April 17 2014 Latest news:

They continuously outperform the boys with their GCSE and A-level results, but it has now been demonstrated that girls are also much more realistic about their futures as they face up to the prospects of student finance.

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They understand better than boys that financial hardship is a very real prospect, both at university and afterwards.

But both genders struggle to accept the reality of first salaries, expecting more than they are going to get on average.

According to research by Friends Life, teenage girls have a far greater awareness of the financial difficulties that await them as they leave home for university.

As well as being less optimistic about being able to afford undergraduate life and clearing student debts quickly, girls are more resigned to funding their studies with paid jobs and taking unpaid internships as a route into a career.

The research comes amid growing calls for financial education to become part of the national curriculum.

A campaign to make it compulsory for schools to teach personal finance is being led by an all-party parliamentary group, launched in January by Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson.

According to the survey of 16 to 19-year-old students across the UK, 54pc of girls believed they would not be able to afford university, compared with only 38pc of boys.

Nearly two thirds of female students intended to work both during term time and during holidays after starting their degree, while under half of boys had the same plan.

In addition, a greater proportion of female students said they expected to have to take unpaid work experience to secure the job they wanted than male students – 66pc compared with 57pc.

When it came to student debt, male students expected to take an average of 10 years to pay off loans, overdrafts and credit, compared with 12 years for their female counterparts.

But young people of both sexes appear over-optimistic about the amount they will earn in their first graduate jobs, with girls expecting an average of £23,000 and boys expecting £24,500 – against an actual average of only £20,000 for the two thirds of students who find full-time employment within a year.

Rob Barnett, a director at Friends Life, said: “It appears young women have a more realistic outlook than young men on student finances and the hardships they might face during and after a degree.

“Young women expect to earn less and pay more.

“This might be because they mature quicker than young men and give serious issues like finance greater thought in their late teens.

“Whatever the reason, it is very likely that some financial education at school would even out this difference.

“Our research shows that both young men and women have unrealistic expectations about salary so it is important they start thinking carefully about their financial future.

“These are issues parents are facing too, as graduates may be dependent on their parents for longer after graduating due to the current economic situation.

“For most graduates qualifying from university and then entering the workplace is an exciting experience. With the right planning, advice and support, this can also be the case for the graduates of tomorrow.”

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