Moving to university can be a daunting experience for anyone, especially with the added complications of a disability to consider. But don’t worry, York has lots on offer to help you out – starting from before you arrive! As someone with dyslexia, I wanted to gain some insight into the workload at university, and how York’s disability department worked. So, I looked into programmes available on York’s website to prospective students, which is where I found Step Ahead – a course open to students with a disabilities and students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Step Ahead Programme
I attended the virtual Step Ahead programme at York in September 2022. It gave me tips on a whole range of useful things, such as:
- Finances and budgeting
- Enhancing my employability
- Managing my degree workload
- Making friends at uni
They also gave us lots of info on who we can reach out to if we’re struggling.
What were the online sessions like?
The sessions usually started with an online Zoom presentation. We’d then be split into breakout rooms to ask questions, speak to current York students, and complete some tasks. I was initially a bit worried about the breakout rooms, but the students were great at creating a very laid back atmosphere so that everyone could get involved.
Session 1: Online Tools
On the first day, I learnt about the online tools available to students, like the Skills Guide, where you can find great information on how to write academically. It also had some tips and tricks for navigating around York’s online learning platform, the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
Session 2: Enhancing your employability
The next session I chose was ‘Enhancing your Employability’. This covered things like years abroad, placement years, and the benefits that student roles, like the Student Ambassador scheme, can have on your CV (as well as your wallet!). Before the Step Ahead programme, I didn’t know much about what the University had to offer outside my studies. But after this session, I felt like a mini-expert!
Session 3: Student finance and budgeting
On the last day of the programme, I attended a student-led session on student finance and budgeting. Hearing first hand from students how to budget for food, nights out, and clothes was incredibly useful! Budgeting was definitely one of my main concerns when I was starting uni, especially given the current cost of living crisis! But I left this session feeling more relaxed about managing my money at university, and I got some great tips on how to regulate your spending so that it doesn’t become overwhelming.
This session also covered the types of funds available to students at the University, such as the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) – which was a life changer for me when it came to affording specialist equipment for my disability. Step ahead gave me a head start in understanding the application process for DSA – which I would definitely recommend applying for if you are eligible – and getting a student support plan lined up with the Disability team at York. I also met lots of new people on the programme thought WhatsApp chats set up for the sessions, and I found it incredibly reassuring that other people were in the same boat as me!
Studying at York with a Disability
York has made sure that my disability doesn’t hold me back when it comes to university life and studying. If you’re eligible, I really recommend applying for a Student Support Plan (SSP) with the University’s disability team. The plan covers all the support you may need at university, be that occasional extensions for deadlines, 1:1 support sessions, specialist equipment and much more.
Thanks to my plan, I can loan books from the library for an extended amount of time, get help from the disability team on structuring essays, and have a computer during exams. My plan gave me more confidence in my ability to do well at university despite my dyslexia. York’s disability team have been so helpful in guiding me through the DSA application process – which can be quite long and complicated with lots of forms to fill out!
So far, I have really enjoyed studying at York and feel like I have fully settled in to my degree thanks to the Step Ahead programme and the disability team at York. I definitely recommend looking into eligibility criteria for prospective York students, as the support I have had has been incredibly useful and reassuring.