Applying to university as an estranged student

Here you’ll find everything you need to know about making an application to a university or college higher education course as a student not supported by their parents (estranged).

We will guide you through every step of the higher education application process. You’ll find all the information you need to choose the right course for you and apply to university on our website.

  1. Choose which path is the best fit for your aspirations.
  2. Choose the course that's right for you.
  3. Register, then fill in your UCAS Undergraduate application.
  4. Once you've completed your application, paid for it, and sent it to us, track its progress.
  5. Apply for student finance.
  6. Get your exam results to see if you've got a uni place. Missed out? Use Clearing!
  7. Prepare to start your studies.
  8. Make the transition to higher education study easier with our study skills guides.

Support from application through to graduation

The UCAS application

For students applying to start their course in 2023, UCAS has introduced a new section in the application so you can share more information about your circumstances with the university or college – including whether you are estranged from your parents. This information means the university or college will be able to connect you to the right support for your needs quickly and easily and ensure you have all the information you need.

If you feel as though your relationship with your parents has irreconcilably broken down – or is in the process of doing so – just select ‘yes’ from the drop down box in the question that asks if you are estranged from your parents in the ‘More about me’ section of the application. You will not have to give any further details at this stage.

When you share this information, the university or college may get in touch with more information about how they can help you – and to tell you more about your options. This information is treated confidentially and only shared with those responsible for arranging support and helping you with your application. Knowing about your circumstances may also help admissions staff consider your achievements in context - it won’t reflect negatively on your application.

You are always in control – if you decide you don’t want support, you can choose not to accept it, but if you change your mind later on, or if your circumstances change, it’s ready for you.

If you’d like to know more about sharing information about your care experience in the application, check our FAQs page and read this blog article from Stand Alone.

Remember: not all universities and colleges offer the same type of support so research your options before you make your application to ensure they offer what you need.

Some students wonder if they should mention their estrangement in their personal statement – this is a completely personal decision and you should only do so if you feel it is relevant to your application. We have worked with Stand Alone and estranged students to create a guide to writing your personal statement.

Some universities and colleges are committed to specifically supporting estranged applicants and students throughout their journey to higher education, often with a dedicated member of staff. This could include support with your application, help to find your feet in your first year, and ongoing support right through to graduation. It’s a good idea to contact the universities and colleges you’re interested in before you apply, to find out what support they can offer you.

Many universities and colleges have pledged their commitment to supporting students who do not have the support or approval their parents due to a breakdown in the relationship (known as estranged) through the Stand Alone Pledge. Their website gives details of the 'champion institutions' who have taken the Pledge, along with details of the support they have committed to, and you can also listen to estranged students talk about their own experiences of higher education. Not all universities and colleges who offer support for estranged students have signed the Pledge, so if you don't see your choice on the website, it doesn't mean they can't help you. Check the university's website, or contact their student services office to see what's available.

Mental health advisers

Many universities and colleges have student support advisers based on campus dedicated to helping students with mental health difficulties. This help is not limited to people with a diagnosed condition – it is available to all students who would like some support to cope with any aspect of life. Mental health advisers can explain the different support services available, and discussing your particular needs or concerns will help them decide the best support for your needs.

You do not have to wait until you arrive at university or college to make contact with the mental health adviser – in fact, it is a good idea to do this when you have been offered a place on the course so they can ensure you're fully supported and feel confident when you arrive.

Check out UMHAN (University Mental Health Advisers Network) for more information, and the student mental health charity, Student Minds.

Buttle UK provides grants for estranged students who need financial help for access to emotional, physical, or mental health care. See our financial support information for more details.

Counselling services

Most universities and colleges provide students with access to counselling. Student services, or the students' union (or other student body) will be able to provide you with more information about what's available – make sure you check the university or college website too.

Mentoring and buddy networks

Some course providers operate peer and staff mentoring schemes to help new students make the successful transition to university and settle in. Some are specifically trained to help support estranged students and care leavers, and will make sure you can access the services and information you may need. Often, mentoring or ‘buddying’ takes place online, and this is sometimes available before the start of your course to support your transition to higher education. Check with the university or college to see if they offer this.

Stand Alone – a charity that works to support estranged people – offers support groups and therapeutic workshops for people in a similar situation. Their website provides information about upcoming events.

Support during your exams at school or college

Special Consideration

If your personal circumstances have adversely affected your exam performance, or caused you to be absent from an assessment through no fault of your own, your school or college may apply to the examination board for Special Consideration. They will consider your circumstances and, if appropriate, apply a small adjustment (up to 5%) to your overall mark for that component.

Exam results

It may be reassuring to know that, under the Data Protection Act 2018, your relatives cannot access your exam results without your consent.

A guide for estranged students

This guide, written by student Eira Wallace, is a great reference guide for anyone who is going to university without the support of their parents – because it is written by someone who has done just that. Eira says:

I became estranged at the start of 2016, and left an abusive home with nothing more than a few clothes and the books I had taken to school that day. Since then, I’ve completed my A levels, a bachelor's degree, and a master's degree. Along the way, I’ve realised how the experiences of estranged students were not well understood and our needs not catered for. Every time I faced an issue, it felt as if I was the first person to have gone through the process. I created this guide with the aim of helping other estranged students who will likely face the same issues, and I hope that, by having a rough outline of how to face them, they will not have to spend as much time and effort as I have in resolving them.

Read Eira’s guide for estranged students on the Stand Alone website.

More info and advice if you're going it alone

If you don’t have support from your parents due to a breakdown in your relationship, you will find everything you need to know here to help you prepare for uni life.