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Support for Care Experienced Students by Eddy 

My name is Eddy and I study BSc (Hons) Psychology with Integrated Foundation Year at the University of Sunderland. Some may be unfamiliar with Sunderland, it’s a city on the coast located in the North East of England just below Newcastle. This blog will be covering my personal transition into student life and any advice and top tips I think will be useful for any future student considering higher education.

During my time in secondary school, I was particularly disruptive and cared more about being the class clown as my teachers used to always say, however in my final years I started to want better for myself and my future. This prompted me to start thinking about where my future would lead career wise. I was fortunate to have completed a short programme lead by the North East Raising Aspiration Partnership called ‘Choices Together’ which was aimed at secondary school pupils who were care experienced, like myself. This programme allowed me to stay over at the student accommodation and experience lectures on campus and truly get the feel of being a real-life student. This led me to really want to pursue higher education and prove that I was capable, although I doubted myself many times! It is so common when we’re young, especially in our teens, to assume we’re not good enough or intelligent enough or worthy or whatever it may be BUT, I took a chance and thought if I don’t succeed there is no harm in trying.

 I went to college and studied a BTEC level 3 Health and social care course and really began to understand what it was to be a student and how different it is compared to school. After college I spent a few years working in care homes and in the community and realised how much more I wanted to be in the healthcare sector working with mental illness etc. It was then I thought about university. However, I believed I wouldn’t be able to apply as I rented my own flat and worried, I couldn’t afford tuition fees or even my bills. I later discovered how wrong I was and how much support is available for students from different backgrounds and differing financial situations which is something I wish I knew sooner. 

In 2018 after coming to an Open day to find out some more information and being extremely nervous I got accepted and started my degree in psychology at the University of Sunderland. I also received fantastic scholarships from my university such as free travel, and the ‘WE CARE’ Scholarship which gave me extra financial support as well as encouragement and personal support from university staff. I was surprised by how welcoming university is! I had this misconception that it would be so daunting and scary. To be really cheesy, I will admit, it has honestly been the best years of my life so far! I have gained new friends from all over the UK and different countries, learned so much in my chosen degree in psychology which is something I am passionate about and love studying. I am now a Senior Student Ambassador which allows me to work for the university while studying and has given me so many fantastic opportunities such as working with students thinking about coming to university, even working in the same programme (choices together) I had completed in secondary school and being a positive role model for students who are care experienced. I have attended the House of Lords in London, been on BBC Radio One, and more. All of which I would have never thought possible when I was in school and none of this would have been possible if I didn’t believe in myself and progress into higher education where I have been surrounded by fantastic role models who have gave me a platform to build my professional career and learn new skills.

Here are my top tips: 

  1. Consider what you will enjoy studying and do your research about courses.
  2. Set out a plan of what you want in 5 years’ time.
  3. Have a goal.
  4. Attend some virtual or in-person open days and check websites.
  5. Enquire about what support is available for you individually.
  6. Believe in yourself and never be scared to push yourself (you will be surprised how rewarding hard work pays off).