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Single parent with child going to university – What to expect


Parental Advice



Reading Time: 7 minutes

Over a quarter of families have single parents, with single parent families typically earning 27% less than other families according to research by Statista. This can make supporting your child challenging. Students are at an average shortfall of £233 a month according to results from the National Student Money Survey; this can leave students going to extreme measures to make ends meet including risky payday loans. 

No one wants their child to struggle to get by whilst at university and more than half of parents supplement their child’s income whilst they study at university. On top of that 21% of grandparents also provide financial support according to research by the Scholarship Hub. We understand that supporting your child financially whilst they are at university is not always possible, especially if you have other children to care for. We hope to reassure you that support is there for you to help with this potentially difficult conversation to have with your child.

If you are a single parent with a child going to university it is natural for you to have questions and concerns about whether your child will cope financially or even how either of you will cope living on your own. Financial support is available for single parents and we aim to help calm your nerves and reassure you that you can develop a plan during the time your child is studying.

At Nido, we aim to calm those stresses away and remind you that your child is never far away from a phone call or visit. We discuss how to help your child apply to university, funding options for single parent, how student accommodation works and how much it costs along with how to adjust to life once your child has gone to university.

Helping your child apply to university

Applying to university can be a stressful experience for all involved as it involves a big life change. The first step that your child needs to take is deciding if university is the right route to choose for them. University is a big commitment and with a variety of other options available such as apprenticeships, entry level jobs, traineeships, work experience, internships, and starting a business there is a lot to consider and a big decision to be made.

If your child decides they want to go to university, the next step is picking which subject they want to study. This could be a subject they have enjoyed at school or something that they haven’t studied before but are interested to learn and develop a skill for in their future.

University open days are really helpful for letting your children get a feel of the university, course, and campus. This experience is important and they should ask as many questions as possible. Checking the entry requirements necessary for the course they want to study is helpful for planning which universities they will pick in application. 

Applications for university start in your child’s final year of A-Levels, applications go through UCAS and each student can pick up to 5 choices. Personal statements accompany the application, these are written by your child explaining why the university wants them to study with them. Academic history and predicted grades are required for application. 

Deadlines for oxbridge and most medicine, veterinary medicine/science and dentistry courses have an earlier application deadline than other subjects such as art, fashion or graphic design. Within these particular sectors, students can only pick 4 universities for their choices, this is for medicine, dentistry, and veterinary courses so it’s good to bear this in mind when applying.

Following university application is where thought about financing university often starts, applications for student finance are needed to provisionally apply for tuition and maintenance loans. More information included on university loans later on. 

The wait for university place offers and A Level results is a long, exciting, and nerve wracking time. There is plenty of support out there at schools and externally for exam stress amongst students and advice sessions for parents who want to know how they can help. Sometimes before university offers are given your child will have to do extra examinations or interviews although sufficient warning will be given. 

Once all offers have been given, the bigger decisions start! A firm and insurance choice must be selected. To help in this decision a pros and cons list for each university thinking about course, location and cost can be really helpful. If your child gets the grades required for their firm choice then they will be accepted. If they miss the grades they may get into their insurance, or may decide to go through clearing – a process whereby students can contact universities with remaining places and discuss their grades and why they want to study their chosen subject.

University funding for single parents

When children go to university their maintenance loan rarely covers their rent and living costs. Parents are often ‘expected’ to help bridge the gap, this can be difficult especially as a single parent. Maintenance loans are intended to be used for rent and living costs; food, socialising, textbooks and most importantly having fun whilst at university! 

The amount that your child will receive in maintenance loan depends on how much you (the parent or the household) earn yearly. The general principle is that the higher the students’ household income the less money they receive from student finance. This money is deposited directly into your child’s student bank account in three instalments at the start of each term. There is no regulation on how they spend that money and budgeting is an important lesson that they will learn at university.

Students who move to London receive a higher loan than those outside of London and anyone who moves out of their parents house for study purposes is also entitled to more than those staying at home to factor in for rent and living costs.

How being a single parent, separated or divorced affects your child’s student loan

For student finance to calculate how much maintenance loan your child will get they assess the parent/household. This is the household which the child is financially dependent on, typically the household in which your child lives for most of the time, this may be yours or your ex partners.

If the parent whom the child is financially dependent on has a new partner, the partner’s income is factored into maintenance loan calculations by student finance, even if they do not have any financial responsibility for the student.

If you have more than one child which is financially dependent on you then on the student finance application you can declare this, for each child that is financially dependent on you (including those studying at university) student finance will deduct £1,130 from your household income when calculating your child’s maintenance loan.

If you are worried about the funding your child will get while they are at university there are people out there to help you. You can contact the university directly to discuss with them the other financial support options available; this can include scholarships, bursaries and grants to help alleviate financial pressure from your children and yourself.

Tuition fees are on average around £9,250 – £10,000 a year, the tuition fee loan is more simple and covers the complete cost of the undergraduate degree. Your child will not receive this money in their bank account, instead the money is sent directly to their university. 

It is also worth researching scholarships, grants and bursaries that are available. As there are a wide variety of choices available and this can help alleviate financial pressure from you and your child.

Student Accommodation – will they be safe?

This is perhaps the biggest question on every parent’s lips when it comes to their child heading off to university.

Choosing a safe, well-equipped student accommodation with a good location, 24/7 on-site security and plenty to do on the grounds of the accommodation such as Nido Living, can reduce the worry slightly.

At Nido we provide all of this and more to ensure that we keep all of our residents safe and secure at all times whilst still providing the freedom they are craving. Find out more about Nido’s commitments to our community.

Should you give your children money whilst they study?

Whether you choose to provide your child with additional money for university it is your personal choice. In some cases you may not be able to offer them the support you would like to and that is okay. Having a conversation with your child about the support you can or cannot offer to them is important for them to understand before they go to university. This  will help them when it comes to budgeting and planning how they will spend their time, look for part-time work or choose a different route such as apprenticeships to learn whilst working and earning money.

The choice you make in the amount you give your children does not affect how much maintenance loan they get, the assessment only considers household income. 

Some students may choose to get a part time job whilst at university so that they can cover bills so that you do not need to provide as much for them, and some students may not have to get a part time job – it depends on the price of rent, maintenance loan, and cost of living in the area they choose to study in.

Dealing with loneliness whilst your child is at University

Your child leaving the nest to go to university can be difficult, it can take time to adjust to the empty space. Here are a few tips to help the transition:

  • Schedule in weekly / fortnightly calls with your child, they will want the independence of university but they will still miss you, and need help with knowing when chicken is fully cooked! These calls will help you keep in touch and be something to look forward to.
  • Don’t suffer in silence –  catch up with friends, other parents will be in the same position as you and meeting up and talking with each other over coffee or dinner will help if you are feeling alone
  • Create new connections – spend your free time getting involved in volunteer work or starting a new hobby that you have always wanted to do but never had the time to do before.
  • Make friends with your child’s new friends’ parents – they are in the same boat and can offer a healthy distraction whilst your child is away from the family home.

Further support

We all know and understand how hard it can be for your child to go to university and start a life at their new home from home. It’s important to understand that you are not alone and there are thousands of like-minded parents going through the exact same situation at the exact same time as you. 

Keep in regular touch with your child for comfort and for safety but try to let them make memories while they study too. Rest assured that they will be missing you as much as you are missing them. They simply have lots of new distractions such as studying, working and enjoying time with friends.

Arrange regular visits where possible – let them show you around their new home and surrounding areas. And in return provide them with all their home comforts that you know they are missing when they return to visit the family.

For further information to help ease your mind there are hundreds of blog posts available from parents that have experienced the same as you, simply search in Google or read the rest of our blog content to help ease your worries. Plus make sure you check out Nido’s parent and guardian guide to Nido