Like most students, I’ve relied heavily on my student loan for my four years of study. While I’ve had a part time job during my final year, my student loan has been essential in covering those extra costs I wasn’t expecting as well as paying off a hefty overdraft and credit card bill built up over my time in Germany. I may not be great with money, but I’m somewhat proud I won’t be in my overdraft upon graduating this Summer as it’s not a situation everyone’s lucky enough to experience.
Saying that, it doesn’t mean my money issues are over upon graduating. Postgraduate study comes with quite a hefty price tag and, unlike undergraduates, postgraduates don’t have the benefit of a Student Loan Company safety net to fall back on.
I’m beyond happy to have a place on the Pgdip Journalism Course in Cardiff, but it’s slowly dawning on me exactly how different my financial situation is going to be come September. For starters, I’m going from about 8 contact hours a week to 60+, which doesn’t leave much time, if any, for part time work. Additionally, the fees this year are set at £6,500, and that’s without even thinking about maintenance costs.
The fact is, I’m going to need a proper, grown-up loan, and that’s a terrifying prospect. The option recommended to me a Career Development loan; at first glance, it all seems well and good. I can get a loan up to £10,000, enough to cover the fees at least, get it interest free for the duration of my course and then pay it back monthly once I have a job.
…except what if I don’t have a job straight away? With a course as good as Cardiff’s, I’ve a good chance of having one so long as I work my butt off, but it’s always worth keeping the worst case scenario in mind. What if I can’t make the monthly repayments? What if I can’t even get enough of a loan to cover my expenses while studying?
There isn’t really an end to my questions regarding finance for postgraduate degrees, and I’m sure there are many in my situation feeling much the same. When I asked in a Facebook status how my current postgraduate friends manage their financial affairs, the answer seemed to be with various bursaries, loans and part time work. A few mentioned surviving on Super Noodles alone, but that’s pretty standard for undergraduates, so I’m sure I could manage that.
Obviously I’ve applied for various grants; it’s pretty much standard to try that option out, especially with the nature of my course, where, as previously mentioned, there won’t necessarily be time for any kind of part time work. If we’re talking about journalism specifically, there are grants you can apply for, all of which are ridiculously competitive. Within the next few weeks I’ll know if one such application has been successful, and I’m not overly optimistic.
The thing is, if anyone were to take my family’s income into account, I’m not exactly a pauper. But with a brother going into his second year at university, I can hardly expect my family to foot my education bills for long. After all, this is all part and parcel of growing up; I need to stand on my own two feet at some point. Yet, getting myself into even more debt feels somewhat counterproductive; I’m still lending, I’m still not using money that is my own, how is that growing up and taking responsibility?
On the other hand, the way I see it, if in the long term taking out a loan will ensure my career, then, as scary as it might be, I need to bite the bullet. Whether I’m lending or not, I’m still taking charge of my own finances instead of relying on good old Mum and Dad to take care of my monetary issues. As much as it may feel like a step backwards, if I work hard and make sure I have a job after the nine months on my course, then I can be adult enough to pay back my own debts. It’ll be hard, I’m sure, but I’ll get it done.