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Applying to university

University guide for dyslexic students

Dyslexia shouldn't stop anyone from studying a degree. Our guide tells you what support is available and gives you top tips for starting university.

Young female university student highlighting notes in a notebook

Going to university as a dyslexic student

Although no two students with dyslexia are the same, it’s understandable that after years of battling through school, some may feel worried or even apprehensive about starting university. This doesn’t have to be the case.

There’s plenty of help available, and with the right amount of support and hard work, a student with dyslexia can thrive at university.

By talking to universities throughout the application process and getting in touch with their disability services, you can find out what provisions they have in place for dyslexic students. 

There’s also useful information on the British Dyslexia Association website, and from dyslexic recruitment agency Exceptional Individuals.

Top tips for starting university as a dyslexic student

Make sure you have a suitable diagnostic assessment

Dyslexia is officially recognised as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act, which means students with dyslexia or a related condition are usually entitled to Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). To access this, you must have a suitable diagnostic assessment.

Since 2012, this would have been carried out by a psychologist on the Health and Care Professions Council register or by someone holding an Assessment Practising Certificate (APC) for Specific Learning Difficulties at the time of the assessment.

Assessments before 2012 would have been made by psychologists or suitably qualified specialist teachers. The assessment must also meet the relevant guidelines of the SpLD Assessment Standards Committee.

A 'post-16' assessment isn’t needed any more, but if you’re a mature student whose diagnosis was a long time ago, an updated assessment may be necessary.

Apply for a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) as soon as possible

If you already have a dyslexia diagnosis and an up-to-date report, you can apply for a DSA through your student funding body (e.g. Student Finance for England or Student Awards Agency for Scotland). Apply as soon as you have your university place confirmed as it can take up to ten weeks for it to be sorted and for equipment to be ordered and set up.

The DSA process involves having a needs assessment based on your report and an interview at an access centre to discuss how your dyslexia affects you. Typical reasonable adjustments include specialist software (such as speech-to-text or mind mapping), extra time in exams and a photocopying allowance, as well as one-to-one tuition.

Stay positive

In many ways, dyslexia is more of a learning difference than a disability. It doesn’t take much to identify a long list of hugely successful dyslexic people who’ve succeeded in all walks of life, including academia.

People with dyslexia are generally conditioned to work harder than their non-dyslexic peers from an early age, which means perseverance and determination become second nature. Combine this with often-heightened creativity and problem-solving abilities, and you could use your dyslexia to your advantage.

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