Deciding to go to university

Thinking about applying to university? Information to help you decide whether university is a practical option and guidance about the support that universities offer.

Is university an option?

For most young people considering university, there are lots of things to think about:

  • Do I want to study for another three years (or more!)?
  • What do I want to study?
  • Where do I want to go?
  • Which universities offer my chosen course?
  • Should I live at home (if the university is nearby) or move into student accommodation or a shared house?
  • How will I fund my course?

If you are a young person with epilepsy, you have all these things to think about, with, possibly, added concerns around your epilepsy.

Perhaps the first thing to consider is whether you want to continue your education. This will probably depend on your experiences with learning at school. For some young people with epilepsy, learning may be more difficult. Both epilepsy and treatment for epilepsy can affect concentration and memory.

You may have had to take time off school and it might have affected your exam results. Or maybe your epilepsy had little or no impact on how you did at school. 

Having epilepsy doesn’t mean that you can’t go to university if you want to.

Be realistic

When thinking about going to university, it helps to be realistic. And again, this depends on you and on your epilepsy.

If you are having lots of seizures or taking medication, either of which can affect your concentration and learning, then an academic course with lots of coursework and exams may be a challenge. But if your seizures are well controlled, then having epilepsy may not impact on your learning at all.

And don’t forget: if your epilepsy is not controlled at the moment, or you have been diagnosed recently, things may change. Your seizures might become better controlled and your epilepsy may start to have less impact on you.

Here are some things to think about. It helps to focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do, but it is also important to be realistic and honest with yourself.

  • What subjects do you like and what are you interested in?
  • What subjects are you good at?
  • What do you want to do after university? What job would suit you and fit with your lifestyle?
  • How do you learn and work best? Are you better at academic or vocational subjects? Are you better at coursework or exams?
  • Which universities offer the courses you are interested in? Where are they based?
  • How are the courses run – are they mainly lectures or private study? Do they include practical work or placements?
  •  Visit GOV.UK  for more information.
  • What is your epilepsy like? What seizures do you have and how often? What happens to you during your seizures? How do you feel afterwards?
  • Have you found that your seizures or medication affect your learning and studying?
  • How do you think your epilepsy would impact on the courses you are interested in?
  • Where would you live? If the university is near your home town, would you live at home? If it is further away, would you live in halls of residence or a shared house?
  • What would help you to manage your epilepsy alongside your learning and your university experience?

What does the law say?

The Equality Act 2010  exists to protect the rights of individuals, and make sure that people with a disability, or health condition, have the same rights as people who do not. This applies in many situations, from employment to transport, from property to education.

The Act means that an education provider (such as a school, college or university) must not discriminate against someone with a disability, and that it has to support people with disabilities within education.

This means that a university:

  • cannot discriminate against a student with a disability in deciding who can enrol on a course, 
  • must not discriminate against someone who has enrolled in what it provides or offers to provide; and
  • has a duty to make reasonable adjustments for a student with a disability.

The Act also means that you have the right to expect education providers to give you help and support. This might make university a realistic option for you.

Does this mean I am ‘disabled’?

Being ‘disabled’ is sometimes seen as negative, a label that defines who you are. And some people do not feel that their epilepsy is a disability or that they are disabled by it at all.

But it is worth knowing what ‘disabled’ means in the law, and how considering epilepsy as a disability may mean you can expect support at university.

Under the Equality Act 2010, a person is considered to have a disability if they have ‘a physical or mental impairment’ that has ‘a substantial and long-term adverse effect’ on their ‘ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’. Here, a physical or mental impairment includes medical conditions such as epilepsy. ‘Substantial’ means not trivial or minor, and ‘long-term’ means for at least 12 months. Day-to-day activities includes things like getting around, and being able to remember and concentrate, and to get on with a ‘normal’ life.

So, looking at epilepsy and how it can affect an individual, we can see that it can be considered a disability.

By accepting your epilepsy as a disability, this means you have the right to expect to be protected against discrimination, and the right to expect support and help from the university.

Disability discrimination is when someone treats a person with a disability less well because of their disability.

Universities have obligations to support and help people with disabilities so that they get the same access to courses and they get help to complete them. But you can only expect this support and help if the university knows that you have a disability – if you don’t tell them, they cannot be expected to know, and they cannot be expected to help you.

Find out more about the Equality Act, and how this may affect you, at 

What should I do if I decide I want to go to university?

If you have decided that university is right for you, you need to find out more about applying to go. It might be a good idea to contact each university that you are thinking of applying to, before you apply, to find out what support they can offer you. Your school or sixth form college will also have plenty of information about applying.

 Visit UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) for more information.

Information produced: September 2021

University and epilepsy

If you're considering going to university or if you’ve definitely decided that’s what you want to do, you’ll need to think about what this will mean for you in practical terms and about what support you might need, including financial support. Being well prepared will help you to make the most of your time at university.

Want to know more?

Download Deciding to go to university factsheet.