Succeeding at uni when you’re from a low-income household
If – like me – you’re a university student from a low-income household, well done! You’ve defied the odds. In 2013, students from the most advantaged households were 9.5 times more likely to get into the top 13 UK universities than students from the least advantaged households.
Nevertheless, you’re here! You’ve made it. But what happens now?
Here’s my must-know advice for university students from low-income backgrounds.
Find out what help is available for you
There’s more help available to students from low-income backgrounds than you might expect, so it’s worth looking into programmes that will help you thrive during your time at university.
Many universities offer access bursaries, which is essentially money that you don’t have to pay back to help you with living costs. For example, the University of Edinburgh offers up to £8,500 per academic year to students from low-income households, and you can use this money for whatever you want. Check with your university, because you may need to fill in an application to be considered for a bursary.
It’s not just universities who can offer financial support either. Unite Students runs a scholarship programme for students who are estranged from their families and statutory care leavers. This scholarship means you can live rent-free for your whole degree, so you don’t need to worry about ending up in a horrible flat miles from campus.
Join a society for cheap fun
This one sounds a bit strange but stick with me. Clubs and societies are a great way to get social without burning through your cash. In exchange for a small annual membership fee, societies host events throughout the year which are often free – or at least discounted – for members. So you get to have fun and meet new people, but for less money than you might spend on a normal night out.
It’s not all sports teams either. Most universities have hundreds of societies, so there’s bound to be something you’re interested in. Game of Thrones society? The University of Exeter has that. Hummus society? The London School of Economics has your back. Knitting society? The Glasgow School of Art has got you covered. There really is something for everyone.
Know your student discounts
This one requires a bit of research because big brands don’t always shove it in your face. It’s pretty easy to do online – you probably haven’t paid full price for anything on Asos since you became a student – but don’t forget to ask when you’re out shopping too.
You can save a fair amount of money on meals out, days out, travel, and day-to-day essentials by just asking for a student discount. It’s definitely worth looking into sites like NUS and UNiDAYS to find out where the offers are.
Starting in 2019? Consider taking a gap year
If you’re due to start uni next year and you’re worried about the cost, my biggest tip is to take a gap year. Not to ‘find yourself’ in Thailand – but to get a job you enjoy and save some cash before you start university.
Schools often market gap years as time to consider your options if you’re not sure university is for you. But a gap year can be useful even if you’re certain you’re going into higher education.
I started working at an escape room as soon as I left sixth form, with a deferred offer to go to university the following year. Not only was I saving up cash to pay my first rent instalment, but I had a great time working with people my age and getting real work experience.
Don’t think you have to work for the whole year either. If you have enough money saved, there’s no reason why you have to keep your job until the day freshers’ week starts - quit a little earlier and do what you like with no commitments! That way you get to travel and earn money. Win-win.
Ask for help if you need it, and believe in yourself
With ever-increasing tuition fees, just surviving university can feel like a challenge, but with a few tricks you’ll be able to afford more than beans on toast. It is harder to go to university when you’re from a low-income background, but it’s not impossible. There is always someone who can help.
Remember, you deserve your place!