Managing my money for young adults
Managing my money for young adults

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Managing my money for young adults

4 Going on to further and higher education

For around two-thirds of school leavers, according to UK data, the next destination is more education (DoE, 2017). Generally, study for a diploma qualification will be in a college of further education, and study for a degree qualification will be in a university, but there are all kinds of different courses on offer across a range of educational providers. Since the 1980s there’s been a huge increase in the proportion of school leavers choosing to go to college or university. Inevitably the cost of funding an enlarged further and higher education sector has risen too. The primary consequence is that the cost of going to college or university now falls very much on students and their families.

In this video Dan Bennett, Assistant Head of Year 13 at Denbigh School, Milton Keynes talks about factors to take into account when you’re choosing universities and courses.

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Dan, so when it comes to choosing which university to apply to, what advice would you give to students? And do you have any tips or tactics for getting into the best university possible?
I think there's a number of things that students can do to help them make an informed choice over what university they go to. I think first of all, there's a lot of lead tables available to them online that they can then access and look at the university and the stature of that university in terms of the chosen field that they might be going into. You can also look at the Russell Group University if you're applying within the UK. That also gives you a good indicator of where the universities rank in terms of the chosen fields that you're potentially looking to go into.
I think a big thing is about also researching the course or the field that you want to go into. Every university does different modules in terms of, particularly during the second and the third years, when you get to pick your electives. I think it's massively important that a student looks at the modules that are an offer and picks modules that they would be suited to or that they would enjoy. You guys going for history, you've got lots of different universities everywhere that do different history degrees, and you've got to find the course that suits you and that fits what you're looking for in terms of the university course. So reading up on the history of the university, whether they're a forerunner in terms of research within your field. If they are, then, again, that adds that prestigious element to it.
Also, what you can also look into is deciding whether you want to stay at home or whether you want to go away. If you're somebody that doesn't want to be anywhere near home, then straightaway, that eliminates a number of universities for you. If you're not bothered about where you want to go, then all of a sudden, you open this door to whichever university you want to go to. In terms of that as well, you might want to think about whether you want to live an hour away from home so you can pop in and out or whether it doesn't matter if you're living three, four hours away from your university. I think that's also a key thing for them to bear in mind as well.
What role do predicted grades play in selecting the courses and universities you apply to and which ones that are appropriate and you're able to get into?
I think predicted grades are a really important element in terms of education. I think what predicted grades give a student is a clear indication of where they're potentially going to finish their course. Predicted grades are given by professionals within their field and they use a lot of different indicators. Things like progress grades, homework, an effort in lessons the students are doing. And that gives them a real good indication of the potential of that student and where they think that student is going to finish that course on. So I think predicted grades are really, really good because you can use them to then relate to the entry criterias that universities provide. And I think it enables you to make a rational and informed decision over which unis are best for you to apply to.
Advice would be when you're using your predicted grades, I think you definitely want to be picking at two or three universities within your five choices that you get that match what your predicted grades are. I think picking those universities that are around what your predicted grades are, I think that gives you a good, balanced application. I think then, as well as those two or three, you need to be looking at maybe adding one or two that are above your predicted grades. Now, that can be used as a driver or as a goal for you to then work towards, to achieve, and then, improve your opportunities.
If you're a little bit conservative, you then might want to look at your predicted grades and then pick a university that has an entry criteria that's maybe slightly below what your predicted grades are. Then, that gives you the opportunity to add that insurance opportunity if you desire to do so. So I think predicted grades are a really useful tool to help you make that informed decision for which universities to go for.
Are students daunted by the prospect of debt they'll incur while studying, especially for university?
I think on the face of it, when you look at the values at face value, 50,000 pounds of debt, straightaway, that is naturally going to make anybody be daunted or anxious about going to university. I think the key message that we want to get across to people is that they do their research, and they do their wider reading about student finance and how different student finance and student loans are to your conventional payday loans or your conventional loans that are out there.
I think people, when they do their research, I think if they don't do their research, I think they miss the key points that really makes student loans something that they shouldn't really be worried about. The fact that you don't pay it until you're in and over 21,000 pounds, and after it goes over 21,000 pounds, you're only paying back 9 per cent of that difference. I think the fact that it comes out of your payroll rather than is paid into your account and then taken away from you like a conventional loan is, I think that makes a big difference in terms of you're not ever seeing that money. And I think the fact that after 30 years, that money is cleared. I think that also is something that, if people are educated about those key points, I think they will become less daunted about the student loan and realise they're actually something that should be encouraged to take on and something that is not seen as a bad debt.
Will doing a gap year create problems when applying for university? How easy is it to decide that you want to take a year out before going?
I think in terms of does it cause problems with your application, in terms of in the UK, the system that we use for applications, the UCAS website, is a really easy way of deferring your application. There's a button and an option that UCAS provide for you in order to, if you want to defer your choice, then you can do that. That's not a problem. I think taking a gap year can actually help students if they're not sure about if, going back to earlier, where we talked about whether people are clear in their ideas of where they want to go with their career or not.
So I think a gap year can help them in terms of life skills and life experiences. And it also gets them to get a little bit more work experience and actually identify areas that they actually might want to go into. So a gap year can be really helpful in actually honing in on the area they really want to specialise in further down the line once they find the career they want to pursue.
What are the top financial tips you would give to someone who's leaving home and going to university?
The first thing is looking at bursaries. Bursaries are really, there's loads of bursaries out there, and a lot of universities don't actually use all their money available to them. So I think a key message for students is that when they apply for university, straightaway, get in contact with that university. Find out what bursaries they offer and whether you're obviously within the criteria to be able to get a bursary from them. I think that's a really key point to start with.
Student bank accounts I think is a real big thing that the students need to look into straightaway. Shop around, look for the best student bank account that there is available. They offer lots of different perks, your interest free overdraft, a lot of them offer perks such as a railcard, OK. So look into those student bank accounts and make sure that you get yourself a student bank account set up as soon as you've enrolled into your course.
In terms of travel, because if you're away from home, you're going to need to travel there and back, if you haven't got a bank account that gives you the perk of a railcard, make sure you get railcard. It saves you 30 per cent on your train fares, which is a big amount of money, really, when you're looking at how much money you have to, in terms your increments.
Look into using the bus. So your Megabus, your National Express. They're a lot cheaper than your rail travel. So again, look into using those.
Wonderful. Thank you very much, Dan. That was fantastic.
No problem. Thank you very much.
End transcript
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The annual tuition fees charged by most universities are £9250 (as at 2020/21). On top are the accommodation and other living costs while you’re at university. These can be covered by borrowing money in the form of student loans. You’ll look at these loans later in the session.

Governments justify these financial arrangements on the basis that graduates end up in better paid jobs than non-graduates. They argue that the money paid for further and higher education should be viewed as an investment for the future – and therefore it’s worth the cost.

But whatever the economic justification, getting a degree is a costly exercise. Students are now graduating with debts well in excess of £40,000. Looking at this figure, you’ll see why understanding the cost of education after you’ve left school is so important.

You need to consider taking courses that will help your future career, but you also need to balance this by making sure you’ll like the subjects you’ll be studying.

Allow time and space to research your options, and even at this stage review the employability record of graduates of courses you’re thinking of applying for.


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