Sunday, February 22, 2015

How to apply for student finance in England


Personal statement: relevant work experience is vital for some subjects, such as medicine, law and education, and desirable for many others.
Thinking of going to university this year? Applications for student finance in England are now open and aspiring students should apply as soon as possible to ensure their finances are organized for the 2015/16 academic year.
What’s available?
There is a range of finance available to help with university costs, including tuition fee loans and maintenance loans and grants, to help with your living costs while you’re studying.

Universities and colleges can charge up to £9,000 a year in fees depending on the course. Tuition fee loans are available to cover the cost of the fees.
These are repayable only after you leave university or college and are earning above a certain amount - at the moment it is £21,000 before tax.
There is also funding available to help you with living costs, such as rent and bills. Depending on your circumstances you may also be eligible to receive a maintenance grant and extra support is available for those with children and dependents.
How do I apply?
The Student Loans Company processes all applications for students in England and Wales and you can apply online here. Applications for students in Wales will be available soon and students should apply here.

Help and guidance is displayed throughout the online application process.
Students in Scotland apply to the Student Awards Agency for Scotland and Northern Ireland students should apply to the Education and Library Board.
What information do I need when I apply?
Make sure you have all the necessary information to hand when applying for finance – passport details (password number and validity start and end dates), your course details, bank account number and sort code numbers and national insurance number.

If you’re applying for finance based on household income, your parent or partner will be asked to provide financial information. They should provide exact figures and details from their 2013/14 P60 as the latest complete tax year data is required.
How will my funding be paid?
Once your application has been assessed by the Student Loans Company you will receive an entitlement letter which details how much funding you have been awarded and you can check your online account for payment dates.

You can keep up to date on your application, by checking for updates about your student finance in your online account by logging on here for students in England and students in Wales here.
When accessing your account online you can also update your contact details and bank details.
It is important that you ensure that your bank details are entered correctly and if they need to be updated, this should be at least five working days before payments are made, otherwise you may not receive your funds to the correct account.
When do I repay my loans?
While you don’t have to pay back grants and bursaries, you must pay back Tuition Fee Loans and Maintenance Loans and they attract interest.

Repayments are due once you have left university or college. The amount that is paid is dependent on how much you earn, currently you have to earn £21,000 or more before tax.
The repayment of student loans is administered through the UK tax system and currently each month 9 per cent of earnings over £21,000 is taken at source through the PAYE system.
HMRC liaises with employers or the account holder (if you are self-employed) and SLC maintains your account and sends you updates, but you can check online yourself, as your account remains open while your loan is outstanding.
Top tips for new students:
You do not need a confirmed place to be able to apply for student finance – you can use your preferred choice of course and update it later.

Send any evidence requested as soon as possible to ensure you don’t hold up your application
Remember to sign and return your online declaration form – it’s faster to print off your online declaration form from your own account
Keep a note of the email address you use when applying for student finance and make sure you choose a password that you’ll remember. The most common calls to the Student Loans Company are from students who have forgotten their password.
If you’re applying for funding based on household income, you and your sponsor (normally parent or partner) must provide the correct financial and personal information. Your funding can be removed if you are found to have provided incorrect details.
From the end of February, SLC will start contacting continuing students across England to progress their funding applications for this year. 

Useful websites:
English students: gov.uk/studentfinance
Scottish students: saas.gov.uk
Welsh students: studentfinancewales.co.uk
Northern Ireland students: studentfinanceni.co.uk

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Guide for International Students for Graduate Study in the US


 Graduate Study in the US: Guide for International Students main image
The United States of America is super-sized in more ways than one. It’s the world’s fourth largest country by total area, third largest by population, has the largest national economy, highest average wage, spends more on higher education than any other nation, and exercises a global superpower influence across the fields of trade, military, politics and culture.
It’s also a superpower when it comes to higher education. US universities dominate international rankings tables, and include many of the world’s most famous institutions. Think Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Yale, Caltech – and so many more. This combines with the nation’s cultural attractions to make the US the number one choice for international students, at all study levels.
According to the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), around 15% of all graduate-level students in the US are international. The most popular subject area for international graduate students is engineering, which accounts for more than a quarter (27%) of international graduate enrollments. Next is business (17%), followed by programs relating to physical and Earth sciences, mathematics or computer sciences (20% combined).
Top 10 US Universities

World rank
Location
1
Cambridge, Massachusetts
4
Cambridge, Massachusetts
7
Stanford, California
8
Pasadena, California
9
Princeton, New Jersey
10
New Haven, Connecticut
11
Chicago, Illinois
13
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
14=
New York City, New York
14=
Baltimore, Maryland
Top places to study in the US
The considerable size of the US means there’s something to suit every student’s taste, whether you’re into fast-paced big city life or leisurely sojourns in unspoiled wilderness; sunning yourself on the beach or the sun-glare from snowy mountains. Add cultural diversity to this mix and it’s no wonder that the US boasts more entries than any other nation in the QS Best Student Cities, an index of the globe’s top urban study locations.
Among the brightest of the US’s bright lights is New York City, sometimes referred to as the “Capital of the World” and undoubtedly one of the planet’s most recognizable skylines. Known worldwide for its cultural influence, financial power and legendary arts, music and fashion scenes, the “Big Apple” promises enough museums, theaters, architecture, venues, parks and cuisines to deliver new experiences every single day of your degree. The city’s higher education providers are also globally renowned, including Ivy League member Columbia University and the equally well-known New York University, both ranked within the world’s top 50 in the QS World University Rankings® 2014/15.
Moving into the neighboring state of Massachusetts, college-town Cambridge, close to Boston, boasts an even stronger concentration of world-leading institutions. Cambridge (named after its UK counterpart) is the home of both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, which occupy the top two spots in the latest edition of the QS World University Rankings. The Boston area in general is well known for its student community, sophisticated arts, politics and cultural scenes, and of course for the beautiful natural colors that characterize the New England group of states, particularly during the fall.
On the opposite side of the US’s huge territory, California’s San Francisco Bay Area is another prominent international hub for higher education – and for research and development more generally, as the site of the famous Silicon Valley high-tech innovation cluster. Perhaps a little more laidback than the “city that never sleeps”, San Francisco and the wider Bay Area offer an intriguing combination of coastal lifestyle and cutting-edge development, with start-up dynamism overlaying earlier eras of “flower power” and liberal activism.
As a state, California is known for its strong public university system, and the heart of this system is here in the Bay Area, which is home to both the highly distinguished UC Berkeley and the graduate-focused UC San Francisco. The area’s highest-ranked institution, however, is the private Stanford University, which places within the global top 10.
Other US cities which enjoy particularly high prestige both culturally and in the higher education world include Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and of course the federal capital Washington DC. But there are plenty more fantastic locations in which to study in the US – browse the options by state here.
Applying for graduate study in the US
Graduate-level entry requirements for most US universities specify completion of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent from an internationally recognized institution. Additional documents you may be asked to provide include: letters of recommendation, a research statement (for PhD applicants) and scores from standardized examinations such as the GRE, GMAT and/or English proficiency tests.
While some institutions hold rolling admissions and accept applications on an ongoing basis, most colleges offer an early deadline (usually December to January) and a regular deadline (usually March to April). You can apply to as many US universities as you like, but most students opt for no more than a carefully chosen six. You’ll need to pay an application fee, usually between $50 and $100, though online applications can be cheaper or even free. Further fees include the non-immigrant visa application fee (currently $160) and a registration fee for SEVIS, the student database and tracking system ($200).
International students will need to obtain an F-1 non-immigrant visa. For this, you will need to have secured a place at an SEVP-approved university, prove that you have sufficient funds for the course duration, and confirm that you intend to leave the US after completing your studies. Canadian and Bermudian citizens do not need visas to study in the US, but will still need to obtain an I-20 Certificate of Eligibility form and pay for SEVIS registration.
The cost of graduate study in the US
Tuition fees in the US vary widely from institution to institution, but overall are among the highest in the world. Private universities usually have one set fee for both local and international students, while at public universities in-state students generally pay less than out-of-state and international students. As institutions set their own fees, it’s best to check their websites for specific figures. Note that professional programs such as MBAs, JDs, LLMs and MDs will be more expensive than other master’s or PhD programs.
The cost of living in the US can also vary considerably, due to the socioeconomic differences inevitable in a country so large and diverse. Suburban and rural areas in the South and Midwest generally have the lowest cost of living, with big cities carrying considerably higher expenses regardless of geographical location. To give an example, Cornell University’s Law School outlines a budget for those enrolling in 2014/15 which includes US$11,250 per year for room and board, $1,100 for books and supplies, $2,433 for health insurance, and $5,000 for travel and personal expenses.
US scholarships and financial aid
The good news is that a large percentage of students in the US receive some form of financial aid. This is either need- or merit-based, with the former based on an assessment of students’ finances and the latter considering academic achievements and/or athletic talent. For a selection of US scholarships for international students, visit this article. Six major US universities are entirely “need-blind”, meaning they have pledged to offer sufficient financial assistance to support all students (both domestic and international) who meet the high academic standards needed for entry. These are Amherst, Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, MIT and Harvard.
In general, private US universities offer more opportunities for financial assistance which are open to international students; the latter are not eligible for most of the aid schemes provided by the US federal government. However, NYU’s Perez and Liakaris are keen to emphasize that there are lots of options for international postgraduate students seeking financial support. “Some graduate schools provide scholarships that are specific to international students. Some offer assistantships that help offset the cost of tuition while providing some practical experience in a field of interest. Some universities, such as NYU, also offer Curricular Practical Training (CPT), which allows students with F-1 visas to participate in paid, off-campus internships.”
Further options include fellowships (a form of merit-based scholarship), and scholarships offered via the Fulbright Program, run by the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Students may also seek work on campus for extra income, while many PhD students receive a tuition waiver and some form of annual stipend. Perez and Liakaris also recommend finding out if your chosen institution offers a flexible payment plan, which would allow you to pay your tuition balance in more wallet-friendly monthly installments.

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Written by Hasna Haidar



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