Tick the Box

The Fostering Network is working with young people, UCAS, universities and colleges to encourage care experienced students to tick the box to say they have spent time in care when they apply for further and higher education and ensure they can access the support they are entitled to.

Young people who have experience of care should be able to aim high and fulfil their potential. This might include going to college or university. When applying to study via UCAS, young people with care experience should tick the box to say that they have spent time in care, so they can get the support they may need, to help them enter and thrive at college or university.


What’s the problem?

Applicants must ‘Tick the Box’ on their UCAS form to say they have experience of care so that universities and colleges know that they are entitled to support, but the number of young people ticking the box isn’t as high as it should be.

Young people who have experience of care are not always accessing the support available to them when applying to higher and further education and once they are studying. Some young people have told us that they are concerned about who the information will be shared with. If young people tick the box, this information will only be shared with the people who need to know to support them.

The Fostering Network believes that too many care experienced young people are missing out on support, and we want to change that.


What support is available?

The support on offer will be different at every college and university, and can range from additional financial support, in the form of a bursary, to practical support to help care leavers settle in, find accommodation or manage finances.

Some universities will take care-experience into account when making an offer. This is called a contextualised or adjusted offer, and is often a grade or two lower than a standard offer. Each university has a different applications process, which they will explain on their website.

Colleges and universities will treat the information about care-experience as confidential and will not label or negatively discriminate against a student because they have been looked-after.

Scottish students who are care experienced can also apply for additional financial support from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). 

There is more information available on the Propel website.

Kelly ticked the box when she applied to study sociology at the University of Sunderland. The support she received was vital to helping her succeed in her undergraduate degree and she's now gone on to achieve a Masters degree.


Support the campaign

The Tick the Box campaign aims to make sure young people know that it is important to tick the care experienced box on their UCAS application, so their applications can be processed fairly and they can access the right support.

Schools and colleges have a huge role to play in encouraging young people to apply to UCAS. Please help to spread the word by speaking to your local school or college about ticking the box.

  • Email the principal of your local school or college. You can use the link or copy and paste the text below into a new email .
  • If you have a child at the school or college, you may want to introduce yourself and explain why the Tick the Box campaign is important to you.
  • We'd love to know that you've got involved, so please let us know at campaigns@fostering.net
  • If you'd like any more information or support, call us on 020 7620 6424 or email campaigns@fostering.net.


Email my school

Dear [             ]
I am writing to ask you to share the importance of ticking the care experienced box on UCAS applications with your students who are applying to further or higher education.
As I am sure you are aware, it is essential that care experienced young people tell their prospective universities and colleges that they have been looked after. Most universities and colleges will then offer more support, including financial help, year-round housing and emotional support. Some universities will also consider the application in context and may make an adjusted offer.
The Fostering Network, the UK's leading fostering charity, is concerned that too many care experienced young people are missing out on the support to which they are entitled, simply because they are not ticking the box on their UCAS application.
Encouraging students to tick the box and reassuring them that they will not be labelled or negatively discriminated against is an important step in supporting them to succeed in their next step. Schools and colleges can play an important role in this, so thank you for taking the time to read my email.
There is more information about supporting care experienced young people to apply to university on The Fostering Network, Propel and UCAS’s websites.
Yours sincerely
[                       ]

The Fostering Network’s Tick the Box campaign was developed in conjunction with the University of Ulster and the Health and Social Care Board in Northern Ireland. Read their new publication Pathways to Further and Higher Education for Looked After and Care Experienced Young People.

The Fostering Network Wales has also produced A Foster Carer’s Guide to Inspiring and Supporting Care Leavers to Higher Education, which provides practical information and guidance including choosing the right course and the UCAS application process, as well as financial, emotional and general support. It also outlines the care leaver support available from each university in Wales. You can download the guide for free. This guide is also available in Welsh.