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Degree Decisions: applying with confidence, affording the journey. Pt 1

Over the summer term 2020, FutureMe worked in collaboration with Push, to support Year 12 students across the North East with a range of interactive webinars to motivate them to explore and build their ‘life cocktail’ over the holidays. The sessions included a Q&A where students could ask their questions about post-18 choices, higher education applications, student finance and career routes. It was promised at the start of the webinar that Moj would do a live forfeit if students stayed for the full session. Here’s some highlights of the Q&A session… watch to see if Moj had to do the fully clothed shower dunk challenge!

Since these sessions Push and FutureMe have put their heads together and written a little more information to address some of the top concerns students mentioned. Below they talk about all things finance and in part 2 of their blog they discuss personal statements.

Push and FutureMe talk… Student Finance!

When it comes to money, don’t be shy. This is about your bread and butter (literally) and your ability to live happily and healthily. It can help to have an open and honest conversation with your parents/carers over the following 3 things:

1. Genuine fears and concerns

You may be concerned about affording your time as a student and whether your student finance will be enough. Your parents/carers might be worried about the repayment system, the idea of debt, mortgages and credit ratings. Try to eliminate fear around words like ‘debt’ and ‘loan’ and “forever”, replacing them with the words ‘graduate tax’ and ‘repayment window’. 

Nathan’s North East Tip: We’re really fortunate in the North East to have amazing universities and colleges that offer many employment options for their students that are flexible around their studies. Working for the institution you attend, such as working in the cafes or as a student ambassador or mentor, is a great way to earn some extra money while working for an employer who understands the importance of your studies. 

2. Face the myths, then know how to bust right through them

Mainstream media can be misleading, so it’s important to do your research. Let’s take an example headline, and break it down into the facts…

“£50,000 debt for the rest of their lives”

The final figure could be £50,000, but it could also be much more or much less. The amount of student finance you are entitled to depends on many factors; you can see more here

Debt can be a scary word, so let’s replace it with something else. It might help to think of it as in investment into your future that costs you 9% of your earnings above the threshold. 

It’s not the rest of your life! You stop repayments when you have paid off the finance or after 30 years. As Johnny Rich, the Push CEO explains, “it’s not about how much you borrow. It’s about your earning power in the years after”.

It can also be helpful to remember that your student finance doesn’t affect your credit rating or your ability to buy a house one day. Although interest is added to your student finance the amount you repay remains at 9% of anything over the threshold. 

Nathan’s North East Tip: In addition to the Student Finance support you can receive, HE institutions will have their own bursaries and grants you can access. Some of these are broad and general – such as being able to receive money if you are facing hardship or if you have a disability – while some are specific to the institution. For example, New College Durham offers transport bursaries for students travelling from far away and using public transport!

3. Look to the journey ahead

In times of uncertainty, it still pays to have a degree. Graduates, on average, cut their chances of unemployment in half with a degree. Various studies show that having a degree, on average, increases your salary by an extra £10,000 a year or around £250,000 over your life.

Also, Covid-19 is causing a recession (a slump in the economy). In the last recession, Office for National Statistics data showed that the higher your level of study, then less likely you were to be unemployed through a recession….so keep aiming higher! Why not dedicate yourself to a degree for the next few years, by which point the economy will (hopefully) be nice and strong again, as you get closer to graduation?

Nathan’s North East Tip: Increasingly, employers are asking for their applicants to have degrees. The biggest employer in the North East is the NHS, who provide a lot of support to help you have the education level you need to work with them, whether that is, for example, in a medical field or as part of their business support teams. Also, previous entry-level jobs such as the Police, now require a degree, and run a degree apprenticeship programme where you learn on the job and gain a higher education qualification, while being paid a salary. It’s not just the Police who run a degree apprenticeship scheme. They are also available in industries such as engineering, science and hospitality. 

We hope that student finance doesn’t sound as scary now you’ve done your research and you’re ready to apply, check out Part 2 of this blog for some tips on writing a great personal statement.

Looking for more?

Push is a non-profit social initiative run by comedians, actors and writers. It exists to impartially support students’ choices and employability. Sign up to Push Post (our monthly year 9-13 newsletter), our Youtube channel (full of useful little advice videos) and our Instagram (weekly fun videos).