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

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.