Going to school whilst at the same time being a Young Carer for someone at home is a demanding task, I studied 4 A-levels while also caring for my Mum. Fortunately for me, I had my dad and sisters with me and together we were a unit, but my thoughts are always with those of you where it’s just you and the person you care for. Thinking about applying to Oxford while in this position is truly admirable, and a very achievable goal as just by your nature, you are a very resilient individual.
Firstly, when applying, don’t mention being a Young Carer in your personal statement unless it is in some way very applicable. This is something which your school should include in their reference. Make sure that your school does include it, I know from experience that it can leave a sour taste in your mouth using your position as a part of your application, but it’s very important that the admissions people know the extra challenges you’ve faced as it gives all your grades and ambitions the impressive context that they deserve. Oxford is very good at what it does and everything in your application will be taken into account when they are considering you.
University alone can be a daunting thought for someone such as yourself, the change of lifestyle is even more pronounced than the big change everyone else faces. For a young carer, it is generally the case that one or more of the adults in the house can’t work or manages only to work part time. This was the case for me, and the money worries of studying for 4 years with tuition fees and living costs was almost enough to change my mind. Thankfully, at an Oxbridge outreach event, I took note in the money talk, and I have now experienced the reality for myself. Tuition Fees are covered in your student loan, and you pay these backs after you graduate. However, this is an automatically deducted percentage on any earnings above a certain threshold, and it’s so little that it is unlikely to impact you so much so to outweigh the benefit of a degree. The maintenance loan from the government is generous and based upon household income, so if you’re in a low-income family due to an illness or disability, you will have enough money to cover rent, food and most other costs at university. When you apply to student finance, spend time with your parent(s) as some benefits are not included in the calculation of household income. Generally, only taxable benefits are included but make sure to double check. The bonus at Oxford is their generous bursary, an addition to your maintenance loan that you don’t have to repay, and also a possible reduction in maintenance costs. Along with this there is the Moritz-Heyman scholarship which offers many other bonuses to low-income students.
Personally, I never thought being a young carer would impact how I make friends at university, but it really did. For those of you who are worried it will have a negative effect, let me assure you that it is quite the opposite. There are many societies and gatherings that offer free breakfasts, drinks, meals and various other events for students from low-income backgrounds, first-generation students, young carers, state school students and many others who had other “barriers” to their entry. I never enjoyed young carer events when I was younger, as everyone there was a young carer and I personally found the gatherings quite sullen and sad. However at university, because these events were for a mix of people, I felt the focus was shifted off being a young carer and instead onto just making friends. Plus, generally, the people at these events are the loveliest people you could hope to meet and really helped me feel at home.
The final worry, obviously, is not being there for the person you currently care for. This is a terribly hard thought to deal with, and I personally felt very guilty for shifting my burden to my sisters. There are always options available but every situation is different, so I sadly cannot present you with a blanket way to fix this and that is something for you and your family to work on and talk about. The reassurance is that, in whatever way you find a solution, while at Oxford you will receive amazing support in whatever way you need. Tutors, deans and all those other scary titles are at the end of the day just people, and are there to help you do the best that you can, and you will find them incredibly accommodating to any circumstances.
I’ll end this by congratulating each and every one of you for considering an application to such a prestigious university and give you the best of luck in applying. I will note that you will find you have so much more time available to you, and for the first time maybe you’ll be able to explore and experience amazing opportunities you possibly previously were not able to, so university should be an exciting thought and not a daunting one. Good Luck!