As a care experienced person who has gone through the journey of higher education at Undergraduate level and now progressing through into my second semester of my Masters, I know first-hand how terrifying and difficult it is being in this form of education as a care leaver but most importantly as being in an underrepresented group knowing that not a lot of care experienced people attend university within the first few years after college or sixth form.
In a report from ‘What Works for Children’s Social Care’ entitled ‘Supporting Care Experienced Young People with their next steps into further and higher education,’ it states that –13% of children who were looked after for a year or more progressed to HE by the age of 19 compared to 43% of their peers. For me this was extremely correct, as when I joined university from my hometown, not a lot of the care experienced people that I knew decided to transfer into higher education with me compared to my peers who were not care experienced. However, the journey into transferring from College/ Sixth form to university, was completely different for me as a care experienced person compared to my peers.
When I got placed into the fostering system, I only just finished my GCSE’s and got some bad grades which I was not happy about, but when going to college they allowed me to retake my subjects, so I could pass and go forward onto university if I wanted too. With the help of my course tutors and supportive social worker at the time, I was able to get the support I needed to focus on the courses I was undertaking but also most importantly, I was able to pass these subjects without any issues complete my extended diploma ready for me to start thinking about my journey of applying to universities.
For me, the Journey into higher education from college was extremely stressful, as I had no idea what I was doing. Originally, I thought going to university was the same as college, doing a small application, getting your tutor to sign it off and college would do the rest, but after some progression lectures within my college course I realised I was very wrong. For most people, they can look at university far from home as they have the ability of asking parents to drive them to open days, but for care leavers this is extremely hard to do as at the time, I did not know about the support that was there for me to visit universities for open days.
After going to open days, I felt that going to university would be the best time of my life as both I was able to further my creative career, but also it was able to give me the independence that I needed before moving into my own place after my 18th Birthday, although for non-care experienced people, a third of them move back with their parents after graduation which unfortunately care leavers do not have this option in their lives.
However, University is not for all care leavers as statistics show that ‘Care Leavers are 38% likely to drop out of higher education (university) then their peers’ for me this is hard to see and hear as for a care leaver to go to university, it takes a massive step for them as they are leaving their home environment much earlier than their peers but also becoming independent sooner than they thought. For me being at university as a care leaver, the first year was extremely hard as I had no idea what I was doing when it came down to budgeting, paying rent or even finding my way around a new city, but with the support of my personal advisor I was able to gain these skills much quicker than I would have without their help.
Every step along the way, I was feeling that I was not able to go to university, feeling that everything I was doing was wrong and that I was a failure, which this sometimes can be normal for people who are applying for or attending higher education for the first time, as it is a massive change in the life that they live.
However, for many care-experienced and non-care experienced people alike, progressing through undergraduate degrees or even postgraduate degrees at university can cause an effect on the way they feel. For those who exit university often find themselves feeling that they are walking on glass, but the reality is, even though we all feel like this there is always help around from a social worker or personal advisors to help you get to where you want to be just like mine helped me to get me where I am now….
By Anonymous Care Experienced Blogger.