We all know that applying for university places is stressful. There’s a massive checklist of things you need to get sorted, you need to decide on a degree, narrow your choices down, and then there’s your UCAS application to fill out. If you’re a prospective disabled university student, that list will probably be a bit longer, too. So to make sure you don’t miss anything when you’re applying, here are 4 important steps you need to carry out if you’re a disabled person applying for uni.
1) Declare your disability
When filling out your UCAS application, you will be asked to disclose whether you have a disability. While you could choose not to do this – and that’s totally fine, it’s a personal thing – it’s better in the long term if you do.
Ticking the box and letting universities know that you’re disabled earlier on in the application process. This means that any adjustments or adaptations that you could need when you start university can be completed ASAP.
If you don’t like the idea of declaring it on UCAS specifically, then there is also the option of letting the universities know individually, by email or phone. In my experience, the sooner they know and can get everything sorted for you, the better.
2) Apply for DSA
If you’ve declared your disability on UCAS, you can also apply for DSA, (Disabled Student’s Allowance) through your student finance supplier. This is a grant that disabled students won’t have to pay back. That will mean that you have all the equipment and adaptations in place so that you’re ready to attend university in September.
From helping with transport costs to laptops and specialist software – this grant is there to make sure that, you’re able to do everything your peers can. You’re recommended to apply for DSA straight away, but you can apply at any stage of your course.
Some think that they’re not ‘disabled enough’ to apply for this. But as long as you have a diagnosis of a disability or mental health condition, there will be something that will make your university life easier. Why not just send off the application and see how they can help?
3) Contact the university’s disability services
Even if you’ve declared your disability and applied for DSA, I’d definitely get in touch with the disability services at the universities you’re applying to. Why? Well, they’ll likely want to know some specifics about what adaptations you’ll need. Visit their offices and see what they can do for you.
When I got in contact with the disability services at my university, for example, they put me in touch with a 2nd-year disabled student who was a wheelchair-user. It gave me a better idea of how accessible the campus was, which was really helpful. Even if it’s just to ask or confirm whether they can offer any adaptations that you currently have in place, it’s worth reaching out to them to see how they can help. It’s a good indicator of how good they’ll be over the next 3 years.
4) Visit the universities
As I’ve just mentioned, some universities can arrange extra tours for prospective disabled students, alongside Open Days. This will definitely help you get a real feel of the university – outside of the visit days where everyone is trying to impress you.
Here, you can see how accessible various parts of the campus are. You could also talk to staff members on your course and ask them questions. Disability services at universities should accommodate extra visits for you because they know how important choosing a university is. So if you can, definitely take the chance to visit universities outside of Open Days. This is so you know you’re making the right choice for you – both on the academics and the accessibility side.
So there you go – 4 important steps that you should carry out as a disabled person applying for university. Schools and colleges don’t always include additional steps that apply to us when they’re talking to the masses. I hope this list helps you not to miss out some of the less well-known parts of the application process. Best of luck with your applications!