Life after university can be daunting. Leaving the relative comfort of university or college life and stepping into the unknown can cause anxiety for students, especially when considering the financial side of life beyond their studies.
Here are a few suggestions of ways of helping students prepare financially for their post-study future.
Encourage students to consider changes in income
It can be difficult for students to adjust to no longer receiving funding from the Student Loans Company and after years of receiving the instalments, it’s easy to forget to consider and budget for this change post-graduation.
Some students will be hit with a double whammy and also lose access to any additional funding they are receiving while studying – such as grants for students whose household income is below a certain threshold.
Raising awareness of these facts with students can help; so that they’re aware ahead of time that they’ll no longer have this money to fall back on once they’ve graduated. And so that they also have enough time to plan how to replace the loss of income. One of the best, most steady ways to ensure financial stability post-university or college is to get a graduate job.
Assist students to find graduate jobs
Trying to find a graduate job often isn’t easy and can be stressful. Both because of the amount of time it takes to apply for graduate jobs, as well as the rejection that is often part and parcel of the process.
You can also point students to this blog for more tips on how to get a graduate job, including interview tips and how to build a CV.
Increase visibility of post-graduation benefits
Although students will lose access to lots of funding, they may also become eligible for certain benefits once they’re no longer a student. These benefits, such as Universal Credit, will be especially valuable for those on low incomes, those with dependants, or those who can’t find work straight away.
Guiding students through the eligibility criteria for these benefits and helping them with their applications could help them a lot in their life after graduation. It could also be beneficial to direct students to the GOV.UK website, or to advise them to get in touch with their local Citizens Advice for more assistance.
Discuss changes in outgoings and support with practice budgeting for these
Just like their income, students’ outgoings are also likely to change once they finish university or college, but in what way will depend on the students’ individual circumstances.
For some, expenses will drop as they go back to living at home and having bills and food paid by parent(s)/guardian(s)/other family members. These students might find themselves with some surplus cash so the best advice you could give is for them to think about what to do with this and make a plan. This could be looking to save or perhaps invest.
On the other hand, post-graduation, others will be responsible for bills, food and other living expenses. This can be a difficult adjustment, especially if they experience a big change in their financial situation without any student loan funding, and there may be extra costs to pay too, like Council Tax – particularly important to consider if they’re going from living in university-managed accommodation, where bills and Council Tax will have been included within what they pay.
Getting students to practice planning a post-study budget before they leave can be a good way to help them prepare for the reality of this. The better prepared for the reality of their finances post-study, the easier the transition will be, so encourage students to think about any and everything they might need to pay for and factor in.
Talk about the loss of student benefits and signpost to alternatives
Student life comes hand-in-hand with numerous discounts and offers to be taken advantage of. But most student discount programmes cease to be available soon after graduation – especially those that require a university email address to be redeemed.
This can come as an unexpected shock if students are unprepared for this or have been relying on a discounted or subsidised service.
In addition to encouraging students to bear this in mind and take stock of anything that might change, you can support them by highlighting other post-graduation schemes they can join to continue receiving discounts, such as the UniDays GradLife programme.
There are also many discounts and offers that aren’t student-specific and are available to young people in general, often for the 16-25 age group – like the 16-25 Railcard.
Encourage research into changes to student bank accounts
Students also need to bear in mind that soon after they graduate, their bank account may change from a student account to a regular one.
The change usually happens within 1-3 years of graduation and means that students will lose access to the benefits of a student account, often including an interest-free overdraft (offered by most student bank accounts). Resulting in the introduction of or an increase in interest to pay.
As we recently heard from students during Money Confessions, many live in their overdrafts throughout their university life and struggle to get out of them. While it’s never ideal, it isn’t so much of a problem if there’s no interest to pay and some students rely on this as a necessity, particularly if the funding they receive is not enough to cover all expenses.
Having to repay my overdraft during uni is very draining and a life long lesson I’m learning.
But beyond this, it could get them into financial difficulty and damage their financial wellbeing, both now and in the future by impacting their credit score. Encourage students to research the terms and conditions of their bank account so they are prepared for any changes and have plenty of time to shop around for a new account, perhaps one with a lower interest rate, if needed.
The financial education in our platform includes lots of information for students about overdrafts and credit scores.
Promote clarity around the student loan repayment system
I feel worried about paying back my student loan in the future as it is not 100% guaranteed I will go into a good job once I leave university.
Our research has found that as students approach graduation, there can be confusion around the Student Finance repayment system. 50% of 1,000 students surveyed reported that paying back their student loan and tuition fee debt makes them feel either very or somewhat worried about their financial future.
Much of this fear comes from a misunderstanding of how the student loan repayment process works, with some under the false impression that they need to start repaying what they owe immediately after graduation, regardless of how much they are earning – causing unnecessary stress and worry.
Providing students with clear information about student loan repayment terms (or signposting them to the relevant information) is likely to put students at ease and make them feel more in control of their finances.
While it’s likely that students were given this at some point previously, perhaps on an open day or in some communication from the SLC, it seems that for many, this info gets forgotten along the way. Clarifying the process, particularly in the lead up to the completion of their studies, should help students feel more confident about their finances as they head towards graduation and beyond.
Making sure students have the right information for the year they started studying is going to become increasingly important too. We already have Loan Repayment Scheme 1 and Loan Repayment Scheme 2 (for those who began their studies from September 2012 onwards), but we’ll soon have more nuances for students starting courses from September 2023 onwards, following the government’s response to the Augar review.
The learning resources in the Blackbullion Financial Wellbeing Platform contain lots of information for students about fees & funding and loan repayment, including a student loan repayment estimator tool.
Highlight alternative options beyond graduation
The term ‘graduate jobs’ is bandied around so often that it’s perhaps not surprising if students don’t stop to consider all options they have once they graduate.
Universities and colleges can play an important role here by highlighting other future paths to students and providing information, resources and events for those who might want to pursue alternatives.
Many students might not think about starting their own business as they don’t know anybody who has done it or haven’t come across any information to do with it.
Providing info about the pros, cons and considerations of entrepreneurship will help students decide if this path is right for them. On top of this, inviting business starters to talk to students can give visibility to entrepreneurship and self-employment and help students see that a graduate job isn’t their only option.
Of course, this path is a less stable one than finding employment, but it could possibly be the right option for some students in the long run, especially if they are searching for and struggling to find a graduate job.
Check out this blog for five ways to help students be financially prepared for university life before they even arrive on campus.
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