Students who have spent time in care are entitled to support with going to university. Here are some practical ways in which you can support care experienced students research their options and prepare for their next step, which we have developed with experts such as the Care Leavers' Covenant, Become, the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL) and Who Cares? Scotland.
Pre-application and research phase
- 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.
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.
- 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 FAQ 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.