Thinking About University
By Elliott Lee (3rd Year Portsmouth University Student)
The idea of going to university can be scary, it almost being a whole new world for many of us. Having a disability can intensify this feeling a lot. University will not be for everyone, in fact depending on your interests, passions, and career ambitions there will always be things that are a better fit for all of us. For those who may have university even as a small thought, focusing on the concerns that exist around the transition to
Starting where it all began, going to university was not even a consideration until the end of my first year in college, having a visual impairment and dyslexia, the fear was that not being the most academically gifted and such I wouldn’t be able to deal with what university would throw at me.
However, when the idea was suggested to me, I jumped at the opportunity the biggest reason for this overall was my passion and interest in the subject I was looking to study.
This passion and interest were the things that ended up pushing me to go, I see this as an important part of my journey however other people may have other factors as to why they decide to go. I think it is important to consider these things, the reasons you want to or may want to go, even if you are very unsure.
For example, for me the reasons I wanted to go to university in order of importance to
1. My interest and passion in the subject I wanted to study
2. Moving somewhere new and becoming independent away from home
3. Meeting new people
People will have different things that are important to them, some people may have longer lists. Making a list and understanding what is important for you in your next steps is one of many useful ways to understanding if going to university is for you. In some cases, there may be other options that work better for you such as going into an apprenticeship or moving from home.
Where to go?
Deciding where you want to go to university can be an exciting process again it is important to think about what is important to you and what you want to study. Things to think about include where in the country you would like to study. what different universities are good at and what grades different universities are asking for.
It is important to also consider what different universities can offer you this may be academic support, financial or socially. It is easy to find this stuff out online or by contacting a university that will always be happy to help out, yet the best way to really find out is through an open day.
Open days can be a really fun time to check out what’s on offer at different universities. You can find out more about the course you want to study, talk to lecturers, tour the campus and so much more. Open days are also a time to find out what support is on offer to you whether you identify as having a disability or not, you will be able to discuss
your needs and talk to current students receiving support to find out more. Universities are equipped to tailor to all kinds of needs so these trips are always worth it to find out more. Even a visit to the area is a great chance to get a feel of what your time at university could be like.
Where to live?
Getting accepted into university is an awesome feeling! Of course, though with this there are new things to start thinking about. Where will you live whilst at university? Halls of residence? Private Housing? Or will you commute from home?
With my experience, I would recommend halls of residence. These are places to live just for students usually very close to your university, normally you will share a flat with several other people. Depending on what you choose you could be sharing different things such as a kitchen and a bathroom but usually, there is loads of choice.
When it comes to picking accommodation in halls there will normally be a choice to have your own flat if you would not like to share, you can often also choose to only share with people of the same gender, other places allow you to choose a “quiet flat” for people who may not be into partying.
Halls will always have accessible flats too for people with all kinds of needs so it is worth doing some research! I recommend halls because they are a great way of meeting new people and making friends!
Money of course is another big concern for everyone, don’t worry Student Finance has you covered! To start with your tuition fee is paid for completely by the government to your university, when you finish university and start earning enough you start payingback. This fee covers all your learning.
Paid to you is Maintenace Loan, this covers everything from rent and food to travel and having a bit of fun when you are not studying. This is also to be paid back once you have complete your studies.
This is not it though many universities will have a range of grants that can be applied for, and if given do not have to be paid back.
Importantly though there is on top of all of this Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). This is given by the government which could be a range of things including direct financial support. To give an example for my DSA I was given a new laptop and an extra computer monitor to support my needs during my studies. Importantly the support anyone receives will depend on the needs of each individual.
What Support Is There?
Money is not everything, the support we receive can be very important to how well we are able to complete our studies. In my experience teaching staff are usually incredibly helpful with whatever needs or support you have and are able to adapt their teaching very well. At university, lecturers teach so many people that they will be used to supporting all kinds of students which is a big bonus.
Communicating your needs with your personal tutor at university will also be a big help as they will know your needs best, being able to assist other staff to support those needs.
All universities have a department that is there to fully support students with disabilities with everything from academic support to social and financial support. It is important to really make the most of these services as much as possible as they are there for you to get the best experience out of your studies.
From these departments, the kind of support you will be able to access in your studies will vary massively, as previously mentioned a great way to find out more about this support are open days before you get to university.
At university also available to you as a student is your Students’ Union. Students Unions are independent of your university and as a charity able to represent students at your university. They are very welcoming to your views; they are not just there for the academic side of being a student but everything that comes with it. If you have any concerns with anything at your university you can go to them including certain policies that are in place. Student unions are for students so there will be so much they can offer you, one of these may be social opportunities such as joining societies based on your interests.
With university, there is a lot to think about. For me jumping into a world where I gained so much independence was a very daunting idea but once I had done it I could never go back. There are so many concerns that people will have, many of which I had too. Yet it is hard to know what it will really be like until you experience it. Personal experience is
very important so it is always great to talk to people who have already been to university whether that be family or current students.
All the concerns I had, once I had spent time at university were not a problem at all. I found that despite not being the best at writing I was able to cope with all kinds of support. Further to this, the different types of assessments both make learning very fun but also gives a form of learning that works for all!
Going to university for me has really been worth it and has allowed me to study a subject I love whilst meeting new people and exploring a new city. Where it may not be for everyone I think everyone should keep it as a consideration