Our Friend Emily
August 14, 2017
Dyslexia Academy Launch
September 26, 2018

Open Letter to UCAS

More often than not recruitment processes are not equipped to support people with Nerodiversity such as dyslexia. But the struggle often starts way before the world of work. Most young people with dyslexia despite having average or high IQs will often find themselves in the bottom sets in secondary school, if they are lucky enough to overcome this initial low bar and progress on to higher education such as six form, then they are faced with another looming issue; the dreaded UCAS. UCAS is notoriously hard to manoeuvre and complete for even the sharpest of typical minds but even more so for those of us that think differently.

My own personal experience is that UCAS sets you up for failure, I remember the first time I applied to it spending weeks and weeks even months manoeuvring the platform figuring out how to use it. Once I had a basic grasp of the clunky website my next mountain was writing my personal statement. In terms of life experience I had multiple achievements behind my belt, being an accomplished filmmaker in my own right, a successful motivational speaker and charity fundraiser who has achieved phenomenal success, yet on paper I was nothing, I was a blank canvas, I was a sales pitch with no feature, no benefit, and no close. This mental block I had in my head meant I was unable to translate to paper. It was this gigantic obstacle which I was unable to overcome. Considering all of this it is no surprise that despite my best efforts, despite my determinations, despite me progressing from an ‘E’ to an ‘A’ in most subjects I failed to gain entry to University the first time around.

If the playing field was level then there would have been no reason why I would not have gained entry into university. I applied for five universities and not one of them was willing to give someone like me a chance. Now I do not completely blame universities, how are they to know that I was an Exceptional Individual with a vast array of skills if on paper I was a stumbling, bumbling, primary school child impersonating adult.

To me there were a few simple things that could have been done to improve my pathway to higher education.

1) More one-to-one support for students in college. Do not get me wrong I understand that there is no magic money tree, so I am repeatedly told. But there should be at least two or more learning support aids at hand at any time, if one in 10 people are dyslexic then why aren’t one in 10 teachers there to support people with dyslexia?

2) Once you make into university you get an educational support allowance which can materialise into special computers and precise equipment which allows you to write freely without limitations. This eliminates these barriers, but it is not the case with school or college. The same is true in work with needs assessments done using a scheme called Access to Work. As I write this now I’m currently speaking to my computer, not a single word in this article written by hand or keyboard.

3) And lastly UCAS, among other organisations need to innovate with the times, it is not black or white any more, it is not this way or no way, it should be multiple ways which allow an individual to achieve to the highest potential. This could appear in many ways it could be a verbal personal statement or face-to-face interviews or even a pod cast submitted. It could be a video blog. It could be a website that you created. This is the way I see it; if you are able to demonstrate your experience and your skill set surely it doesn’t matter what format you deliver it in. If organisations can wise up and realise the benefits of different mindsets, then surely colleges and UCAS can do the same.

I would like to end this article by speaking out directly to the young people who have recently received A-level and GCSE results; the system is not perfect, it will change but until it does stay motivated, stay driven, and never settle for second best. It took two years for me to gain entry into university and even though it was hard at times I stayed motivated. In the end it worked out, dyslexic mindsets are not a burden, they are a gift, the right amount of determination, perseverance and a different way of thinking can make anyone truly exceptional.


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