Life as an estranged student is pretty tough, no matter the situation. It has been a struggle for me since my confirmed estrangement to find a friend, or sometimes even a teacher or lecturer, who really understood. And that's why I'm writing this blog; to give some more representation, some understanding, as well as some tips of course!
Prepping for Uni!
When I started to get adjusted to university, I realised in my first few days that my maintenance loan was the smallest amount possible. I completed my estrangement form and sent it back to Student Finance England thinking I didn't need to fill out the online form as well. The first bit of advice, don't do that!
Apply online as early as you can, and be open with your estrangement as soon as it happens; whether it's during sixth form/college or even in your secondary school years, like myself, or even during university. You will need to fill out an evidence form confirming your estrangement, and although it can be difficult, it's so important to be as open as possible when it comes to the details of your estrangement so you can get all the financial and emotional support you need.
But regardless of my loan mistake, I got in contact with the Student Retention and Success Team, as my personal tutor let me know that they can support students like myself. From then on, they've given me so much support.
How did the Retention and Success Team help?
The Retention and Success Team provided a massive amount of support for me. They contacted SFE on my behalf to increase my maintenance loan, gave me opportunities to apply for bursaries such as the Bath Bursary & the Estrangement Bursary, check-ups every semester, and support and referrals when contacting the Wellbeing Team. I was able to receive both bursaries, which I wouldn't have known about without the Team.
The Bath Bursary is currently £3,000 per year split into three £1,000 payments over the year, and the Estrangement Bursary is £500 every semester, plus £1,000 as a start-up fund and another £1,000 when you graduate! This has massively helped with my personal finances, and if there's ever any additional financial problems you can always get support to apply for the Hardship Fund, which can be a maximum of £3,500 depending on your circumstances.
The support you get from the Team is also a great help! Having staff so easily accessible on-campus who understand your situation and makes a huge difference when opening up to others. Check-ups every semester is a big help, and they can give you advice whenever you need it. Although they aren't there as a primary counselling service, they can refer you to the Wellbeing Team quite quickly.
If you're anything like me, you will worry just thinking about living in a house for your second year. A lot of people are ready for it, but some people aren't, and that's perfectly okay. Being an estranged student means you can apply for on-campus accommodation every year, which is a great opportunity if you aren't ready for your own house. I accepted my accommodation offer, met new people and don't have as much stress at university on top of struggles at home.
I personally have had my doubts taking up this opportunity; "what if my second-year friends think it's weird that I'm on-campus again?", "what if the new people I live with think it's strange I'm on-campus again?". Honestly, I wish I had someone to tell me otherwise. Most of my friends wish they were on-campus again! University life is the way you live it, and if you're reading this as an estranged student, then you have enough problems to deal with. Enjoy your time as you wish, and take as many opportunities as you can that make you the most comfortable you can be!
One Last Note
Finally, I would like to stress how important it is to take things at your own pace. My experience of university has been meeting students who are wealthy, don't have to worry about accommodation costs, and don't understand how hard it is without your parents' support.
Remember, you are not alone. There are people who will happily support you, whether that's Student Services, friends, lecturers, or your Personal Tutor. Join clubs and societies where you can, though it's difficult to meet new people in light of COVID, there will always be someone out there. The support I've received has been amazing - just be open, as hard as that can be!
I wish you the best of luck. Take a step back, think about the gorgeous university you could be at with some of the best educational standards in the U.K, and have the best time you possibly can when you get here. Take care!