Is your young person planning to go to university?
Not sure how to support them, or where to start?
Whether you’re new to the process or went through a different experience yourself, we’re here to help.

What to do, and when

18 months before starting university

The end of sixth form, school or college may seem a long way away at this point, but if your young person wants to go to university, 18 months in advance of starting university is a good time for them to start looking into options – what they want to study, where, and whether their predicted grades match the points tariff of their preferred universities.

As a parent or guardian, it’s worth thinking about how you can support your young person to make a smooth transition to university life, even at this early stage. Our research has shown a significant gap between what students expect university life to be like, and what the reality is like when they arrive – so we created an interactive programme called Leapskills to bridge the gap.

Leapskills introduces scenarios that might crop up in student accommodation and encourages prospective students to think through how they would respond to a variety of situations. It can be worked through at home – so why not give it a go? You can access the programme and run through it with your young person right now.

15 months before starting university

It’s time for your young person to consider going to some university open days so they can get a feel for their favourites - and you may want to go along too! Most young people now bring their parents to open days, and you may find that the university puts on special sessions for parents while you’re there.

If you’re visiting a city, it’s a great idea to look at local accommodation and get an idea of what’s available. Unite Students has properties in 25 UK towns and cities, with locations close to campus, all bills included in the rent, vibrant student-led events in each building, and student welfare leads in every city. Find out which cities we’re based in on our homepage: if you’d like to book a viewing for a particular property, simply head to the property page and select the ‘book a viewing’ button - our teams will be happy to show you around.

It can be expensive to travel around the UK to visit different universities, but some universities offer travel bursaries, so it’s worth checking universities’ websites for further information. Many universities also now offer virtual tours, which you can find through UCAS’ handy guide.

12 months before starting university

Prospective students can now start to apply to universities via UCAS – and, for those wanting to study at Oxford or Cambridge, or take courses in medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine/science, there’s less than 6 weeks to submit that application. Specific dates can be found on the UCAS website, as can a series of resources and guides to support your young person in making their application.

For most universities and courses, the deadline to apply is in late January, but it’s better to apply sooner rather than later. Encourage your young person to start whittling down their choices, making the most of autumn open days and, once they know what they want to study, writing their personal statement. Learn how you can support them with their personal statement with this guide by The Parents’ Guide To.

6 months before starting university

Universities will be making decisions all the way until May, but it’s important for your young person to get student finance sorted well in advance of starting university, even if they haven’t yet confirmed where or what they’ll be studying. If a student finance application is late, it may mean the money doesn’t arrive in time for the start of term, as it can take up to 8 weeks to review any evidence. Whatever part of the UK you’re based in, it’s recommended that your young person applies for student finance by mid-May.

Find out what you need to know about supporting your young person’s student loans application in our handy student finance guide below.

3 months before starting university

University decisions will now be in, and your young person will need to choose a ‘firm’ choice of university course through UCAS by early June. This means that, should they meet the grade requirements – or if it’s an unconditional offer – they will be guaranteed a spot on that course at that university.

Your young person will likely need to have confirmed a university as their firm option before they can book university-owned accommodation, but if they’re looking to live with Unite Students at university, they can book at any time during the university application process – even before an offer has been made. And no deposit is required, either, making things a little easier upfront.

1 month before starting university

At long last, it’s Results Day. If all goes well – congratulations! You’ll want to think about what your young person needs for independent living, perhaps using a checklist. If your young person is moving into a Unite Students property, make sure they’ve downloaded the MyUnite app. MyUnite allows students to check in and get to know their new flatmates and neighbours prior to arrival, as well as logging maintenance requests, getting sorted with lock-outs, accessing laundry facilities, and much more.

If the results weren’t what they’d hoped for, your young person can choose to go through clearing to find a place on another course – you can learn more about clearing at UCAS’ website. And don’t worry; you can switch your booking to a property in another city or cancel your booking with us for free.

Arrival at university

The time has finally come for your young person to head to university! If you’re accompanying your young person, check the university or accommodation provider’s website to familiarise yourself with where you can park when dropping them (and all their stuff!) off at their accommodation. The welcome guide your young person will receive will answer all your questions about what this process looks like at Unite Students – and there’s also our online check-in portal.

Two things you might want to mention to your young person are getting registered with a GP, which should be covered on their university’s website, and taking out contents insurance so that their belongings are protected. If they’re living with Unite Students, insurance is covered at no extra cost by Endsleigh – although not all items are covered.

Belongings all moved in? All that remains now is to say goodbye, and let your young person take their first step towards living independently.

Student Finance: Supporting your young person’s student loan application

Sorting out student finance may be one of the most daunting elements of your young person going to university - but it doesn’t need to be.

Where can my young person apply for student finance?

UK-based students can apply for their undergraduate loan through the government website: for students based in the devolved nations, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, there are links from here to each region’s relevant student finance site.

However, if your young person is planning to study in the UK as an international or EU student, it’s best to research what options are available depending on your personal situation and nationality. The UCAS website explains what options are available.

What do I need to know about UK student finance?

Student finance for UK-based students typically involves two loans: the tuition fee loan, which covers the course costs, and the maintenance loan, which covers your young person’s living expenses. The tuition fee loan will cover the entire course costs, regardless of household income, whereas the amount your young person will get for their maintenance loan can vary.

All eligible students are entitled to the minimum (or ‘basic’) maintenance loan rate. However, depending on your household income and the relevant threshold – which changes whether your young person is studying in London or not, or whether they are living at home for the course of their degree – your young person may be eligible for a means-tested higher rate of student loan. You can calculate how much your young person is likely to get with the government’s finance calculator.

If you’re based in Wales or Northern Ireland, your young person may also be eligible for a means-tested maintenance grant.

Student arriving at student accommodation
Student being greeted by host at student accommodation

What do I need to do as a parent/guardian?

If your young person is based in England and chooses to apply for a maintenance loan based on household income, Student Finance England will email you within 24 hours of your young person submitting an application. You’ll need to set up an account for yourself, enter your National Insurance number and personal income; if you live with a partner, they will receive a separate email asking them to do the same thing.

Student Finance England may request evidence of household income and marital status if the details submitted don’t match HRMC’s records; they will specify which specific documents are needed. It’s best to upload these as soon as possible, as it takes approximately 6-8 weeks to process applications, and your young person could receive their loan late.

Devolved administrations have similar processes, which you can learn more about at the relevant sites for means-testing finance in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Additionally, student accommodation will typically require someone over the age of 25 to act as a guarantor; this is usually a parent or guardian. The agreed guarantor will take joint financial responsibility for the student’s tenancy – and if a student is unable to pay their rent, the guarantor will be required to do this. All students booking directly with Unite Students are required to agree a guarantor – the process for agreeing to be a guarantor is outlined in our Help section.

Does the maintenance loan cover everything?

The maintenance loan may not be enough to cover all your young person’s costs, so it’s worth looking at the cost of accommodation in their city as a starting point to see how likely it is that your young person will be able to get by on the amount of maintenance loan they receive. Remember, private rental prices often won’t include bills or a deposit in the stated amount – so this will need to be factored in if your young person is planning to live in a privately rented house or flat. Other key costs that the maintenance loan is intended to cover include textbooks, groceries, toiletries, transport, and socialising.

Parents or guardians may choose to supplement their young person’s loan with an allowance, but we know that not everyone is in a position to do this. It’s worth checking with your young person’s university whether they could be eligible for any institutional grants, bursaries or scholarships. There are also a number of national-level options available, including additional funding for students with disabilities and dependants. UCAS has a helpful guide for what’s available.

If your young person decides to supplement their maintenance loan with a part-time job, most universities advise that students spend no more than 15 hours a week working alongside a full-time degree.

Financial tips for students and parents

New research from Unite Students has shown that out of 1,000 students and 1,000 parents surveyed, 66% of students and 73% of parents are extremely worried about the increasing cost of living.

We've teamed up with Blackbullion to offer help and support.

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