A guide to help estranged students write their personal statement.

Being an estranged student means you will be studying without the support of your parents due to a breakdown in your relationship.

It is likely that you have lived with difficult circumstances at home, and may no longer be in contact with your parents. You may have recently moved out or have been living independently for some time.

Your circumstances may have affected your ability to participate in activities (e.g. after-school clubs or local societies) because of limited resources, or you may have taken a break between finishing school and considering higher education.

Whatever your individual circumstances, you may feel you’ve missed out on opportunities to build an impressive personal statement.

However, through your estrangement you will have probably overcome and survived many personal challenges, and gained a variety of skills and strengths that are highly valued in higher education. Understanding what these are, and talking about them in your personal statement or interview, will help your application stand out and highlight the positive personal step that you are taking in applying to university or college without family support.

UCAS has worked with Stand Alone to develop a guide to help you to think about the skills, experience, and strengths you could write about in your personal statement. Don’t forget to use this alongside UCAS’ personal statement tool to help you structure your ideas.

Getting started

As a starting point, think of a particularly challenging period of your life.

  1. What skills and characteristics did you use, gain, or strengthen during this period?
  2. How are these skills and characteristics applicable to studying your chosen course and university life more generally?
  3. Which of these skills and characteristics could help your application stand out?

Below you will find some example of some actions, skills, and characteristics to help you.

Actions and experiences (I do)

  • Arrange accommodation (e.g. finding a house, storing items between moves).
  • Able to source support independently.
  • Live independently.
  • Manage finances and personal budget.
  • Manage personal needs (self-care).
  • Navigate difficult circumstances.
  • Persevere in difficult circumstances.
  • Take initiative.
  • Work experience (alongside or after school/college).

Skills (I can)

  • Advocate for others.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Communicate (standing my ground, finding my voice).
  • Critically evaluate.
  • Listen to others.
  • Manage my time independently
  • Mediate conflicts.
  • Negotiate.
  • Organise (finances, living situation).
  • Prioritise.
  • Set goals and plan to achieve them.
  • Solve problems.
  • Stay calm under pressure.
  • Take responsibility.
  • Understand complex information.

Personal characteristics (I am)

  • Adaptable in difficult circumstances.
  • Adaptable in values (i.e. independent thought and moral progression).
  • Committed.
  • Compassionate.
  • Creative.
  • Empathetic.
  • Hard-working.
  • Independent.
  • Motivated.
  • Patient and supportive with others.
  • Resilient.
  • Resourceful.
  • Responsible.
  • Self-aware.

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Many universities and colleges have initiatives and support programmes in place to help you.

They may have signed the Stand Alone Pledge and offer tailored support for estranged students, or even have a dedicated contact who will be able to answer any questions or concerns you have about studying there before you apply.

Some also have peer support networks where you can meet other independent students with similar experiences. Read more about going to university as an estranged student.