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Practical guide to starting university

We’ve pulled together practical tips to help if you are thinking of applying to university or starting university, as well as places to get support if you need it.

Care leaver team contacts at universities and colleges

We’ve developed a list of support details and funding information for care leavers and care leaver team contacts for UCAS coded UK colleges and universities

A practical guide for finding discounts, grants, funding and career opportunities

It can be hard to find discounts, grants, funding and career opportunities and to know how to access them. We’ve pulled together this list to help.

Thinking of applying to university as a care leaver?

Deciding to go to university is a big step for anyone. It can be confusing and a bit overwhelming. The process can be especially difficult if you’re a care leaver, and you might not know where to turn for help. 

That’s why we’ve put together this guide for care leavers who are thinking about applying to university and those who are already students. You’ll find first-hand experiences of what it’s really like to apply to and attend university as a care leaver, and advice and insights directly from care leavers who’ve been through the process themselves. 

We’ve also put together a list of organisations who can help you with lots of different aspects of your journey, from finding accommodation to applying for grants. This guide is a work in progress, so if you’d like to share your story, add a resource, or if you think we’ve missed something, drop us a line at [email protected].

University experiences and advice from care leavers

Your stories
The Guarantor Scheme: giving care leavers the opportunity to rent privately
Other opportunities
A practical guide for finding discounts, grants, funding and career opportunities
Your stories
Practical guide to starting university
University and college contacts
Estranged and Care Experienced Students tree logo by Leyla-Ann
Your stories
Building a community of support for estranged and care experienced students
Your stories
What I wish I’d known before becoming a care-experienced social worker
Your stories
Planting the seed: going to university as a care leaver
Your stories
Making the jump from care to college
Louise’s in podcast recording room.
Your stories
The IMO Podcast, series 2 episode 1: Louise’s story
Your stories
Finding my voice and owning my reality
Your stories
The IMO Podcast, series 1 episode 5: Steven’s story
Your stories
From loss to lectures
Your stories
Studying at the University of Oxford as a care leaver
Your stories
My journey from foster care to the University of Oxford
Your stories
What you should know about Kai
Your stories
Studying to become a social worker
Your stories
My unconventional route to university
Your stories
IMO chats to Cambridge graduate and care leaver Ashley John Baptiste

Support for care leavers

Advice and information

Coram Voice offers advice, support and advocacy to care leavers.

Propel supports care leavers to achieve their higher education goals.

Help at Hand is an advice line run by the Children’s Commissioner for England. It provides free, impartial advice and representation to care leavers.

Become runs an advice line for children in care and care leavers.

Barnardos supports young people leaving care with housing, finances, education and employment.

The Care Leaver Covenant supports care leavers with finding accommodation, and with educational costs.

The Complete University Guide offers advice on entitlements and support available to care leavers attending university.

National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NECCL) provides advice, guidance and support to care leavers in higher education.

Skills Support provides information on training, learning and employment opportunities for care leavers.

Stand Alone provides financial advice to estranged students.

UCAS has a section on its website dedicated to supporting care leavers.

Help with accommodation

Unite Foundation offers students free purpose-built accommodation for up to three years of study with no rent or bills. They have 27 partner universities.

The Care Leaver Covenant supports care leavers with finding student accommodation.

Support with finances

Buttle UK offers grants to care leavers attending university.

Rees Foundation offers career coaching and grants to help with educational costs.

The Welland Trust offers grants to care-experienced adults to help with their career development and higher education fees.

Capstone Care Leavers’ Trust offers advice, support and grants for course fees.

Spark Foundation offers grants of up to £600 for educational costs.

The Care Leaver Covenant supports care leavers with educational costs.

The Tunstall Jubilee Foundation offers grants to care leavers to help with the costs of education and training.