Young people who are considering higher education but do not have support from either of their parents due to a breakdown in their relationship (also known as being ‘estranged’) may encounter challenges in their journey. Here, with the charity Stand Alone, we outline the ways in which you can help students in at each stage and explain what support they may be able to access.
Pre-application and research phase
- Where possible, identify students whose relationship with their parents has broken down, or those who have a difficult relationship which could potentially break down later. The pastoral team in your school or college may be able to help with this, but be aware that not all students’ circumstances will be known to the school or college.
- Flag that support is available – introduce them to the Stand Alone Pledge – universities and colleges which have publicly committed to supporting estranged students. Note that support is usually only available to those who are no longer supported by either of their parents.
- Ensure they understand what ‘estranged’ means – many are not familiar with this term but they will encounter it when applying to HE, for student finance, etc.
- Make sure you and your colleagues understand what estrangement is and the challenges students face. Make sure it is mentioned alongside care experience whenever talking about HE support.
- Signpost students to information and advice on the Stand Alone website, including a guide for estranged students, and the UCAS estranged student hub. There are also several relevant articles on our blog site (search for ‘estranged’), including Going to university without the support of your parents, and the Stand Alone Pledge.
- Research bursaries, grants, and other support at universities, and through charitable trusts – read more on ucas.com.
- Encourage students to contact universities and colleges directly prior to application to find out what support is available.
- Estranged students can be more likely to experience difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing, so ensure they are aware of what support is available and how to access it. Encourage and support students to disclose a mental health condition in the UCAS application (see above).
When they’re applying
- Encourage students to share their circumstances in the ‘more about me’ section of the application (for 2023 entry onwards), explaining that this information will be used to connect them to any support the university may offer. To find out more about sharing this information, visit the FAQs page.
- Encourage aspirational choices – students may not realise they can access support that would enable them to move away.
- Use the reference to highlight anything which may have affected a student’s attainment or performance.
- If the student feels comfortable mentioning their circumstances in their personal statement, the UCAS personal statement guide is written by estranged students to help those making their application.
- Ensure they apply for student finance as an independent student, and check what evidence they need to provide – they may need help with acquiring this. Stand Alone’s student finance guide is a comprehensive resource.
- Contact the Independent Team at the Student Loans Company at email@example.com or the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS), for advice on supporting applicants (e.g. if they are struggling to provide evidence).
- Locate and contact the university or college support team or dedicated adviser – Stand Alone lists some details on its website. If a contact isn’t listed, get in touch with the designated member of staff for care experienced students (see the Propel website), or email Stand Alone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Check students can attend applicant visit days and interviews – the university or college may be able to help if cost is a barrier, and Buttle UK offers grants to help students without family support.
- Remind students to update their contact details if they change address and contact the university or college if there is a change of circumstances.
- Remind students to apply for accommodation that allows them to stay over holiday periods. Many universities and colleges offer 365-day accommodation for estranged students or financial support to help with extra costs, so they should check what is available.
- Estranged students can complete an 'estrangement form' when completing their student finance application – the university or college can help the student complete and return this form to the relevant student finance company.
During Confirmation and Clearing
- It may be hard to secure year-round accommodation in Clearing so, if this is required, students should check this with the university or college.
Preparing for the transition to university or college
- Make sure students have started thinking about budgeting – more information and advice on ucas.com.
- Get students thinking about how they will move to university or college and buy the equipment they need. Buttle UK offers grants to help students with costs, and some universities and colleges offer starter packs.
- Remind them to take key documents, such as their passport, birth certificate and driving licence.
- If a student is homeless before or during the summer holiday prior to starting their course, work with the university or college to help the student secure suitable to live over the summer (e.g. an appropriate homeless hostel).
- Ask if they have made plans for the Christmas holiday period. This is often a difficult time for estranged students, so they may need help from their university or college with accommodation and wellbeing support.
- Make sure they know who to contact if they have any questions or problems when they arrive. Bear in mind that not all universities and colleges will be equally familiar with the challenges of estrangement, so it’s helpful to support their transition by liaising with student services.
- Suggest students follow @StandAloneHE on Twitter to connect with other estranged students.