It was not on a whim when I decided to go to university. I had been contemplating the decision for many years. Still, I kept putting it off because I was scared as I didn’t have the same advantages as some of my peer’s attending university. For one, I was a care leaver, and in my circumstances, I grew up with an alcoholic father and a manipulative mother.
I went into care when I was sixteen and was finishing my first year in 6th form, studying Childcare level 2. I didn’t pick A-Levels as I was told I wouldn’t do as well as my peers who didn’t have learning disabilities. Because of this, I chose the course I saw as easy, as I had already done Childcare for my GCSE’s.
I started childcare level 3 in September later that year when I turned 17. With everything going on in my life at the time, going into care and struggling with depression, I couldn’t do it anymore. Everything in my life became too much, so I dropped out.
When I was 18 and a half, my older sister, who is also a care leaver, convinced me to consider going back to college to study English literature A-level because it was something I was passionate about. I love to read, and I love to write stories.
While I was there for an interview, I was told I needed to have the GCSEs qualifications to do an A-level course. Instead, I was recommended to do an access course, also known as a higher education course. These help older students achieve the qualifications they need to attend university. However, I had my heart set on doing English literature for college. The access course felt big and scary. I had no courage in myself because of my previous school and peers, I was told I was stupid.
It was only when I was twenty and living in supportive housing that I took the initiative to sign myself up for an access course, studying social science. Then COVID-19 hit, leaving my peers and me unable to complete our class. Fortunately, we were given marks for the assignments we were not able to do based on the work we'd already done. So, at the end of it I was given the UCAS points to attend University.
However, at the time I was on the brink of homelessness because my support housing was shutting down. So, life got in the way, and I had to wait to attend University. It was not until the beginning of 2022 that I finally felt strong enough in my life and mental health to apply.
I applied to two different Universities, choosing to study courses in creative writing because that is where my passion lies. I was thrilled when I got a place studying a creative and professional writing course at Winchester University, I’m currently really enjoying it.
Suppose you are looking into going to university for any reason. If you feel being a care leaver makes you any less worthy of attending university, it doesn't. You don’t have to attend University straight out of college or the higher education course.
You can wait until you feel ready because sometimes life doesn’t go to plan.
When you are choosing your university it’s essential to attend their open days to get a feel of the University itself, where the lectures are and where you will be living, if you do choose to live in halls. Being a care leaver can come with its advantages also, most universities have a bursary and a care leaver team to support people in your situation, such as Winchester University. Deciding your university is so important and shouldn’t be rushed, please make sure to research all the tools and support available for you as a care leaver.
Also, applying is one thing but also making sure you do all the parts afterwards is important, such as getting your Student Loans with Student Finance England (The government loan company for students). The loans you apply for are:
- The Tuition Fee Loan which will pay for your learning and is paid directly to the university
- The Maintenance Loan, which is paid directly to you, which pays for your cost of living including your food and rent.
As a care leaver you will be entitled to the full amount on the maintenance loan, so make sure you get a letter from your Personal advisor (PA) stating you’re a care leaver for your applications.
Speaking to your PA or social worker can significantly help you with this; they can also fund certain things. Every local council is different, as I’m sure you know by now. But I know that Hampshire Council can support your living accommodations and give you a weekly allowance to help with living costs.
At the end of the day, this blog is not about convincing you to go to university because everyone is different. Some people learn best on the job, and others learn best in the classroom. You do what is right for you, but this blog is to show, you can do anything.
Just because you’re a care leaver, it shouldn’t stop you from reaching your goals and dreams.