Thursday, 22 December 2016

How to look after your finances as a postgraduate

Taking on a postgraduate course is a big commitment, for both your time and your bank balance. But being smart with your money can make life much easier.

How much will it cost?
Not all postgrad courses cost the same, but the average is between £16,000 and £23,000 a year. How much it costs depends on:
which course you choose
where you study
whether your course is full time or part time
how much you spend on rent, bills, and entertainment

Postgraduate certificates and diplomas tend to be the cheapest, while master’s degrees and PhDs are the most expensive. Think about your reasons for studying and try to pick a route that won't leave you out of pocket.

Decide how you're going to study
If you dream about a care free student life, where you go out every night and wake up at midday, then think again. Be prepared to work hard and save.

You can normally choose between studying full-time, part-time or distance learning. A full-time course could be cheaper, but limits how much free time you have.

A part-time course lets you mix your home life with your studies, and you can continue earning by working while you study. However, you'll miss out on uni life and may end up paying more because your course will last longer.

Pick your course wisely
Postgrad courses can cost anything from £4,999 to £30,000 a year, so make sure you know what you're signing up for. Check tuition fees before you apply for courses and make sure they're within your budget.

Check to see if your old uni offers discounts for former students wanting to come back to study. Also, look for universities near home, as this could cut down on your living costs.

Avoid choosing a uni-based on its reputation without researching it properly first. Lots of leader boards are only based on undergrad studies, and may not offer what you want from a postgrad course.

What help can you get?
There’s a new government backed postgraduate loan that offers up to £10,000 to help students cover their tuition fees and living costs. They’re available to most students starting their course after August 2016.

This new loan gets paid straight into your bank account and you can use it for anything, not just your tuition fees. This gives you more flexibility, but make sure you spend it wisely. Most universities ask you to pay fees up front, so having the cash in your account could save you from having to put it on a credit card.

Part-time and distance learners can get the loan, but only if your course is less than four years, and you'll only get paid for the first two.

Some universities also offer scholarships, so check if you're eligible when you apply. Charities and trusts also offer grants and funding, so research what you can get and apply if you're eligible.

Set a budget
You'll need to start saving as soon as you've decided you want to do a postgrad course, especially if you're going to study full-time. You might get the government loan, but it's unlikely to cover everything you need.

If you're studying full-time, use this ultimate student budget planner to work out your budget for the year. Once you get your timetable, see if you'll have time to get a part-time job. Having a regular income will come in handy when funds start to run low.

If you study part-time, you may be able to continue your career although you might need to cut your hours. Start saving before you begin your course, so you have some money to fall back on if you can't work full-time.

Make sure you've got your money sorted
Full-time students can often get the same student current accounts as undergrads. They come with a range of benefits, like fee free overdrafts and other perks.

If you’re a part-time student, you’ll probably have to make do with a normal current account. Compare accounts and try to find one with an interest free overdraft, if you think staying out of the red will be an issue.

Avoid relying on credit cards if possible, but shop around to find one that's right for you if you need one as a safety net. If you don’t think you’ll be able to pay at least the minimum monthly repayments, don’t get one.

Things to check:

Interest rates
Added extras
Credit limits
Top money saving tips for postgrads

Spend wisely – books can be expensive, so buy second hand where you can. Get a student rail card or coach card, to save on the cost of travelling. And cook at home rather than going out for food.

Save on your food shop – shop in the evenings or early hours of the morning, and get food that's been reduced for a quick sale. Bulk buying with your housemates can also be cheaper than buying for one, and you'll probably waste less food.

Shop around for utilities – don't just go with the provider that your landlord is using when you move in. Compare broadband and energy deals, to make sure you save money.

Check for student savings – you can get discounts on everything from your council tax to your weekly shop. Get an NUS card and you can save money on eating out, TV subscriptions, gym memberships and in loads of high street stores.


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Get to know the university you could be studying at

Now you’ve accepted a conditional offer, it’s a good idea to get to know your prospective university better, and see where you could be studying in the not-too-distant future. Getting to know the place now will help you to feel more at home if you start studying there, as you’ll already be familiar with the place and the people.

Now’s the perfect time to head to an open day at the uni you could be studying at, even if you have already been to one. Open days are a great way to explore the facilities, see where you could be living, and talk to current staff and students.

Can’t get to an open day? Take a look at our list of virtual tours to see what the university is like from the comfort of your own home.

Get to know your chosen university or college by following them on social media – keep up-to-date with what’s happening on campus, ask questions, and see what uni life is like!

If you’ve got any questions about your application, check out our info on or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

Making the most of your time now you’ve accepted an offer

The wait to find out if you’ve met the conditions of your offer can seem like it goes on forever. To take your mind off it, here are three things you can be doing right now.

1. Check your status in Track – find out what it means and what you should do next. It may change over the coming months, so make sure you know what each status means and what you need to do.

2. Familiarise yourself with Clearing and Adjustment – if you’re waiting for results, they may be better than expected, or they might not be quite what you were hoping for. Clearing and Adjustment are our services to help you find another place in either circumstance – understanding how they work now will make the process much smoother if you need it on results day.

3. Sort out finance – you’ll need somewhere to live and money to pay for it! We don’t arrange student finance, but we do explain the process and point you in the right direction to apply for student loans.

If you’ve got any questions about your application, check out our info on or get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

Christmas opening hours

Everyone needs a break now and again, so we’ll be closed for a short time over the holiday period too. If you need to contact us over the festive period, take a look at our opening hours.

We’ve got plenty of advice on our website, so if you have a question while we’re closed check out our frequently asked questions, or all the advice we have on our video wall.

Merry Christmas from everyone at UCAS! 

Send us a question at any point over the festive period on Facebook or Twitter and our advisers will respond during the opening times shown above.

How to prepare for your UCAS Teacher Training interview

So you’ve sent your teacher training application, but what happens next? You’ll hear back from the training providers within 40 working days of submitting your application.

Before you can be offered a place on a programme, you’ll need to attend an interview. Although interviews may appear daunting, a bit of preparation can go a long way.

Check out our top tips to help you prepare.

Show off your qualities.

Training providers will be looking for a number of qualities to see if you’d make a good teacher, such as:

passion – show you care about teaching
confidence – and being respectful towards children
professionalism – in both your mindset and the way you conduct yourself
personality – this can easily be reflected in how you present yourself, so dress smartly
energy – enthusiasm is infectious
resilience – being a teacher can be tough, so you'll need to show you're up to the task
understanding the commitments involved in  teaching – even the most prepared interviewees can be nervous about some things. It'll be fine as long as you demonstrate how you can overcome this in order to succeed

Prepare for the types of questions you’ll be asked.

Interviewers will ask you a range of questions, such as:

asking you to demonstrate an understanding of what helps children to learn
why you’ve picked a school-based/university-based route
what you’ve learnt from your experience in schools
your understanding of the subject you’ll be teaching – take a look at the national curriculum before your interview

It’s a good idea to start thinking of answers to the above questions, and examples that demonstrate what would make you a great teacher.

Need some more inspiration? Check out this video on how to prepare for your teacher training interviews.

Good luck at your interview!
Please let the training providers know if you’re unable to attend an interview. They may be able to reschedule this to a more convenient time.

If you have any questions about your UCAS Teacher Training application, check out all the advice on You can also get in touch with our advisers on Facebook or Twitter who’ll be more than happy to help.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Disclosing a mental health difficulty: your rights

Students with mental health difficulties can disclose this on their UCAS application to ensure they can access the support they are entitled to. Do you know what your rights are? And what if you don’t want to disclose? UMHAN and Student Minds answer these questions in this short blog.

What are my rights?

You have a right to equal treatment. Many people worry that if they disclose a mental health difficulty, it will affect whether they are accepted. However, Equality Act legislation makes it illegal for staff to discriminate against you. The decision of whether you are offered a place on a course must be purely down to academic suitability. Some courses such as nursing, teaching, or social work additionally require a fitness-to-practice assessment.

You have a right for your information to be protected. Another worry is that if you disclose, your mental health difficulty will become common knowledge. However, your information will only be shared with people who need to know at the time you are disclosing. Staff will adhere to the Data Protection Act, ensuring your information is processed appropriately and sensitively.

You have a right to support. If you have a mental health difficulty, providing support is your course provider’s responsibility. Seeking support isn’t asking for special treatment – it’s asking your course provider to ensure you have access to the same opportunities as other students. Disclosing is, for many, an empowering experience.

What if I don’t disclose?
Choosing whether to disclose is a personal decision. If you change your mind, it’s never too late to disclose – go to your university support services and they will help you access the support you are entitled to.

A common reason for not disclosing is that you don’t feel you would currently benefit from support. This may be true, but note that disclosure has a preventative element. Disclosure makes the process of seeking support smoother, should you need later it.

Find out more

In 2015, UMHAN launched the #IChoseToDisclose campaign. By producing blogs answering questions surrounding disclosure, they aim to empower students to make an informed decision.

Student Minds is the UK’s student mental health charity. For further support with mental health difficulties at university, visit their website.

We hope this blog helps you come to a decision regarding disclosure. If you have further questions about disclosing on your application form, get in touch with UCAS.

This blog was written by student mental health charities UMHAN and Student Minds.

The benefits of disclosing a mental health difficulty

Students with mental health difficulties can disclose this on their UCAS application to ensure they can access the support they are entitled to. What are the benefits of disclosure? UMHAN and Student Minds answer these questions in this short blog.

When submitting your UCAS application, you have the opportunity to disclose a mental health difficulty. In the section marked ‘Disability/Special Needs’, you can select the option ‘mental health condition’.

You can then enter any particular needs related to your mental health difficulty. This information is passed on to the course providers you have applied to as part of your application, so they can begin to think about what support to provide for you.

So, should you disclose? What will happen if you do? And what are the benefits?

If you disclose, your course provider is legally required to make reasonable adjustments which take account of your needs.

On starting your course, you will have the opportunity to talk to your course provider’s student support services. You may be eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) – this can provide a wide range of support, from specialist equipment to a mentor, depending on what is agreed to suit your needs. If you do not receive DSA, your course provider may provide alternative support.

Here, a student talks about the support she received after she disclosed:

‘I went to see the Mental Health Adviser at my university, who gave me support and a feeling of reassurance that I wouldn't be facing my depressive episode alone. She advised me to apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance, something I wouldn't have thought to do otherwise. DSA funded me to have a mental health mentor who I see weekly. He knows me so well that he can spot any signs I'm struggling before even I can. Both have also advocated for me in my journey through the NHS mental health system. The holistic nature of the support given by mental health advisers and mentors has literally been a lifeline for me and I'm incredibly grateful.’

We hope this blog helps you come to a decision regarding disclosure. If you have further questions about disclosing on your application form, get in touch with UCAS.

This blog was written by student mental health charities UMHAN and Student Minds.

Disclosing a mental health difficulty on your UCAS application

Students with mental health difficulties can disclose this on their UCAS application to ensure they can access the support they’re entitled to. UMHAN and Student Minds share some advice on disclosing this information.

Disclosing a mental health difficulty via UCAS
Applying to university or college can be daunting, with many things to consider before applying for that perfect course for you. The process comes with its own set of questions if you experience a mental health difficulty. In this blog, we’ll address questions about disclosure – telling your university about a mental health difficulty.

Who can disclose?
The purpose of disclosure is to ensure students with mental health difficulties can access the support they are entitled to at university or college. For a mental health difficulty to come under the protection of the Equality Act:
there must be a substantial, adverse impairment to daily activities
the difficulty should be long term (has lasted, or may last, 12 months)
the cumulative effects of a mental health difficulty may in combination be ‘substantial’
difficulties that are episodic are covered if they are likely to reoccur
a person who has recovered from a mental health difficulty is covered if the difficulty is likely to reoccur
a person does not need to show that the adverse effects impact on any particular capacity (e.g. memory or concentration)

If you feel you meet these criteria, you may be eligible for additional support, and it is worth considering disclosure. If you are not sure whether you meet the above criteria, disclosing will help you find out more.

Should I disclose?
Disclosure is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong answer – it’s a case of ensuring your needs are met. We hope that, with the information we provide, you can make an informed decision.

Satisfaction rates among students who disclose are high – the Equality Challenge Unit found that 78% who disclosed said the support they received was ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

We hope this helps you come to a decision regarding disclosure of a mental health difficulty. If you have further questions about disclosing on your application form, get in touch with UCAS.

This blog was written by student mental health charities UMHAN and Student Minds.