Get started with our video guide

This video will give you a step-by-step overview of the whole application process, and highlights things that you will need to consider as a disabled student applying to university. Our guide includes organisations and funders specific to the UK applications process to help you identify where you can go for support.

The video is captioned, and a full transcript is available here: Video Guide Transcript (opens in new tab)

Read on for our full written guide

Our complete written guide goes into more detail, and has all the information you need to consider when applying to university as a disabled student. Click here to download a printable version: Printable Guide (opens in new tab)

Step 1. At least one year before: start planning and choose a course

Discuss your aspiration to go to university with family, friends, and teachers at least a year before making that decision. Family will play a big role in helping you with your application. A parent will now start to question you about what you want to do at university, after all they will be helping with this adventure (and maybe contributing some funding). Is it to study and get a degree or is to party and socialise, your answer will probably be a bit of both – work hard and play hard! Consider what support you will need and whether you would prefer to study at home, or move away and live independently.

You should also get advice from your school or college. Deciding what course to take can be a dilemma, for example you may have your heart set on doing accountancy, but even this subject alone has many variations. Its best to keep you options open, look at all the courses and establish those that may be suitable. Go online and look at all the courses, do not be afraid to change courses and remember this is your life, your choice. Subject teachers can help you choose between different courses and discuss your predicted grades. Some courses, and unis including Oxbridge have more requirements for applications, like specialist exams and earlier UCAS deadlines, so take this into account.

Your school or college careers advisor can help with the application process, writing a personal statement, and discuss which careers your chosen course can lead to.

Main points:

  • Research into courses and careers that interest you
  • Take note of entry requirements and early deadlines
  • Discuss your aspirations with family, friends, and teachers

Step 2. Talk to Your Local Authority to Fund Personal Assistance

If you have a disability then you may need additional support at university. This could be in two parts, academic assistance (such as communication, scribing, notetaking, lab assistance) which is often funded by the DSA and/or the university. The second part is support for your day-to-day life, personal assistants/carers can help here, depending on your needs, they will help with daily chores, the day at university and even your social life such as going to the pub with friends. Cosmopolitan Care can help manage and facilitate this type of support.

In the eyes of your local authority, you are about to transition from child to adult (there is no in between). Contact your local authority and tell them of your plans, they will then typically discuss what they can offer by way of financial support for personal assistance/carers. This is typically paid by Direct Payments (DP) or a Personal Health Budget (PHB). With this funding you will be able to hire your own carers and/or PAs whilst at university, this is something Cosmopolitan Care can help you with.

Being a student does not affect your entitlement to PIP or the amount you can receive. It also does not affect the amount of student finance you can receive.

Main points:

  • Identify support that you will need
  • Contact your local authority for funding
  • Being a student does not affect your entitlement to PIP or the amount you can receive

Step 3. Choosing a University

You may already have a shortlist of preferred universities from researching online and reading prospectuses. All Universities have open days and there is nothing like going to visit in person.

Tours will give you a good feel for the campus and what your uni life could look like. Universities normally have a department supporting disabled students and you should make a point to visit this department straight away, as well as your chosen department of study. Disability/Enabling Services may have the best answers to your accessibility and accommodation questions, and sometimes offer tours specifically for disabled and chronically ill students.

In recent years universities have worked out that disabled students are a valuable asset to their yearly intake. More disabled students are enrolling at university than ever before.

Main points:

  • Decide whether you will live on campus, commute from home, or study remotely
  • Visit universities and speak to their disability services

Step 4. Apply for Student Finance

You now know the course you want to study and the university you would like to attend, the local authority has agreed in principle to fund your further education support. That is the groundwork done.

Student Finance England (SFE) manages loans for your tuition fees and living costs (means-tested maintenance loan), as well as additional costs for disabled students (DSA). This could pay for your transport to campus, a lab assistant, study equipment like a printer or dictation software. DSA is a grant and doesn’t have to be repaid.

Main points:

  • Apply for tuition and maintenance loans

Step 5. University Induction and DSA Assessment

Congratulations! You got the grades and you’re off to uni! Keep an eye out for extra inductions for disabled students that may take place before term starts and help you get settled and network with other students. DSA assessment is managed by your uni disability services who will also recommend exam accommodations if you need them, like extra time.

Main points:

  • Attend University inductions
  • Apply for disabled students allowance

Step 6. Other Considerations

If you are living away from home to study (halls of residence) it is worth checking with your local authority about a council tax home discount by way of a ‘student disregard’. The university can offer a student certificate that the Local Authority will need to see. You may also be able to claim support for rent at halls by way of housing benefit.

If you need medication, or continued treatment, you may need to consider the benefits of changing to a GP surgery close to the university. If you need special equipment such as a profile bed, shower chair etc. your OT will offer good advice.

Main points:

  • Look into additional support for housing as a disabled student
  • Consider the benefits of changing GP surgeries if you are moving away from home

Final Step. No such thing as a stupid question!

Always feel free to contact us about anything. But more importantly, if you feel something is not right or an aspect of the uni experience is simply confusing please talk to us or the uni. If you read the experience blogs from the many disabled students on our website (Cosmo Life Blogs), many say they wish they had asked at the time.

So study hard, get the degree, and enjoy the university experience along the way!

Main points:

  • Feel free to contact Cosmopolitan Care with any questions
  • Enjoy your university experience!

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