At University with a Disability

Undergraduate Application Advice

The UCAS Form

Writing your UCAS application and applying to different Universities and making a decision about which University you want to study at can be a strenuous time but it’s about time management. I would not make any hard and fast decisions straight away and give yourself time, maybe six months to a year to decide whether University is something you want to pursue and then proceed to fill out an application. Be aware that the deadline for your application is usually early January. If you are in college or sixth form, your tutor will help you with your UCAS form, which is much like writing an online CV. The UCAS website will give you a checklist of its own to follow. 


In this section, you will need to list your GCSEs, NVQs, O-levels, A-levels and  BTecs. Make sure you put in every school, college or previous University (if you completed one already or dropped out). Make sure everything is all 100% correct.

Work History:

In this section, you will need to list your previous, paid work history. Choose the top five that you think will reinforce your application and highlight the skills and talents that you will use in your chosen degrees.  

Deciding on the Top Five:

As previously suggested, if you have been to your choice of University open days, you will have had time to go to all of them before the application process. Give yourself a chance to breathe afterwards, and you should now have a better idea of which ones you’ll be interested in attending. You may have subconsciously narrowed them down in your mind as you moved along the process, but ensure you try to narrow your choice down to a maximum of five.   

After eliminating the obvious choices, go over any possible notes you may have made during the open days and try and cast your mind back,  comparing the Universities; the courses, the campuses, tutors, disability team, the facilities etc. 

See if any of them flag up concerns or doubts for you, and then try to weigh up the pros and cons of two most similar. There could be possibilities of overlapping identical degrees as well, so try and choose which one you prefer. There may be the choice to enquire with Universities about alternative courses that you are interested in and you can always apply to these instead of your original choice. 

Many people will give you their opinions but you need to make the choice of where you want to study as it will allow you to follow your chosen path. Remind yourself of your ambition and what courses will help you to achieve that.

For those with disabilities, you may eliminate Universities from your top five as they may be unsuitable for you. This could either be due to the course itself or maybe the facilities on campus. It may be disappointing but it has to be right for you and you need to feel comfortable studying with your chosen course and University campus. However, if there is a course that you absolutely want, you can fight for it and the University should be accommodating to you. But choose your battles. If it’s not possible for them to accommodate you effectively, then it’s not worth it. There will be better ones out there. 

Personal Statement:

Your personal statement is requested to be between 1,000 to 4,000 characters, I would suggest that you avoid tailoring it to the specific University, keeping it as generic as you can. Be cautious to not mention the name of the University, only mention the subject or field you are applying to. I know it will be a challenge but be aware of your application deadline. 

Try your best to draft your personal statement as early as you can, so you have time for someone else to check it over and redraft it if needed. I would recommend using writing softwares like Microsoft Word or Google Docs and then paste it into the square the UCAS provides you with. It will make it easier to edit and proofread, and share between people as well. Make sure it is formatted correctly and remains formatted and in order as you paste it into the UCAS form.    

As you write your personal statement, be careful to use positive language. If you mention a job role, highlight the duties or responsibilities you had, not mentioning negative experiences, unless you phrase it as a positive and what that experience taught you.   

TIP: Please look at videos on YouTube or online for advice and guidance to successfully fill out UCAS to apply to the choices of your Universities.

Next Step

Now that you have submitted your undergraduate application, I’ll provide further information, advice and techniques on ‘applicant days’. Plus advice on interviews and on creating a portfolio. 

Building A University Portfolio

It’s important to showcase yourself through a portfolio of material in the industry your course is in and take it with you on your interview date. You need to prove your work ethic and abilities to each university. If you’re being asked to produce some work, then attempt to write pieces you enjoy based on the theme you are given. This will give you the opportunity to talk about your passion and possibly increase your chances of getting in.

Having a polished and up-to-date portfolio is essential for university interviews. One of the best ways to do this is by organising your work according to the date achieved, then add in written pieces, achievements of individual qualifications and proof of work experiences. Remove any outdated or unnecessary materials, only highlighting the qualities you want the University to see.  You can reorganise your portfolio based on which university you are visiting or which course you are interviewing for. 

Standing Out Amongst Other Candidates

When creating a portfolio it’s important to create your brand to be able to stand out amongst other candidates and sell yourself. Your unique qualities should be clear throughout your CV as well as any other media you show, such as social media web-pages. Creating an online site to display your work will help you to stand out. It may be a good idea to include a cover letter, which gives the university a brief yet engaging overview of who you are. For courses that involve elements of visual work, try to create and include a show-reel which you could link to during the interview. If you’re applying to courses that involve elements of audio, be sure to take along a sound mix disk of examples for tutors to hear.

Portfolio/Interview Tips for University

When attending an interview, it’s a good idea to be prepared for anything as it shows that you are organised and reliable. The tutors will test you and your knowledge about the university and course, possibly giving you examples of units or modules involved in the course, asking you what you would do in a certain situation. 

Instead of waiting for tutors to give you a situation where you used your skills, give them examples of where and how you used that particular skill. This will not only show initiative but can help to calm your nerves. During the interview, you may be asked to talk about your skills in more depth, how you’ve used them previously and how you plan to use them in the course. You may be asked to demonstrate your skills during the interview or applicant day, this allows you to showcase yourself and your capability for the course.

Use your previous knowledge and experience in your chosen field to your advantage and try to make yourself stand out amongst other candidates. Social Media is key to showcase yourself, your hobbies and interests and your personality. Before you are invited in for any applicant day and/or interview, I would possibly look at your social media presence and platforms or websites looking clean and professional. It could help more than you realise.

Showcasing Yourself

Applicant days often consist of visits to the University; a tour of the University, the facilities available within the course, meeting tutors etc. Then it will include an interview with a tutor to get your place in your chosen course. Though I was apprehensive about the interview, I liked going to the applicant days. The interview itself just felt like a general chat, touching on knowledge about the course itself and the surrounding topics. 

You may be sent an email with the time and date of your interview as well as further requests or preparations for the interview. For example, they may ask you to read something beforehand in order to discuss it on the day of your interview. I would suggest taking notes as you complete the task and then take them with you. 

Regardless if they do send you such a request or not, I would still do some preparation of your own, anything that can your interest in the course and your personality and take it with you on the day.

On the date of your interview, make sure you also go into your interview and be yourself as best you can. Talk about how much you like the industry and your enjoyment for the potential course. Ensure they know the person behind the personal statement and application.

Once you have done all this there is not much more that you can do other than wait and hope that you get onto your choice of courses. Try to put yourself in control of this process and everything involved, have confidence in yourself. 

When I did receive an email from UCAS, stating that something on my application had changed, it was to invite me to attend an interview at one of the Universities that I had chosen. I was eager and anxious to attend an interview and afterwards, I again was checking my emails regularly, somewhat dreading to find out the result and whether I had got in.

University Responses

It will take some time for Universities to respond to your application. I would try not to get too anxious about the responses or lack of, though I know from experience it’s easier said than done. I did keep checking my emails regularly, hoping that I would find a response from any one of the universities,  but I ended up driving myself crazy so eventually, I just had to sit back and wait.  Be prepared for your application to be declined, and if this happens, do not let it overwhelm you. It is not worth your energy or time. There are other, better-suited Universities out there!  

However, the University may also offer you a place on an alternative degree, instead, and it will be up to you whether you accept your place on this new degree or not. I cannot advise you completely on what to do as every situation is different, but it is important that you listen to what you most want to do.  In any case, you should be emailed via the address you provided as part of your UCAS login. 

My advice is that if you do decide to continue with the University in a different course, make sure you research this new degree carefully and become aware of what the coursework is expected of. Use the checklist you devised when you originally looked at your chosen course, and see whether this new course is actually something you want to pursue.

I would advise those students who have a disability that are offered a place on an alternative course to get back in touch with your University ASAP. The admissions team and those at the University may not have looked into your specific needs, making this new degree unsuitable for you. Remember, it is vital for you to explain your situation to the course team and the disability team so that the correct measures can be put in place for what course you decide on. Ensure all information is given to you beforehand to help with your final decision on where you want to study. 

Otherwise, your application and UCAS will be updated with either request for you to submit a further piece of work to prove your abilities or any other information they might want to consider when making you an offer. Depending on the University, they may need more evidence to see that you have completed or achieved an accomplishment that you had mentioned on your application or personal statement. There is also a chance, depending on your course, that they will ask you to submit further work such as a short story or an article. This will highlight your talents and to see if you’ll fit in with their coursework. There could also be the opportunity for you to be invited to an application day where they’ll have the chance to meet you in person and see how you equipped yourself at the University.

 Good Luck!

Read my next post Undergraduate Degree – My Advice for Choosing a University
Are you needing to Apply to University through Clearing?

Choosing a University: My Experience – Little Sea Bear

My friend, Shannon has written a post on her own blog about the process of how she chose her University. She also has a form of Cerebral Palsy. Why don’t you read her posts to see her insights into the University process?  

Choosing a University: My Experience — Little Sea Bear


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