Friday, 12 August 2011

Doing Studylink

It turns out the government is so committed to making tertiary education accessible that there's a whole department dedicated to putting students in debt. As well as a basic student loan to cover course fees, if you can't afford to eat while studying full-time, you can borrow your living costs from the government.

Okay, this isn't entirely fair - they also manage student allowances, again for full-time students. Here's where I get lucky. Because I'm closer to 30 than 20, my parents' income doesn't get means tested when they decide whether I can get one. Remember how I said I was the fourth of five children? To raise five kids, my parents had to draw in a pretty decent sum of money. Unfortunately Studylink doesn't take into account the fact that all seven people in the house needed to eat and have things to wear, they just look at the income and say it's too much. Now that I'm over 25 though, they trust that I actually have to support myself (I guess most poor people are supposed to still be supported by their parents for quarter of a century), though the fact that I'm boarding in my parents' house (due to the fact that I cannot afford market rent prices; I pay an amount closer to what market rent was when I was renting a few years ago) does affect how much of a student allowance I could get. The fact that I could get one at all is due to limited full-time - basically, I'll have to get Massey to tell Studylink that I'm too sick to study full-time, so just handwave and pretend that I am.

Anyway, on the Studylink website, you sign up for an online user id so it will save your eligibility test results and let you apply over the internet. Oddly enough, despite the rather confusing nature of the actual eligibility test when your situation isn't completely straightforward, it was signing up for a user id that I had the most trouble with, and this is due to strength. If you've signed up for a lot of online accounts you've probably come across at least one that will tell you your "password strength". It's based on factors like the length, the type of characters used, and sometimes whether it's made up of words you can find in the dictionary. Studylink loves strength. It protects your account from hackers who are too lazy to actually hack! Not that they even have a name linked to my account yet. Here's what you give them when you're signing up:

Password: You'll see why I'm listing password first in a moment. The strength restrictions on your password are that it has to be 8-15 characters, made up of both letters and numbers. Easy enough.

Username: Your username, which you use to log in as, has exactly the same requirements as the password. This is where I had to think for a moment because none of the various handles I use online have numbers in. I just replaced some vowels with numbers.

After confirming your password you get another common security feature - Challenge question. If you forget your password, the question will come up and you have to give the right answer to reset it. Studylink offers ten choices of question. However, here's the trick. The answers have strength restrictions too. They don't have to have numbers in them, but they have to be 6-30 characters, with no spaces. I'm going to list the questions they offer, with my answers, using x for every letter.

What was the name of your first school? xx xxxxxxx
What is your father's middle name? xxxx
What is the first name of your favourite childhood friend: Either xxx or xxxxx
What street did you live on when you were five years old? xxxxxxx xxxxx
What was your first job after leaving school? xxxxxx xxxxxxxxx
Where did you celebrate the start of the new millenium? I honestly can't remember, but at a guess, xxxx
What is the name of your first stuffed toy? xxxxx
What was the first concert you attended? xxx xxxxxxx
What is the middle name of your youngest child? I don't have one.
In what city or town did your mother and father meet? I'm not sure about this one either, but several of the options have two words.

Notice something about that? Every answer that I know for sure is either too short or has a space in it. Even the ones I'm not sure of or have a couple of answers for won't work. In the end I had to adjust an answer and hope that if I ever forget my password, I'll remember what the hell I did. On the plus side, I guess anyone else would have trouble figuring out what the hell I did, too.

At this point, I am actually going to pause a little in the whole process. My next step would be to apply for a student ID and PIN at Massey, which is the first step in online enrollment, but tomorrow I have an appointment with a Justice of the Peace - after wanting to do it for a few years, I'm getting my name changed so my surname will no longer be a rough equivalent of "Pleasestalkme". I want to hold off on giving my name out to a whole pile of institutions until I have that done, because it's much easier than trying to convince them to change it in their systems later.

In the meantime, I'll be sticking with my budget and keeping on clocking in hours at work, trying to get the money to pay for as much of this as possible. Kia ora!

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