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Online training module: Introduction to supporting care experienced children through the application process
For anyone supporting a care experienced person with their UCAS application, this free training module can be found on the UCAS Professional Development Platform. This resource accompanies the toolkit below and takes you through the different stages of the application – from the research phase to transition, offering practical tips and resources.
Sign in or register to take the module and explore our other training resources for teachers and advisers – this is free to use and you do not need to be a registered centre to access it.
Pre-application and research phase
Forward planning is extremely important for care experienced students to ensure they get the appropriate funding and support as early as possible. Remind students to discuss their plans with their support worker as part of their pathway plan, as they are entitled to help with making these plans from their local authority.
- Identify students with experience of being in care and let them know that support is available to help them go to university or college (the pastoral team in your school or college may be able to help with this).
- Signpost students to Become’s Propel website which shows what support each university or college offers to care experienced students, and details of the named contact at each institution. Encourage students to get in touch to find out about the support they offer. Become’s ‘Helping you reach higher factsheet’ outlines the support students are entitled to at all stages.
- The new NNECL Quality Mark is awarded to universities and colleges demonstrating effective support for care experienced students from pre-application through to graduation. Most institutions will be able to apply from autumn 2021 but some that participated in the pilot have already received the award - check the care experience page on the institution’s website.
- Students may be eligible for an annual bursary from the local authority, and they should also check for other grants and financial support for care experienced students – read more on ucas.com. In Scotland, direct students to the SAAS website for more information.
- Remind students to discuss their plans with their support worker (usually their social worker or personal adviser) as part of their pathway plan, and anyone else who supports them (e.g. foster carer).
- Contact widening participation/outreach teams at local universities and colleges – students will be able to receive support with research, writing their personal statement and making an application.
- In Scotland, make sure students are aware of articulation and that they could be eligible to enter university directly into the second or third year after studying at college - contact the university directly to see if they offer this option and check this guide to articulation for care experienced students from Who Cares? Scotland.
- Direct students to the Care Leaver Offer website to see what support they can expect from their local authority and compare this to what’s available elsewhere in the UK.
When they’re applying
- Encourage students to tick the care leaver box on their UCAS application, and explain that this information is used positively to help support their success. This UCAS blog explains why it’s so important.
- Encourage aspirational choices – care experienced students may be considered for contextualised offers, and in Scotland, they are guaranteed an offer at their chosen Scottish university if they meet the minimum entry requirements – Universities Scotland has a guide for students explaining the guarantee and check this guide to the guaranteed offer for care experienced students from Who Cares? Scotland.
- Make sure they know the key dates and deadlines and check in with them in advance to ensure they are on track.
- Use the reference to highlight anything which may have affected a student’s attainment or performance (e.g. disruption as a result of changing school or placement).
- Let the student know that the personal statement is a great opportunity for them to highlight their skills, strengths and characteristics – including any challenges they have experienced to show their resilience. If the student is uncertain about mentioning their circumstances in their personal statement, this blog article from Become offers useful advice.
- Direct students to the FAQs page if they are uncertain about sharing their care experience.
- Check students can attend open days and interviews – they may be able to access support from the local authority to help with any costs. Sometimes the university or college can help too.
- Help students apply for student finance and any additional financial support they may be eligible for. There are guides to help care experienced students in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
- Make sure any financial support they receive from their local authority is confirmed in writing and they have a copy of this document when they start university or college.
- Remind students to apply for accommodation that allows them to stay over holiday periods. Many universities and colleges offer 365-day accommodation for care experienced students or financial support to help with extra costs, so they should check what is available.
- If the student is not planning to move away, they should speak to their local authority about access to suitable housing.
- Remind students to update their contact details if they move after submitting their application.
Preparing for the transition to university or college
- Make sure students have started thinking about budgeting – more information and advice on ucas.com.
- Prepare them for independent living – they may need help to get up to speed with skills such as cooking.
- Plan out what they need to buy and find out what is provided – some universities and colleges offer starter packs to care experienced students.
- Check they have planned with their support worker how they will make the move to university or college.
- Make sure they know who to contact if they have any questions or problems when they arrive.
- Read the Charlie Waller student guide for care leavers making the transition to university.
- Keep in touch. Try to find some time to contact them to see how they are getting on once they have moved on.
For more support
- Information and advice for students on ucas.com
- Propel – the higher education website for care experienced students
- Become – the charity for care-experienced children
- Who Cares? Scotland – the charity for care experienced young people in Scotland
- The National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL) – resources advisers may find useful.
- The EaCES Handbook – written by estranged and care experienced students to bring together information and advice to help others – including their own experiences and practical tips.
- The Office for Students (OfS) – responsible for regulating fair access and participation in England. They have a number of resources about the current challenges around access, success, and progression for care leavers.
- Pathways to University from Care – a project exploring the barriers for care experienced students and how they can be overcome – includes short videos and case studies that could be shared with students.
- Rees Foundation offers financial assistance and general support, guidance and signposting to other useful sources of information for care experienced people, along with online Let's Connect sessions for them to meet virtually. Later in the year, they will be running 'Uni:fy', exclusively for university students to share their experiences of student life and provide mutual support.