How do I apply for student loans?

3min read
Posted 04 July 21

Studying is a great way to up-skill your career or learn more about a subject. Whatever you decide to do, from a one-year training course to a full PhD, you'll probably need some financial help along the way.

Student loans are all part of studying. They cover not just your courses, but living costs too. The best part they get you over that study finish line in one piece.


Know the different types: loans and allowance.

Before you apply, you should figure out what you can receive doing this first will save you lots in the long run. Also, remember the name StudyLink they're the ones you'll apply to for money.

In NZ, there are only really two types to be aware of; loans and allowances. A loan is any amount of money you borrow for your tertiary study costs, which you have to pay back. An allowance is money given to you to help cover costs without being paid back.

Still confused? Let's break it down further.



This is money you've agreed to pay back. Loans help you pay your;

               o   course fees

               o   living costs

               o   and any compulsory fees

The amount of loan you're allowed to take out is worked out for you, so don't worry. All you need to do is tell StudyLink what your course is, the number of classes you take and any living costs you pay.

Loans are usually available for up to 7 years of full-time study, and living costs are paid in instalments. Payments are reviewed yearly, based on student living and course costs. You can sign up for yours at StudyLink. 



Allowances are like loans, but you don't have to pay them back. Anyone can apply if they're over 18 and studying full time. Allowances are worked out for you, based on your situation and how much your parents earn (for those under 24, it's expected that your parents are helping with the course cost, depending on if they earn over a certain amount). 

Not everyone can get an allowance, or you may only get some allowance it's all based on things like personal hardship, any children or family you might be supporting, etc. But if your allowance is low, you can always top up your weekly payments by applying for less than the total loan to cover what you need for the study. 

It gets pretty complex working it all out, so try StudyLink's allowance calculator to work out what you can get. You can also apply with StudyLink online or talk with them about what you could get by phoning 0800 88 99 00.

One tip to remember an allowance is for studying purposes only. So, if you're planning a 3-week break during your course or to go on a benefit, you risk losing your payments.


Get on those scholarships.

The good news is that scholarships are available for everyone. Every study area is funded differently, so it pays to check what you can get. Some exist solely to help struggling students, and you can usually get multiple scholarships at a time.  


How to apply: step by step.

If you've already studied before, you'll be an expert at loans and can ignore the above.

However, two different ways to apply, like the first time or a returning student.

First-time students your first year is fees-free. But that doesn't include living costs, so you might still need a loan. For that, you need your NSN (National Student Number), which was given to you at high school. You can find this number online. 

However, when you go to apply for a loan, you'll need a different number. RealMe is your account for tertiary and tax payments, also available online.

Next, you'll take the eligibility test on StudyLink's site to see what you can get. Make sure to grab all your supporting documents (passport, driver's license, birth certificate).

Remember, you can change your details anytime. Try Jobseeker's Support to help with financial support after you've finished studying.


Your obligations.

Whatever happens, make sure you keep StudyLink informed. That includes any changes in your living situation or if you're planning on going overseas. You'll go through MyStudyLink to make these changes so hold on to your RealMe number.

You'll also need to let StudyLink know when you find work, although you won't pay anything back until you start earning over $20,000 a year. After that, repayments are around 12% of what you earn weekly.

StudyLink should kick in automatically with your contract if your employer pays your tax. If you're contracting, freelancing or doing your tax, you'll need to contact StudyLink directly.

The other crucial thing to know is going overseas because you'll start paying interest. Check out this handy payments table to see what you should be paying based on your overseas income.


In short.

There's a lot of information to take in when applying to be a student.

What's most important is where to go and what types of costs to apply toward. StudyLink is the hub for all applications, but you'll need to set up a RealMe account to start.

Then, you'll want to take the eligibility test to see how many allowances you can get versus how much loan you'll need to take out.

Lastly, watch for scholarships because they can significantly decrease your final loan.




Info and tools on the Yonda website are used as a guide only and do not constitute financial advice. Use Yonda as a starting point and then seek professional advice.