Dyscalculia at a UK university: Isabella's story
One student's experience of applying to uni with dyscalculia
Isabella is a third year student at the University of Brighton, who has dyscalculia, dyslexia, and dyspraxia. We asked Isabella about her experiences with dyscalculia in particular, and what the university application process and study experience has been like.
What is dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia is trouble with numbers, and difficulty relating to them in the way that other people do. It’s more than just not being able to add up or subtract; it’s not understanding the concept of them at all. For me, not being able to tell the time is a big part of it. I have to rely on my phone a lot.
As a person with dyscalculia, were you nervous about applying to university?
For me, not being able to tell the time straight away from looking at the clock face is something I feel quite embarrassed about. So I felt nervous that people would see that, and think I wasn’t a ‘proper’ student. But at university, you find out that lots of people have lots of different neurodivergences.
Did you mention your dyscalculia in your application?
I think mentioning my dyscalculia in my application really helped. I don’t have a maths GCSE, but when I asked the universities I was interested in if I could apply for history or English without it, they were aware of my condition and encouraged me to apply anyway.
At university, have you accessed any adjustments to support your studies?
I had someone who helped me with my study methods, and showed me my learning style. I also had extended deadlines, which was an absolute lifesaver!
Have you been able to access any financial support?
I applied to the DSA (Disabled Students Allowance), and the funding supported me to buy a computer which has adjusted software to help me managed my dyslexia, dyspraxia, and dyscalculia. It was super easy to apply.
Have you found teaching staff to be supportive?
It’s important to make your university aware of your learning differences or neurodivergence, as teaching staff have been extremely supportive since they know. They have been really patient when I’ve mentioned that reading might take me a bit longer than some students. Some tutors have let me borrow a physical copy of a book or printed out the text, so I don’t have to read it online, which I find difficult with my dyslexia due to the level of blue light emitted from the screen.
Have you connected with a disabilities rep or a student mentor?
I haven’t connected with a rep or mentor, though I was offered many times and certainly could have if I needed to. I have however been in touch with the disabilities team via email, and they are always so quick at replying. You’re not bothering them by getting in touch - they like to help students!
Are there other students at your uni with dyscalculia or similar conditions?
There are so many other people with stuff like me! There are groups you can go to where you can meet people with similar conditions, and you can ask them for support if you need it. It’s weirdly a great way to connect with people and make friends.
What’s your top tip for young people with dyscalculia who are thinking of applying to uni?
My top tip is to get all your forms and admin sorted well in advance! Set aside a night to complete all the forms you need, preferably with a parent, carer, or friend who can help you work through it. I’d say that getting it done early is almost as important as choosing where you go to university.
Want to learn more about going to university with a neurodivergent condition or learning difference? Check out Equal Opportunities on the Know-how library.
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