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Studying At Uni With An Illness

Posted by Emily Ryan on


Photo by Brodie Vissers from Burst 

By Caroline (Pots and Spoons)

Today’s blog post comes from Caroline, whose site “Pots And Spoons Blog” details her life experiences with chronic illness. Caroline’s excellent guest post offers handy tips and advice on how to study at uni when you’re living with a chronic illness, we hope anyone going through a similar experience finds it useful!

Hello! I’m Caroline, I’m 21 and studying for my MSc in Developmental Psychology, having recently completed my undergraduate degree. I have a collection of as-yet undiagnosed chronic illnesses, my main symptoms include dizziness, fatigue and severe joint pain. Unfortunately, I got little support for my conditions during my undergraduate degree, so I’m well practiced in getting a degree whilst living with health problems.

Hopefully, my experience is rare and there is often a lot of support available. Research the support available at your place of study, and ask for help. Speak to anyone who might be able to help, your lecturers, flatmates, supervisor, disability services, accommodation services. The more people know, the more likely you are to get the support you need. Whilst universities emphasise the importance of independence, they also want the best from you so they will often be happy to help.

The more people know, the more likely you are to get the support you need. 

If you’re UK based, apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance. This is funding that comes alongside your student finance, to help cover the extra costs created by your disability. Rather than providing money, they often provide equipment, such as laptops and desk chairs; software, such as speech-to-text software; or support workers, such as mentors or study skills help. This can help you to access the course in the best way possible.

Study in the best way that works for you. Everyone goes on about spending all night in the library and working until 4am on deadline days. If that’s how you work best then by all means go for it, but just because that’s what everyone else is doing, you don’t have to. I do the vast majority of my work lying in bed, first thing in the morning, and it works for me. You might study best listening to music, or in complete silence; working alone or with others, on a computer or by making handwritten notes. Take some time to find out what works best for you, and stick to it.

Make sure you enjoy yourself!

Plan extra time. Give yourself a few extra days/weeks before a deadline, just in case you have a flare. I always set my own deadlines at least a week before the official deadline, then whatever happens I have extra time to play with.

Make sure you enjoy yourself! Studying is important but it’s just as important to make time to relax and meet people — you can’t work all the time. Get a good work life balance that gives you time to study, relax and recover.


Thanks to Caroline for her excellent contribution! If you have any advice yourself about studying with an illness or disability, tweet us at @AbilitySStore!

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