You’ve decided you want your higher education to be completely free – no student loans, no accommodation cost.
Whether that’s a wise or not, it’s up to you. But yes, you can go to university for free. Two things you’ll need: a lot of hustle (researching and applying) and flexibility (free education means you might miss out on something else).
Here are some tools and programs you can use to lower those big costs:
Grants are basically a sum of money the government gives you to help you out with university for free. Notice the give: you’re not expected to return it, unlike student loans. If you qualify for these grants and supplement it with something else, they can help you get to college for free. Pretty sweet.
You get different types of grants:
1. Maintenance grant
For living costs. You can get up to £3,475 if your household income is £19,203 or less. If it’s more than that, you may be eligible for a partial grant, depending on your income. These may not always be easy to get, but they’re worth a try.
2. Special support grant
This grant is to help with additional costs such as books, equipment and travel expenses. You could get up to £3,475 depending on your household income, but you also need to be eligible: be a single parent, have a certain disability, come from abroad, etc. You can’t get both the maintenance and special support grant, but you could try for one of them if you believe you’re eligible.
3. Travel grant
This one’s pretty cool. It’s basically a grant the government gives you to travel abroad, whether it’s on an Erasmus or to do with your university. The amount you’ll get also depends on your household income and some other factors. Here’s how much you can get (it’s a little confusing IMO):
There are a few other grants such as the Disabled Student’s Allowance and Dependents’ and Childcare Grants. As you can see you need to be in pretty specific situations to qualify, so grants are not the answer for everyone. But still worth a mention and a try.
For more info on grants and how to apply visit Gov.uk
Bursaries and scholarships
Bursaries and scholarships are pretty similar to grants except they offer larger amounts of money and aren’t always from the government. Although they may sound like the easy path to free education, they can be quite a hassle. The hardest part: research. There’s tons of bursaries and scholarships out there but you really have to find the right ones and apply as soon as possible. This includes asking your university, asking other students what they’ve done and spending a lot of time on our lil’ friend Google.
You also need specific criteria to pass: your household income, gender, nationality, grades, talents, etc.
The research isn’t easy because there’s not a huge directory with all the scholarships and bursaries available – you gotta do the work. Here are two of the largest directories I found to help you get started:
The beloved NHS! If you’re studying anything health related (dentistry, medicine), the NHS might come and help you out with the costs. The thing is, this one’s pretty complicated. You get different amounts depending on where you live, your household income and what you’ll be studying exactly. It varies so much that it’s kinda hard to be specific here, but here are some extra resources to find out more:
The great thing is that this can then help you do practices and internships with the NHS, which will then lead on to a job, a better opportunity, etc. All I’m saying is it could be worth a try…
Not for everyone but could be a good option. No matter which degree you’re thinking of pursuing, you could get the Armed Forces to help you out with your education so you can then move on to working in the army. There’s a pretty large range of different bursaries available for army students depending on what subject you want to study.
In some places not only do you get a bursary but you also earn a little income of about £2,000 a year. You get different bursaries depending on what you qualify for: if you have amazing grades and potential to become an officer, you could be getting a total of £24,000!
There’s a ton of different options: training to become an Army medical profession, joining the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force. I’m telling you, you’d be surprised by the amount of options out there – do a bit of research and planning and the free education will come rolling.
Sponsorships are basically schemes where a company pays for your education in partly or in full. You could already be working for the company, going to work for them in the future or not working for them at all. There’s tons of different sponsorships available for different degrees and different cases. An example is Google: offering sponsorship to female students studying Computer Science and who demonstrate strong leadership skills.
You have a few odd ones here and there: sponsorships for vegetarians, for Welsh speakers only and even for golfers! Think you don’t have any skills? Look around… maybe some company has thought of you and has a pretty sweet deal you could take advantage of.
The Scholarship Hub has a section on finding sponsorships, or ‘company scholarships’ as they call them.
These are pure gold. And they’re becoming more and more popular nowadays as people realise getting a degree doesn’t always mean getting a job.
With an apprenticeship the company basically trains you for the job and combines it with some classroom style education. Then, the training is over and if you’ve done well – bam, a job.
You can also get a degree apprenticeship: basically the company sponsors you to go to university for free so you can then go work for them once you graduate. Not only do you get a degree for free but you are guaranteed a job once you graduate. Pretty sweet. Here are 4 cool apprenticeships I found (might even apply to one myself 💁)
This page on Gov.uk has tons of resources on finding apprenticeships for your particular degree/field.
This plan may be a little on edge but could work if done well. It basically consists of asking strangers to donate to you to pay for your education. You go on a site like Crowdfunder, Hubbub or GoFundMe and ask for money to support your studies. You write a good essay on what you’re going to do with the money, what you’re going to study and why (something that stands out is better).
Here’s Brian who wants to go to Oxford to study a Masters in Development Studies. His motive? Research on LGBT communities in areas like China and South Africa. He also goes on to explain his achievements, where he’s from and even his sexual orientation (bisexual). He’s raised £18,117 so far. Congrats to Brian!
Crowdfunding is something that takes a lot of time and effort – you really need to convince people to give their money to you. They need to believe in you and trust that you will use the money well. But again, worth a try – and would look great on a CV if successful.
If you’re non-Scot, you won’t get free education offered next door in Scotland (and yes, we’re all sniggering over here). However, there are still some countries which offer a free education: Germany, France, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Why not learn another language? Study something a little different? Get to know an interesting culture? Many degrees are done in English and offer a great range of opportunities for foreigners. Why not make an adventure out of your education?
This is also great for your CV: studying abroad shows an employer that you are flexible, adaptable and you look for opportunities. Great way to stand out from other candidates and gain a different and more interesting set of skills.
I did this for China: one trimester studying Chinese overseas wasn’t too expensive and I made amazing money as an English tutor – effectively making my education free.
It’s a little trickier to apply and organise – no European version of UCAS. You’ll have to go to our trusted friend Google and search for something along the lines of ‘apply for German/French/Norwegian university’ and see where it gets you from there. Some additional resources to check out are The Complete University Guide, list of countries and Top Universities
As I said before, if you want free/very cheap education, you’ll need some hustle. You can combine some of the options above and try to find what suits you best. Do your research, ask your university, do some networking. Keep going until you find something that works for you, and if you can’t find anything: do a gap year. Much better to go into university for free one year later doing something you want than going with everyone else and wasting your time (I say from experience).