Mia - Going To University

Going to university was always something that I wanted to do, and I wanted to make sure that the course I would study was as suited to me as possible.

So, when looking for universities, I initially only looked for course specifications and was really resistant to choosing universities only because they had good access. Of course, it’s not that simple, and accessibility always has to be factored in at some point but, for me, it was important that I applied to the same universities that I would have chosen if I didn’t have SMA. Then, it would be the university’s job to ensure I could use their facilities. It was a risk, but not something I was prepared to compromise on. I found some courses on UCAS that I liked and then narrowed my list down on things like location, distance from home and student satisfaction.

After a higher education talk at sixth form, I felt really overwhelmed when I realised all the extra things that I needed to consider as a disabled student. I wasn’t planning to take a gap year but thought I might have to just to sort all my extra university demands. I contacted Michele at SMA UK, and she put me in touch with several people with SMA who had gone to university, and they were all so friendly, supportive and helpful. They gave me lots of advice, such as tips for managing my care, interviewing PAs and sorting out personal health budgets. I wouldn’t turn 18 until late July, so I wrote to my Social Worker and asked if we could start working through funding applications etc early with the Adult Social Care team so it could all be sorted before I started university in September.

There is a lot to do, and it can be very overwhelming! Ask Jules are a company that support disabled university students, and they have been amazing in keeping everything under control. They have lots of experience dealing with things like budgets, PA recruitment and management, and have been an absolute lifeline.

Dealing with Coronavirus is a challenge that I hadn’t anticipated! I strongly considered deferring my university place for a year. Ultimately, I decided to take the risk and go, and I am so happy I did. I am now finishing my first year and, although freshers hadn’t been what anybody expected, I’ve met some great people and have really enjoyed my course. Managing PAs for the first time and during a pandemic has been stressful at times, but I feel so lucky that I’ve had a great team.

If you want to go to university – go to university! It is normal to feel daunted by it whether you have SMA or not, and there are so many people worldwide who prove that it is absolutely possible to go to university with SMA and thrive there. Getting advice from people with SMA who have gone to university is so helpful, and SMA UK is great at initiating these contacts. Companies like Ask Jules can support you through budget negotiations and PA recruitment and management, taking a load of the pressure off so you can enjoy your university experience as much as possible.

First published: 14th September 2021