Having no support at university would be 'terrifying'

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With many care-experienced young people either embarking on their university career or returning for another year, we asked one care-experienced student at Kingston University about how the university's specialist KU Cares programme has supported them.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background
I am a marketing student, graduating in 2019. I was in foster care from the age of five to 18. I have limited family but a great group of friends. I moved 100 miles away from home to Kingston University, so it was a huge change.
 
When did you first consider going to university?
I considered university while still at school. I planned to get my grades for college, then join university as this seemed the most logical route for me. I decided I wanted to move away from home after my Barnardo's worker moved to London and informed me of the different work opportunities here.
 
Did the KU Cares programme influence your decision to go to university or attend Kingston University in any way?
I was actually unaware of the support the university offers. In my mind going to university seemed very complicated. I was not very prepared and did not read the material given to me as I was too overwhelmed. I feel I should have sought more guidance from my social worker to support me which I overlooked at the time. I am very fortunate in the way things worked out. In retrospect the pastoral care available is a key factor to consider for anyone in my position and Kingston University has met my needs in that regard.
 
What is it like being part of the KU Cares programme?
Being in the KU Cares programme was very reassuring and I am very appreciative of it. The best aspect of it for myself was having a single point of contact, otherwise I would have found knowing where to turn to for support intimidating and confusing. During my university experience the staff were incredible and always compassionate.
 
Do you feel you have had enough support throughout your university experience (through applying to attending)?
I feel the support I had from Kingston University and its KU Cares scheme was exceptional. I did not use the support prior to attending university. However, I sought a lot of advice from the university when I joined. The staff were also really understanding in helping me take a year out when I needed to and when I returned to my studies.
 
Is there anything you feel you could have got more support with?
The process of postponing my studies was long and stressful. It took a long time to process.
 
How have you found attending university as a care experienced student?
Although every student has their own struggles, I feel my care background causes a lot of unique challenges which could make me feel quite isolated. Especially as all my friends went home for the summer whereas I couldn’t. The financial support of the university has helped me through very tough situations and I now feel confident to budget by myself.
 
If you could change something about the university system for care leavers, what would it be?
To make a system similar to KU Cares compulsory for every university. The thought that other care leavers haven’t had access to this service at other universities is terrifying to me.
 
What would you say to other care experienced young people considering applying to university?
I recommend applying to a university with good pastoral care. University is definitely worth the effort, in my opinion. You will meet amazing people and develop your potential. My golden advice would be to make sure you access every service you need and take every opportunity given.
 
There will be more information on the KU Cares programme in the next edition of our members’ magazine Foster Care.