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Student Awards Agency for Scotland

Why a writeup on this small institution which is only applicable to one country in this whole world? Because I wish to share with you the ways of this, at times, mind boggling business which controls the lives of students across Scotland.

If you're a Scottish student, SAAS is the body to talk to if you want a student loan, bursary, or want your tuition fees for college or Uni paid (which, currently, all Scottish students are entitled to.) SAAS will pay for up to four years of either college or Uni (or a combination of both), with an additional bursary for each year. HNC (Higher National Certificate) years are not counted.

The SAAS application form is a wonderfully large booklet with upwards of 15 pages. There are, of course, the obligatory form traps of "if you have answered yes to this question please proceed to question 7" and the like. SAAS offer two types of loan/bursary - a small amount of non-income-assessed funding (which is guaranteed to be available) and possibly some income-assessed funding, depending on how much money your family earns per year. To apply for the income assessed funding, you have to provide proof of earnings - up to and including copies of paychecks. The SAAS are fussy about the money that they're handing out. For example, if you haven't gotten money from your parents for the last year this doesn't mean that you can tell them you have no support. You have to be at least three years from having had support from your parents before they will consider taking your claim on the basis of your own income.

This wonderfully large form (which you have probably spent over three days completing) you now have to send off. If you don't send it before the end of June (of the year you begin College / University) you have pretty much no chance of getting it back before you start term. Even if you do send it in time, you'll probably end up sitting at the letterbox waiting for it on the day you're due to hand a copy to your University or College.

Finally, joy of joys, a little letter comes through the door detailing your payments. You may have gotten more or less than you expected but usually there's something to tide you over (though getting a part time job is often the only way to keep yourself fed and clothed). You take this wonderful piece of paper down to the University finance department or it's equivalent and they hand you over a nice, shiny cheque which you can go and hand into your bank. These cheques, however, may take over the usual three days to clear though some banks will offer you a small percentage of it, being as it is a cheque which is not really likely to bounce.

You think you've done it now, all is well, you don't have to worry about your finances while you're at Uni... or do you ? SAAS, nice as they are, ask you to fill out and reapply every single year while you study. If that's not enough to send you running i really don't know what is...

I think I can honestly say that filling out the SAAS form is one of the most stressful parts of the year