Posted on 24 Feb '21

My Top Tips to Help Fund Your Masters Study

Before starting a Masters, I was most concerned about being able to afford the living costs.

Unlike when studying at undergraduate level, where UK government loans are provided for maintenance and tuition, for English-resident students at postgraduate level there is only one loan available. You can use it for whatever you like, but it won’t necessarily pay for everything. The loan for me would’ve only just covered my tuition fees (and I think this is similar for a large amount of Masters courses), leaving me worried about how I would make up the rest of my costs.

I considered completing my Masters part-time so that I could work alongside; however, that would’ve meant that I’d need accommodation for three years and I thought that the increased costs would outweigh the benefits.

Of course, you can work alongside a full-time Masters too. University Ambassador roles, as well as Student’s Union Bar positions for example, are something to consider as they are both fun and rewarding.

However, I had worked consistently throughout my undergraduate course, sometimes handing in up to three essays per week whilst trying to work up to 14 hours in the evenings. This took a large toll on both my mental and physical health, and my academic work. I wanted to avoid this happening again during my Masters and decided that working for a year prior to starting my Masters was the best option.

So, here's how I actually fund my Masters

During my year in work, I applied for the Cranfield Excellence Scholarship, which was introduced in 2020 to cover a student’s full tuition fees in each of Cranfield’s Forensics courses. I would really recommend taking the time to look for scholarships like this, as they take an immense amount of pressure off you both when applying and whilst studying. They could be offered by the university department themselves, the wider university or even external funding bodies.

As well my scholarship, which covers tuition fees, I use the money that I earned on my post-uni gap year to fund my accommodation and living costs. You can read my previous blog post if you want to find out more about my gap year.

I had also applied for a postgraduate student loan and been approved, though I decided to cancel it once I was awarded my scholarship. I’ve been asked before why I didn’t decide to keep the loan too, despite having enough to live from my work. The answer is that I already have a considerable amount of student debt from my undergraduate degree, and the Masters loan doesn’t just add to this, it must be paid from an earlier date and in parallel with undergraduate loan payments.

What costs you need to consider – and my budgeting tips!

Accommodation is the biggie as usual. Some universities will have student housing available and others may require you to find private accommodation. All will cost different amounts and the expense of living in different cities across the UK varies massively.

Then there’s subsistence. I find that the best way to do this is to focus on making a proper list of every food item you will need for meals, as opposed to going to the supermarket with no real plan of what you need. Make a meal plan for the week or fortnight (I do biweekly shops because I find that making in bulk and having leftovers reduces costs significantly), add any snacks you’ll need and any other essentials. Take this list to the supermarket – don’t go to the supermarket hungry because you will buy everything for now and nothing that you were meant to buy for later – and hopefully you will stick to the list.

You may also incur some extra course costs, for example for any specialist equipment that you want your own personal version of – I have a trowel for my archaeology for example. Other things such as coffees across campus or drinks in a bar should also be taken into consideration. All of these things can be budgeted for the same way as a big food shop. I use Microsoft Excel to do my budgeting and I include everything from rent to an allowance for extra little treats. It’s up to you how much you spend per week of course, but you can definitely keep costs fairly low, especially as we currently don’t have any social life to pay for.

As far as big purchases go, I would seriously recommend a laptop, especially if you are planning on studying in the next couple of years during the pandemic. Laptops do not have to be top of the range so please don’t think you have to go and fork out for a MacBook (I certainly did not). Just make sure that you can access the internet and essential study packages – you will likely get OneDrive and the online versions of Microsoft programs free with your university, but please check before assuming this. Google Docs is also a great tool to use for university work; it is free, saves automatically and can be loaded from where you left off on any computer or internet device.

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