Feb 15, 2016— read in full
Support for care leavers during and after university
Leaving care and starting university are both times when you'll hear a lot about the need to learn independence. But nobody is completely independent: we all need a support network around us. And while you will become more independent while you are at university, this is part of a process: university gives you the chance to learn to live independently while you still have a good level of support around you.
You may not already have a strong support network when you arrive, and this can be worrying. But between the support your university provides and the friends you will make, you can build up a network that can support you whatever problems arise.
Building your support network
Your social circle
Your social circle is an important source of support. This doesn't necessarily just mean your close friends: for example, someone you know less well but who has similar experiences to you, or is on the same course, might be a useful source of support in certain situations.
Try and identify one or two key people you can go to for support within these groups. Never feel you can't ask for help or share something you are worried about. Remember, you'll be a source of support for your friends, too – in fact, they may feel more comfortable asking you for help if they know you trust them enough to ask theme.
With so many new people at university, it can be difficult to know how to meet people. One way is to join societies or clubs for things your are passionate about, or something new that you're interested in trying. The big advantage of this is that your shared interest you'll always have something to talk to new people about. You can usually find out which societies a university has on the university's student union homepage, at the fresher’s fair when you arrive or by using Propel to access the university's homepage.
Try to go to the one of the first society events of the year if you can – there will normally be lots of new people starting, so you won't feel like everyone else knows each other already. If you can't make it, though, don't worry: most university societies are friendly and keen to make new people feel welcome.
Academic and pastoral support
For additional support at university you can go to your personal tutor or course leader. They will be able to help you with study-related concerns and will also be able to point you in the right direction for any other support.
There may be a number of different people you can talk to about different things, which can be confusing. Remember, it's better to talk to the wrong person than to say nothing: even if they can't help, they can direct you to someone who can. Similarly, if you don't feel comfortable talking to the person who would normally deal with your situation, you can go to someone else and ask them to help you. They may be able to intervene on your behalf, for example.
The student services department offers lots of different support to students, such as financial advice and study support. They can also direct you to other sources of support on campus.
If you're not sure where to go with a problem, student services is a good place to start: they will know all the different resources that are available and who to talk to about them. Because they deal with so many students every year, they will probably have dealt with a similar problem to yours before, even if it's complicated.
Most universities will give you the name and contact details of someone who can support you through the application process and when you are at university. Make sure you tick the box on your UCAS form to say that you are a care leaver so the university knows to give you this information.
Exactly what support is available to you will vary between different universities. You can find out what's on offer using the website Propel, which lists all the different support available for care leavers at each university and provides details of who to contact to find out more.
When you're part-time or a distance learner
It can be more difficult to build a support network when you are a distance or part-time learner, since you won't be around people at your university as often. But you aren't on your own. University services should still be available to you, just as they would for many other contacts, and universities and societies often have online forums, Facebook groups or mailing lists that can let you stay involved and keep in touch with people.
Support from your university
When you graduate, your university doesn't just wave you goodbye and abandon you. There will still be support available to you.
For example, you will still be able to use the university's careers resources to help you with finding job opportunities and writing your CV. Most universities have lots of online resources you can access, which is useful if you will no longer be living nearby.
Many universities also offer continuing support specifically for care leavers. You can find out what different universities offer on Propel, or talk to your key contact about it before you leave.
Staying in touch
Leaving university can be just as difficult as arriving if you're suddenly moving away from your social circle. Don't just assume you will keep in touch with people if you have their contact details: try to arrange to meet up with people before you leave. Otherwise, once people are moving house and starting jobs it's easy to lose touch.