your minds at ease.
It is important to remember first and foremost that you deserve a place at university as much as the next student, and you shouldn’t let your financial position define you, your worth, or your university experience.
Debunking common myths about studying as a low-income student
‘University is unaffordable for students from low-income.’
As I implied earlier, this is completely fictitious. Yes, living away from home can be expensive, however, it is not unaffordable. The way student finance works in England means that the allocation of the maintenance loan varies depending on your financial situation. Students with a lower household income will receive a higher maintenance loan and vice versa. With a sensible budget, you’d be surprised at how affordable living away from home can be, without having to find part-time work.
‘I will miss out on the social side of university.’
Again, another falsity I hear. I would like to reiterate that coming from a low-income background does not equal having to miss out or sacrifice different aspects of university.
Firstly, there are many budget-friendly options to get the most out of the social side of university. For example, if you join a society, you can attend their socials at no extra cost after you’ve bought membership. Most memberships are between £5 and £20 for the year, some are more expensive though! Check the YUSU website to see what societies the Uni of York offers. You can also just meet up with friends and explore the city to find some affordable hidden gems.
Secondly, if you want to go on nights out, you can! Clubs, pubs, and the on-campus student union bars all have student nights with great deals on drinks, making it more affordable.
Finally, it comes down to budgeting again, being smart with your student loan, and prioritising where you want to spend your money. You don’t have to drop £100 on a night out!!!
‘There’s no support for low-income students.’
The University of York offers a lot of support for those who come from low-income backgrounds or find themselves struggling financially. They do this in 3 ways: bursaries, scholarships, and hardship funding.
- Bursary: If awarded a bursary, you don’t have to pay this back to the University. It’s a sum of money awarded to students who meet specific criteria. You don’t have to apply for a bursary, the University assesses students based on the information provided to Student Finance. (Bursary’s are for UK students only). Read more about the bursary’s York offers.
- Scholarships: The University offers a variety of scholarships, all with varying eligibility criteria, so it is definitely worth having a good look at what the university can offer you! Scholarships are competitive though, so it’s worth spending a good amount of time working on your application to give yourself the best chance of receiving one. Similar to a bursary, you don’t have to pay this money back to the University. Read more about the scholarships York offers.
- Hardship Funding: If you find yourself really struggling financially whilst at university, you do have options and help available! The Hardship Funds have a mixture of loans (which you have to repay) and grants (which you don’t have to repay). Explore the funding options the Uni offers.
Budget, budget, budget!
Putting a budget in place, even if it’s a rough outline, will help ease some anxiety about your finances from the get-go. Try to plan ahead. If you know you’re someone who likes to go out, know that this means you might have to adjust your budget accordingly.
Use the services the University provides.
Apply for any scholarships that you can. There’s no shame in applying for a scholarship. Similarly, if you do find yourself in need of help, utilise the hardship funds. Again, there’s no shame in asking for help if you need it.
At the time of writing, The Courtyard (one of the student union bars on campus) also offer 40p beans on toast for breakfast every day between 08:30 and 11:00 to offer students a cheaper breakfast. Take advantage of what the University offers! These options are here for a reason.
Look for part-time work, if you need it.
Depending on your student loan, it’s completely possible to not have to take on a part-time job whilst studying. However, if you’re struggling, look in town or at the university to see if there are any part-time roles available to provide you with extra income.
Just remember, university is an experience to be enjoyed, not endured!