Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy

Student finance: five funding delays to avoid

Starting university out of pocket is a position no first-year wants to find themselves in. Apply for student finance as early as you can and avoid these five possible funding pitfalls.

We're focusing on new full-time students who are applying through Student Finance England (SFE) here, but the potential problems are still relevant for students applying throughout the UK. You can also read our quick guides to student finance in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

1.   No need to wait for offers – apply for student finance now!

Post the January Ucas deadline, student finance applications open, typically from the end of January. 

Don't wait around for university offers before you apply – you can apply using your preferred choice of course and then update these details later on if things change.

Set up your student finance online account – you'll need your National Insurance number handy for this - and submit an application as early as you can. Also, make sure your sponsors (usually your parents) submit their information at this same time.  Once your application is submitted you can use the Application Tracking Service online to check on progress.

We would advise students to apply for their finance as soon as possible and you can do this online. Applying before the deadline will help to ensure that you have your funding in place at the start of the academic year. Nichola Malton | Assessment Services Manager - Student Loans Company

Tip: To ensure you receive your student finance in time for the start of term (and save any panicked calls home for an early cash injection), check with the finance body you're applying to as to the latest you should get your application in by.

2. Not having a valid passport makes applying trickier 

When applying for finance for the first time, you'll need a valid UK passport. This is the quickest way to prove your identity - all you need to do is provide your passport number as part of your online application. You won't need to send your passport unless you are asked to do so.  

If your passport has expired or you don't have a UK passport, you'll need to send your original birth or adoption certificate, along with a form confirming your identity – and it could take significantly longer for your application to go through. Be sure to send this via special delivery and include your CRN number.

According to the Student Loans Company (SLC), the most common delay when applying for finance is students not sending in evidence to support their application – so if you're asked to submit evidence, make sure you do this straight away. 

Tip: renewing your passport (it usually takes three weeks) could be the easiest option.

3. Check your student finance entitlement – funding isn't guaranteed

You'll only get student finance if you're doing your first degree – even if the first one was self-funded or studied abroad (the main exception to this is if you're 'topping up', moving from a foundation to an honours degree). 

Your nationality or residency status affects your eligibility, too. Generally speaking, if you're a UK national or have 'settled status' and normally live in the country providing the finance, then you should qualify, but check directly with the relevant finance provider for full details on this. 

Tip: don't start your studies without knowing whether you'll actually receive funding or not – if a loan isn't granted to you, you will be personally liable for the course tuition fees, and up to £9,000 is a lot of money!

Learned something useful?
Get more tips for applying to uni, right when you need them most. Add yourself to our email list.
Our emails are packed with advice for getting in and getting on at uni, along with useful information about other Which? Group services that can help you make good decisions.
  • No spam and you can unsubscribe at any time - see our privacy policy.
    Close panel
    Thank you!
    You’re all signed up. Look out for your welcome email from us shortly.
    Oh, no!
    Sorry, there's been an error. If you experience persistent problems, please contact us at whichuniversity@which.co.uk
    Try again

    4. Don't forget to send off a signed declaration

    Once your application has been approved, you'll be sent a Student Finance Entitlement letter showing you the loans and grants available to you, along with a declaration form. 
    You will not receive your funding until a signed declaration has been received. A copy will be sent to you with your entitlement letter or you can print this out yourself once you have submitted your application – the sooner they receive the declaration form, the sooner your funding is in place. SFE receives a lot of post, so don't leave this to the last minute. 
    Tip: don't fall at the last hurdle – sign and send yours by special delivery as soon as it comes through. 

    5. Register at uni to receive your funds

    You won't get a penny until you turn up at your university or college, so make sure you enrol as soon as you can (usually in the first week of your course, and you may need to take your Entitlement letter along with you). Although your payment schedule will say that the payment will be made on the first day of term, in practice, this means 3-5 days after you have registered.

    Although the application process is straightforward, there are a number of pitfalls that could lead to funding being delayed. At the University of Hertfordshire we recommend that students apply early, and make sure their funding is agreed before they start their university course.  Julie Kelly | Head Of Student Centre - University Of Hertfordshire

    Tip: it's likely you'll have costs to pay before you receive your maintenance loan – for example, accommodation, course materials and initial living expenses – so bear this in mind when preparing to head off to university.



    Email me expert tips
    We would like to send you great free advice about uni - and information about other relevant Which? Group services.
    To simply download, select the 'just download' option at the bottom of the form
  • Just download
    No spam and you can unsubscribe at any time - see our privacy policy.
    Close panel
    Thank you!
    You’re all signed up. Look out for your welcome email from us shortly.
    Close panel
    Oh, no!
    Sorry, there's been an error. If you experience persistent problems, please contact us at whichuniversity@which.co.uk
    Try again

    Search Which? University

    Find further advice or search for information on a course or university

    Expert tips for uni - straight to your inbox
    Free to students, teachers and parents
    Sign me up