The best person to know if you are ready to go to university is you. You may feel under pressure from outside influences to go into higher education or feel that it is what is expected of you but you should not make the decision lightly as it will hugely impact your life. You are the best person to judge your abilities and needs and what is best for you. There are many positives of going to university – improving your career prospects, new experiences and opportunities and meeting new people. However, there are important things you should consider when making your decision. Unlike school, at university you are treated like an adult, responsible for your own discipline and time keeping. You may also live independently (if you choose) during your studies. Your care experience does not make you any less capable of going to university and completing your studies, still, everyone needs supportive relationships, especially during times of change and uncertainty. Take all the support that you are offered during this time so that you have the security and support needed to succeed on your course. Whether you “own” your care experienced identity while entering and completing your studies is a personal choice. You will be asked on your UCAS form if you are care-experienced. You may not want the label of being “care experienced” or feel that it is not relevant to your studies. This is something you should think about before applying for university. If you do decide to disclose your care experience, you will have access to financial and practical support throughout your time at university.
If you have a pathways plan you can ask for this to be updated for your local authority and those involved in your care to best support you practically and financially in applying for, starting and completing your studies. If you decide to disclose your care experience on your UCAS application, you will be entitled to support throughout your time at University and during the summer months. Each individual university now has a legal responsibility (under the Children & Young People Scotland Act 2014) as a Corporate Parent, and so will have their own Corporate Parenting Plan in place, setting out how they meet this responsibility. This is slightly different at each university, but no-matter the institution, care-experienced applicants/students can rely on there being:
Other provisions available to you as a care leaver is the guaranteed offer at a University if you meet the minimum entry requirements.
If you know which course you are interested in, you should note the application closing date and try to get your application in as soon as possible – as courses can fill up quickly. Most courses start around August/September of each year but some courses start later.
If you are unsure if university is for you, you can read the Becomes factsheet for care leavers thinking of starting University.
If you are thinking about university and you are still at school you can ask your career or guidance worker to support you throughout the process.
You can also contact the university you are interested in attending and ask for a tour. Most universities offer tours and events for care leavers – there is a named person at every university who can support you and link you to financial and practical support.
If you are applying to a Scottish university you will be guaranteed a place on your chosen course if you meet the entry requirements
If you are applying to university you should tick the care experienced box on your application, this will allow you to access the support and provisions available to you as a care leaver – UCAS have a care leaver guide where they explain why you should tick the box.
You can apply to SAAS for a care-leavers bursary. This bursary will pay for your course costs as well as giving you a grant for living costs – which does not need to be paid back like traditional student loans. SAAS can also help you with accommodation costs throughout the summer months in between terms. You can find out more about the bursary here: SAAS Care-experienced Student Bursary and summer Accommodation Grant.
You can find an update on the SAAS care experienced bursary here.
UCAS had created a toolkit for care leavers thinking about applying for university. The toolkit has lots of advice for care leavers including financial support and FAQs.
If you would like to move onto the application process you can access UCAS application from here.
If you would like help with your personal statement, you can find it here.
You should ask someone to look over your application and give some constructive feedback and check for any errors.
Remember that education is lifelong and not everyone is in a position to start university straight from school or college. You may not be ready yet and that is okay – University is a huge commitment which many people are not ready for until later in their life, if at all.
Happiness and success can be found in many different ways. Sometimes it can seem like formal education is the only route, but that is not true. No route is automatically better than the other, the thing that matters most is that it fits you and your life. Here you will find some guidance and advice on other options that you may want to consider.
Considering going to college and starting a new chapter in your life can be equally exciting and daunting. Whether you have just left school or you have been out of education for a while you have lots of options and opportunities available to you.