Paying for postgraduate studies can be a challenge for many, and while loans are available and can be very useful, there are also some steps graduates can take.
According to Findamasters.com, the average cost of a taught Masters degree in the UK is £8,407 currently (although depending on what you study this can vary).
Luckily there are lots of ways to help you get your finances in order which can have a big impact, particularly when life is made a little more uncertain due to the pandemic.
Be realistic about costs
Costs are as crucial to course success as your tutor’s credentials and the university’s reputation. If you can’t make the money work, the next few years will be tough, so having a clear picture of the total costs is vital.
How much it costs will vary a lot between universities, so the full financial picture should be part of your criteria when choosing a course.
It’s also important to include all costs you can reasonably expect to pay. There are often many small hidden costs that we don’t take into account. Living costs, including rent, bills and food, should all be analysed. Don’t write off shared housing or university halls without investigation – they may be cheaper in the long run.
Transport costs to university, your place of work and any other places you might go need to be calculated as part of this.
On the plus side, you also need to think about where you can get income to assist you, be it part-time employment, loans or other means.
Avoid the urge to spend what you save
If you are lucky enough to find you are able to save money on accommodation, travel or in other areas, due to the pandemic, then make sure you put some of that money to work.
Rather than leaving it in your current account, where it is likely to be swallowed up by your everyday spending, set up a separate savings account. If you can find a home for your cash that pays some interest, even better, but remember to make sure you can access the money without penalty if you need it.
Having a small pot of money that can be used in case of emergency or as platform to build on when you graduate can be really valuable.
Get creative about income
Traditionally, many postgraduate students work part-time in retail or hospitality while studying to help boost their finances, but it may be challenging to secure a job in these sectors until the economy recovers.
However, there are more ways to make money than you may think – and many are perfect for fitting around studies.
Offering private tuition in your subject, language or hobbies is easy to do locally and, crucially during the pandemic, it can still be done online. Plus, unlike working in a school, you won’t need a teaching qualification to do it, although a DBS check is essential if you tutor under-18s.
Freelancing in specific industries linked to your qualification can also make a big difference, as well as give you vital experience for your future career.
Loans are an obvious way to cover study costs, and repayments can wait until after you’ve completed your course, providing some breathing space to make repayments.
The benefit of a loan is that you can focus more freely on your studies, as well as map out your finances clearly, rather than having to make assumptions about potential part-time work you might be able to get whilst studying.
Make sure the time is right
Once you know how much postgrad life is going to cost, check your savings, wages or funding are up to the job. Going straight into a Masters after university has lots of appeal to many, but you may get more from the experience by waiting or working until you’ve got enough in the bank.
Double-checking the sums – and waiting until you’re financially ready – ensures you are not taking unnecessary risks with your financial future.
Embrace student life
You may be a postgraduate, but you’re still entitled to student discounts and special offers – and there are lots of them about.
Always ask if there’s a student discount, whether you’re buying online or in person.
If you study in the UK for more than 15 hours a week, you’re eligible for cheaper rail fares with the 16-25 railcard. Don’t be put off by names or ages – always ask if there’s a student option.
Remember how paying as little as possible, or getting freebies, was actually fun when you were an undergrad? You’re never too old to save money!
If you pay to subscribe to newspapers, streaming services or for Amazon Prime, check if you can move over to the student package (and whether you can get a refund on what you’ve already paid).
Switch down to no-frills or supermarket-own brands.
Split your income (from wages, savings or funding) into monthly amounts that account for all your essential costs. The big challenge of undergrad life – making money last all term – is just as tricky for postgrads, so stick to your spending limits!
Read more articles about managing your student finances!