sorting out your finances is vital and there are loads of ways of getting your hands on extra funds
The amount of money you will be expected to shell out in the first few days of term could make you shriek with horror - unless you are expecting it and have planned for it. Here's how to get organised.

Your very first outlay may be your contribution towards your tuition fee. ("Contribution", because the average course costs more than pounds 4,000 to run.) You will have to pay anything up to pounds 1,025 in 1999/2000 and unless you are a new applicant - in which case contact your appropriate local or national student support agency at once to find out how to apply for assistance - you should know already how much your contribution is.

Do you have to pay it all in one go? That will depend on your college or university. Some do expect students to pay in full at the start of the first term. Others allow them to pay in instalments.

After that comes your accommodation bill - again due as soon as you arrive. And it will probably be the bill for the whole term payable in advance. (At least that way you know where your finances stand. But if you can pay monthly you'll need to watch your bank account very carefully to make sure you haven't spent the money.)

Hundreds more pounds. Ouch. And you haven't even bought a book yet. More money to lay out before you can hit the bar. So where can you get money from?

Student loans

These are now a major source of income for most students. The maximum loan figures for the academic year 1999/2000 are:

For students living away from their parents' home and studying...

Full year Final year

...in London pounds 4,480 pounds 3,885

...elsewhere pounds 3,635 pounds 3,150

For students living at their parents' home

Full year Final year

pounds 2,875 pounds 2,510

(Figures provided by the Student Loans Company Ltd. Further information can be obtained from the Student Loans Company helpline: 0800 405 010)

Everyone is eligible to borrow most of the loan amount but part of it is given on a means-tested basis.

There are various additional sums available in certain circumstances, for example if you have to attend your university/ college for more than 38 weeks or you have to (as opposed to choose to) spend part of your course studying in another country. If you haven't got one already, you really need to get hold of the booklet on student support which is available from the addresses below. The booklet will also tell you about the arrangements for repaying the loan when you graduate.

All applications for loans and assistance with payment of tuiton fees must be made not later than four months after the start of your course.

Other state sources

Hardship loans of up to pounds 250 per year may be made to students in certain circumstances. Universities and colleges may also make payments from their Access Funds - funds paid to them by the Government to allocate to students. The decision on how to allocate Access Fund money is at their discretion. Enquire at your university/college's student services office about both of these sources.

Scholarships

Many universities and colleges now award their own scholarships. They may be for students on specific courses or for those with the best entry grades. Either way they will be competitive - but someone has to win. Get details and if appropriate, have a go.

Charitable trusts

May make small payments to students on certain courses who fulfil certain residential qualifications (charitable trusts are often regionally based) or other criteria. Look for the `Directory of Educational Trusts' in a reference library.

Sponsorship

What's this? An arrangement between a student and an employer or professional organisation under which the sponsor gives the student a tax-free sum of money (on average, about pounds 1,300 a year) and pays a wage if the student works for them during vacations. In return, the student signs up for relevant vacation work and training, and - if all goes well - a job on graduation. However, sponsorship is not open to everyone.

Most employers are looking for students on engineering, science and computing courses, although a few sponsor other subjects.

Is it too late to obtain a sponsorship? Not necessarily. A growing number of companies now prefer to pick up sponsored students during their course rather than before they enrol, so keep your eyes and ears open.

Banking

Banks are extremely keen to attract student customers. They are prepared to subsidise you now in the hope that you will stay a life-long (and high- earning) client. So they will run your bank account free and let you have an interest-free overdraft of between pounds 750 and pounds 1,200. And they will give you a freebie when you join - along the lines of a student railcard, mobile phone or pounds 50 in cash.

Two very, very important things to remember about banks are that overdrafts eventually have to be repaid, and if you exceed the agreed amount at any time without their permission the free banking will probably stop. Interest charges on "unauthorised borrowing" are pretty high.

Do you have a bank account already? If so, just look for the nearest branch to your campus or accommodation and use your cashcard/chequebook there. If not, wait until you arrive and sign up with one of the banks that will be represented during Freshers Week. They will all have a stand staffed by a "student banking officer" who will be keen to sign you up. Fill in a few forms, hand over your cash and claim your freebie.

Easing the burden

All the bills come at the beginning. So do other invitations and requirements to spend money. There are at least two that you can economise on for the time being...

> At the Freshers Fair you will be persuaded, coerced, even begged to join dozens of clubs and societies. Don't say yes to them all. They all have an annual subscription. They all take up time. Pick one or two that really interest you. Later on, when you see how your social life is working out, you can join more.

> You will be given an enormous book list. Don't rush out and buy everything on it. Wait to see which are essential, and which you can get away with borrowing or sharing.

> Get some means of earning money organised as quickly as possible. Many universities and colleges help students to find term-time work. Some reserve jobs on campus for them. Some organise job shops. (See the article on page 36). It's definitely worth your while visiting the careers service, notice board, union building, etc to see where the opportunities are.

Booklets are available from: the Department for Education and Employment, 0800 731 9133; local education authorities in England and Wales; Student Awards Agency for Scotland, 0131 476 8212; or the Department of Education for Northern Ireland, 01247 279279.

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