I wasn't intending to get a student loan, I was fortunate that the company I've been working for is sponsoring my degree, but once I arrived, I realised that the maintenance loan would be useful, and so I applied late, on the 6th of November, and I received the money around the 18th, so impressed! I understand through the first time I applied for finance, before I had secured my current job, that it is nigh on impossible to get a hold of someone from student finance at times, and it becomes very stressful. I think that after so many years they should be aware of the issues and be more prepared or even better staffed for those periods - maybe even hire some current students for the 'back to uni' rush!
During the process this time around I was fortunate enough that I only needed to directly speak to anyone from student finance once, and that was due to a fault with the university. The lady I spoke to was very helpful and advised me what to do and it was resolved within a mature of minutes.
I was sent all of the forms quickly and they kept in touch with the progress of my application via text and through the online system. I felt that at times the payments schedule could be a little confusing, they use a number of terms such as approved, scheduled, in progress which can be a little misleading at times, but all in all I had a very straightforward process and I couldn't be happier! If you have enough money for the start of term, I thoroughly recommend applying late!
Student Finance England is the supplier of student loans in the UK. Applications are mainly carried out online via their website but the paper option is still available. I carried out my application online and have just renewed my application for my second year. Both years I've had to put up with headaches. I'll describe my experience here.
Filling in the details required of you online is actually a breeze. Just make sure you do it in good time so that you have your application processed in time for when term starts. I was late so I learnt this the hard way for sure. You actually apply for two loans, one for your tuition fees and then possibly one for maintenance fees. Maintenance refers to accommodation and general living fees like food and drink (mainly drink) or in my case a laptop (the less said about that the better).
The details required of you are the usual for the most part. You need a name, address, contact details, desired course, NI number and location etc etc. You'll also have to enter your passport number so make sure you find it out of that draw it's been hiding in for god knows how long.
This went rather smoothly for me and I did everything that was required of me. Unfortunately, SFE is very very slow at processing applications and their staff are not informed enough to tell you what's going on most of the time. They particularly have problems where parents financial evidence is concerned.
If you want grants and bursaries, you have to get your parents to go through a similar application process to what you did. This was awful for me with my step dad being convinced that he was now the guarantor for my loan and found the questions 'intrusive'. He's old school so I guess other parents might be too! They have to then send off a P45 or P60 or similar documentation as evidence of their stated income.
The company took ages to receive this and the phone advisors have no clue as to where the documentation is as it's dealt with by a different department. After weeks of patience it was finally sorted and my loan went through ok.
A cruel twist of fate then happened and my loan was 'frozen' as my national insurance number didn't check out! So this took some weeks to sort with the job centre having to sign a document to say that I am indeed who I am etc etc. Weird! I got my loan though which is good.
This year worked out differently. The application was much smoother because they already had my details. My younger brother also applied this year for student finance. Parents have to send evidence in every year to prove they haven't become rich suddenly. My problem is that even if they were rich, that doesn't mean that they would support you! I have a friend who's parents don't give him a penny because he needs to make his own way in the world but he doesn't get the same loan as me as they earn a lot of money. Unfair or what?
My younger brother is currently enjoying his successful means tested application whilst mine is still in limbo. I called to see what's happening and they said without guilt "ah we seem to have overlooked your application, we'll get right on it" ... brilliant!
I hope my experience has given some insight for those looking at the student loans process! My advice is not to worry because they WILL sort it at SOME point!