From being estranged from her family and homeless at 16, to studying at the University of Oxford, Chloe shares her advice for estranged students considering applying to university.

Chloe, University of Oxford student

Deciding to apply to the university was the best decision I've made. I always loved learning, and school was my escape from the chaotic environment I grew up in. I believed that going to university and working towards my dream career would be the best way to be self-sufficient and build the stable life I had always wanted.

Go to open days

Attending university open days is a brilliant way to meet your lecturers, potential course mates, and experience the university's vibe. This is the place you'll be living in for the next three years, so it's important you enjoy it!

Unlike other students, we can't go home during the breaks, so it's good to explore the city and consider what you can do in the breaks that you'd enjoy.

Get support from your uni

Reach out to the university's dedicated estranged student contact, if they have one! They can answer all your questions regarding finances, full-year accommodation contracts, and can be a friendly source of support if you ever have any questions.

The UCAS application

UCAS has added a box to the application for students to indicate they are estranged to the universities. This allows your universities to be aware of your circumstances and can offer you the necessary support. This may be signposting financial support, assigning you a member of staff to answer any queries, or it could be giving you a contextual offer. There is no shame in doing this and it’s the best way to get the support you need!

Charities for estranged students

The Unite Foundation is a charity dedicated to supporting estranged and care-experienced students, offering a network for us all to connect and support each other, hosting meet-ups, and offering an incredibly generous accommodation scholarship.

Additionally, your university may have a society for estranged students or those from similar backgrounds. Many universities have a 93% club society for state educated students, and some have dedicated estranged student societies like Durham, Oxford, St Andrews, and Portsmouth.

Managing your money

Unfortunately estranged students don’t have a financial security provided by our parents. As a result, we often have to work alongside our studies and manage our finances more carefully than others.

If you find yourself struggling to afford your rent, food, or other necessities, reach out to your university about their financial support. See if they have a dedicated estranged student bursary or a hardship fund. These are usually grants to help you afford the necessities, and you won’t have to pay them back.

Applying for student finance

If you're applying for student finance, check their criteria for applying as an estranged student. This means they will assess you on your income alone, and you may receive the maximum maintenance loan.

Reach out to your college, support worker, or call the student finance team if this is confusing for you (it was very confusing for me…).

Chloe, University of Oxford student

I won’t sugarcoat it – it’s not easy studying at university as an estranged student. There are nights when I’ve felt alone, wished I had parents to call up when I’m struggling, or felt upset that other people had the financial security I didn’t. It’s not fair, but it has taught me a lot. If you are nervous about applying, talk to someone – a teacher, support worker, or friend.

University was the right choice for me

Even though I’ve had a few wobbles and thought I couldn’t make it, I’m still here now. I’ve met friends who have become my family, have staff who’ve gone above and beyond to support me, and have an incredible support network of fellow estranged students through charities like the Unite Foundation community.