How to fund your postgraduate studies?

It is hard to believe that I haven’t blogged for 3 months already… Times goes fast, especially when you are busy. I took a bit of time off from blogging this summer and this on purpose. Indeed after spending two years writing, researching and reading I felt like I needed a bit of time off. That’s done. I’m back!

In exactly two weeks I will start a new academic year as a postgraduate student at the LSE. If I am now happy and exited at the idea to start my course I have spent most of my summer worrying on how I will actually manage to pay for the fees. Here is a little non-exhaustive list of the facts and tips I learnt along the way:

1) Apply early: Regardless of the kind of funding you are looking after, the competition will be fierce. The number of Studentships and scholarships is limited and many have application deadlines coming as early as December for the next academic year. So don’t waste time and get you application ready as early as possible.

2) Visit the careers and student websites to see what is available for you: You will certainly be able to apply to scholarships and grants within your university, but that is not all you can hope for. There are many scholarships available and some require to fill really specific conditions. So don’t give up at the first rejection and look elsewhere. Websites such as prospects , Scholarship search or again Direct Gouv will be really helpful on finding the informations you are looking for. You can also look into local scholarships. For example there might be financial help available within your council or city. International? Look ar your embassy or national education website, there is probably something for you there.

3) Employed ? Could you be sponsored? If you are already employed, your company could be interested in sponsoring you. In the current economic climate that is pretty unlikely but not impossible. There might be a need in the company for a new accountant and your boss might be happy to pay for your training rather than hiring a newbie. Indeed, you already know the company and the company already knows you. You might have a card to play , so try. If you never try you will never know right?

4) Self-funding option 1: A part-time job: And here I will put “self-funding” under brackets because a part-time job will certainly not cover your fees AND living expenses. But it could at least pay for one of the two. Many universities will provide you with guidelines on the recommended part-time work hours during the academic terms. In my case, the university recommend no more than 15 hours of work a week. I’ll work 16 hours and I am sure I will be fine. Working and studying in the same time is really challenging, yet I have found that it has helped me to be more efficient. Indeed, a student who has a job will be put under tighter time constraints and will consequently have to be more organised in order to succeed in its studies. Saying that it was easy would be a lie, it was hard and I finished the two years absolutely exhausted, but I can now pride myself  to be much more organised thanks to these two years.

5) If all fails: A loan : If, like me, you didn’t manage to secure a scholarship, there is always one option left: A loan.  Now that might be really scary as the interest rates are high and most loans are to be repaid straight away. If you need the money now and want to repay after finishing your studies, there is still one option left : The career and development loan. This loan is proposed by two banks, the co-operative bank  and Barclays. The career and development loan allows you to borrow up to £10.000 at a rate of 9,9% APR. You won’t have to pay anything while you are studying as the Skills Funding Agency will pay the interests while you are learning. You will then start repaying post graduation. That sounds pretty good and is potentially one of the best option out there if everything else fail. However, I will consider this option thoughtfully before taking any loan. The career and development loan, despite being a loan sponsored by a government funding body isn’t comparable to student finance or a governmental loan. You will have to start repaying your loan one month after your graduation and this regardless of your situation. So, if , like me you are taking a loan for your masters, good luck. We better secure a good job post-graduation. And even if I am optimistic about my future, nothing is certain but death and taxes!


Hopes and faith might not be enough but with perseverance , your dreams will come true

This happened a few weeks ago but I had to process it before I could write about it:

It is grey and rainy outside, I am sitting in the library, studying for the end of semester exams. Uni mates, books, exams revisions papers and coffee cups all around, it is just another day in the long month that was January. Yet, this day is going to be different. On the 24th of January 2012, I received some news that might be just another piece of news to some people but meant the world to me, indeed, on this Tuesday morning I got an email from the London School of Economics and Political Science with the decision made for my master’s application. After long deliberation and a big push from the friends around me, I finally opened the email.

“I am pleased to make you this conditional offer of admission to the MSc in Media And Communications for the 2012/13 session as a full-time student”. Screams of joys, hugs, and lots of jumping (Yes, in the library). I did it! I got in to LSE! I got into one of the best school of the country! This is not just a Master application for me, it means so much more. It is the result of three years of hard work, it is the realisation of a dream, it is the proof that with perseverance your dreams can become reality.

Let me explain: Three years ago, I left my home country (France) for the UK determined to pursue my dreams. The first goal was to speak English but I soon realised that I must try and go back to studying. From a very young age, I wished to go into higher education. I wanted to do something with my life, have an impact, make it count , you know, all that! But things didn’t turned out the way I thought they would. Quickly after my A level, I realised that I won’t be able to go into university and have my independence at the same time. I remember checking the requirement to go into “Those” fancy schools and wondering how anyone could afford such expensive education. I am talking here about business schools. Indeed after graduating with a business A level it was the way to go if I wanted to access high responsibilities positions in the future. As Jaques Dutronc sang in 1996, “J’y pense et puis j’oublie, c’est la vie, c’est la vie” (I think about it and I forget, It’s life, it’s life).

Indeed, despite the fact that I really wanted to study, I also wanted my flat and my independence. Furthermore, coming from a working class background, I have always been told the following: Top universities and schools are for the rich, the elite of the society, stop dreaming and do like everyone, go learn a job and start earning money. And so I did, I got my first job at 18 and did a vocational training in management part-time while working full time. By the time I was 23 I had a full time job, my own flat (rented obviously..), my car, a swimming pool in my backyard, really you can say I had it all.

Yet, I wasn’t happy, it was a bit like being trapped in some else’s life. So I left, and started it all from scratch here in England. Getting into LSE is such an achievement and I have never been so proud of myself, but, I would lie if I would tell you that it was easy. It was hard, I am broke and working pretty much all the time and I can’t count how many times in the last three years I asked the following question to myself: Why don’t you aspire to a normal life? Why didn’t I settle down, like all my friends seem to have done? Why I did not stay in my well paid job for Chanel, save money, have a dog and a house, you know, all that!

Truth is, I am so happy of my achievements so far, but I am also terrified. Going back to university, leaving France, and now in the process of taking a loan for my Masters. All of that is just so scary. Especially at 28. If you would have asked the child that I was where I would be at 28 years old, I would have never guessed that I would be a student ready to do a Master in the London School of Economics.

Dear reader, don’t stay stuck into the life that society asks you to have, follow your dreams, because, in the end of the day, no one really knows what makes you truly happy. You are the only one who really knows that. And if following your dreams is a scary thing, trust me, when you start touching them, there is no better feeling.

Right now, I regret absolutely nothing, not the tears, not the money struggles, not the loneliness when I arrived in London, nothing. I learned so much and got so much out of it. Yes, taking risks is scary but DO IT! Go! Try and try again, don’t give up, listen to your inner self. If it worked for me, it can work for you too!

Ps: I must say that I wouldn’t have made it without the help and the support of my friends and especially the extraordinary individuals and teachers I have met during my undergraduate degree at London Metropolitan University. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you!

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