Applying to University With Additional Support Needs

Being in the 6th form and starting to plan for your post year 13 life can be both exciting and a tad scary at the same time. Things can seem a bit more complicated if you are getting extra support in school for a particular disability or issue that you are facing. This blog will look at what support you will be able to get whilst at university, what you need to do before you arrive at uni and applying to University with additional support needs. There will be another blog in the future looking at applying for work too.

First off, it’s important to be aware that universities have lots of students with a range of both visible and hidden disabilities. These can range from dyslexia, sight or mobility issues to hidden ones like ADHD, autism to mental health issues. Having a disability, whether hidden or seen, shouldn’t hold you back from going to university, if university is what you want to do! Universities, like schools and colleges, want you to achieve your academic potential. As a result they will do all they can to make reasonable adjustments to help you do this. Reasonable adjustments are basically things an organisation can do that will help you achieve your potential. To help them, and you, to make the transition to university as easy as possible, there are a whole host of things you can do to make it smoother. Have a look at this checklist –

Start planning early! Especially if you are going to get Disabled Student Allowance (DSA –https://www.gov.uk/disabled-students-allowance-dsa) The DSA gives you access to further help and support whilst you are at university, for instance to help with any reasonable adjustments needed. You need to plan what you need to do and when.

Talk to your SENCO in school or college – what help have you received up until now? What do they think you will need at university? How have others with similar disabilities coped with moving to university and what help have they asked for from universities?

Everyone applying for a Disabled Student Allowance will need to have a needs assessment done. A needs assessment is basically an informal meeting, where you can discuss what help and support you need. This then results in a report, which can be forwarded to universities. The universities will use this as a starting point to plan their support for you, in discussion with you of course! You can find your nearest assessment centre here, https://www.gov.uk/disabled-students-allowances-assessment-centre.

If you’ve got any diagnostic reports produced after an assessment, for instance for neurodivergence, make sure you’ve got a copy! Why? When you have a needs assessment done, this may need to be looked at, to help identify what help you need.

Give your UCAS form and personal statement lots of thought. How has your disability developed your study skills? Are you more organised? Have you developed better study strategies as a result? These are all things you can highlight in your statement that show you are doing well and would make a good university student.

As with every student looking at university, it will be really important to think through about your choices. Does your disability influence your choices in any way? You will understand this the best! Factors like location, how far away from home it is, any regular medical appointments you have to attend and where these will be, how the student support team at different universities came across at open days are all going to be important. Is it worth coming up with a checklist of factors to compare different universities against? Who out of all your ‘supporters’ could help you put this checklist together?

Make a list of questions you want to ask each university student support team – what information from them would be useful to get? For instance about how they have supported other students with similar disabilities and what specific support they can offer. And what information would be useful to give to them before you start? This can really help them line up appropriate support for you!

Make sure you do your student finance application as early as possible – it’s usually available to do from late March onwards. This ties in with getting the DSA sorted out. So best not left until late July!

We hope this list is a useful one for you. But it’s not exhaustive! For you, what else would help you get your choices, and transition, planned well? After years of doing annual reviews and transition planning, you should hopefully know what your needs are! You working out how universities can help meet these will help everyone involved.

One myth to ‘bust’, sometimes people worry about putting their disability down on the UCAS form. The concern being that this declaration will somehow negatively influence the university’s decision about offering you a place. Universities won’t be put off by your declaration! The reason it is asked for is so that they can work with you from an early point to make any reasonable adjustments and to discuss with you any particular impact your disability might have on you achieving the qualification.

Several universities student unions have a disabled student group or officer, who are definitely worth contacting to find out more about how current students are getting on!

You quite rightly will have lots of questions or queries that this blog will not have been able to answer. So, why not take a look at any of these sites to see if they help? https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/promoting-equal-opportunities/support-for-disabled-students/

https://agcasdtg.wordpress.com/category/advice-for-students/

https://www.nusconnect.org.uk/liberation/disabled-students

And lastly, applying to university can be an exciting yet scary thing to do. But it’s definitely worth exploring as an option. Do talk to your school SENCO, tutor and careers adviser if you’ve got more questions on applying to University with additional support needs.

Here at My Uni Choices we specialise in helping students, parents & educators make the best uni choices. Review all the Universities & Courses here or discover more About Us & the best uni courses for you, finally if you’re ready let’s take The Test to find out what course or degree you should do.


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