Amber shares her initial concerns and worries about going to university, the support she has received here at Bath and her top tips for care leavers.
It can be so confusing thinking about university as a care leaver – there’s so much to think about, and it’s not always the easiest to find the information you’re looking for. That’s why I wanted to share my experience and to let you know that you CAN do it too!
I’d always had the idea to go to Uni, but never thought I’d get into Bath – I actually applied as a ‘wildcard’ because my Grandad suggested it! When I got my offer, I started to do more research, attended an Applicant Visit Day and completely fell in love with the Uni and the city – I really doubted myself though and didn’t feel confident I’d actually get the grades until results day. I was so happy and excited when I got in!
When I was applying to Uni, I didn’t know anything about bursaries and financial support. I ticked the box on my UCAS form to say I had been in care but didn’t think anything more about it, until the Student Services Team from Bath got in touch with me, outlining all the help and support available.
My main worry about going to Uni was the student finance – unlike other students, I don’t have parents who are able to help me out, so it was really important to know how much I’d have and how much everything would cost. I discovered I was eligible for The Bath Bursary which is currently £3000 per year, plus £1000 start-up costs and a further £1000 on graduation, as well as help from Student Finance Wales. This has helped so much, as it means I don’t need to worry about working alongside my studies and can make the most of my student experience! The start-up funding especially was great as it meant I could get everything I needed and get involved in all the Freshers’ Week activities.
It’s not just the money I’ve had support with though. The Student Services Team are in touch with me a lot, something which started before I even came to Bath. They offered me someone to chat to and a helping hand with everything from housing, to my wellbeing. I was so excited but a bit daunted to move to Bath, and they’ve been there every step of the way with me. I’ve also been really lucky to move into a house with lovely people, have made so many friends and am now coming towards the end of my studies.
I love Bath, and even managed to stay here for my placement, working at the Uni on some prison research. Applying for placements has probably been my biggest challenge so far, but like every other challenge, it was met with support and solutions, which ended up in a placement that has led to continued work, and a further bursary to cover my costs. Although I choose to go back to my family in the holidays, I’ve always been offered accommodation at Uni too if I want it.
The time has gone so quickly, and I’m now looking forward to focusing on graduating. I’m still working part-time for my placement team, and have ended up doing my dissertation on a related topic. I’m using all the support offered by the Careers Service to plan my next steps and will receive a graduation bursary to help me on the next part of my journey.
I wanted to share my story with you so that if you’re out there doubting yourself like I did, you know just how much care and support there is at Bath. I had no idea when I applied. I’ve had an amazing time and will leave with a great degree, a strong CV, great friends and so many experiences – you can have all of this too!
My top tips for Care-Leavers
• Look up what is available – I had no idea what bursaries were, but they’ve transformed my Uni experience! Apply even if you’re not sure you’re eligible, the worst that can happen is they say no.
• Tick the box on UCAS – I know some people are hesitant to declare their living situation, I get it! Although it can feel uncomfortable, it’s so important as it means you can access to all the support available. There’s no obligation to tell anyone else, and it’s kept totally confidential among the teams who support you.
• You’re not alone – The Student Services team have been alongside me the whole way, giving me time that’s just about me, and a point of contact to pick up the phone to anytime, as well as loads of practical help. I waited until they contacted me, but you can chat to them anytime, and they can help you work out what support you’re eligible for.