Going to college or university

If you have epilepsy and you’re thinking about going to college or university, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and think about the support you might need.

You might be entitled to financial and practical support to help you get the most out of your studies.

This information will help you ask the right questions and get the right things in place.


student with disability and housemates moving into halls, going to college or university

Going to college (further education)


What financial support can I get?

If you continue with education after 16 you can apply for financial support to pay for things like books, equipment and travel to college. What funding you can apply for depends on where in the UK you’re studying:


What other types of support can I get at college?

All colleges should provide support for students with special educational needs and disabilities. This could include giving you extra teaching support to help you with your learning.

It could also involve making changes to make sure your epilepsy doesn’t put you at a disadvantage compared to other students. This is called making reasonable adjustments and is something colleges have to do by law for disabled students.

If you think you might need some extra support with your learning, or you think your epilepsy might make things difficult for you, speak to the college.

Most colleges will have someone in charge of making arrangements for students with special educational needs and disabilities. They are often called a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO). In Wales, this is known as an additional learning needs coordinator . They will be able to tell you what support can be put in place.

In England, if you had an education and healthcare plan (EHCP) at school, you can take this support with you to college. An EHCP is when you get extra support with learning paid for by your local authority.

Contact are a charity that help the families of people with disabilities. They have information about extra support with learning at college in other parts of the UK.

Going to university (higher education)


  • How do I choose the right course?

    Choosing a course can be a difficult decision.

    As a person with epilepsy you may find it helpful to ask some extra questions like:

    • Will I be able to safely do all the work needed for the course?
    • Will I be able to get a job in this area of work?
    • What support will I need to make this course possible?
    • Do I want to live with, near to, or away from my family?
    • Would a distance learning course be an option?

    If you think parts of a course might be difficult or unsafe because of your epilepsy, this doesn’t always mean you need to rule it out.

    The UK equality laws mean universities have a legal duty to make changes to make sure your epilepsy doesn’t put you at a disadvantage. This is called making reasonable adjustments.

    UCAS has a video and a list of useful questions to ask yourself at the planning stage. It is aimed at people going to university, but many of the questions are relevant wherever you may want to study.

  • What financial help can I get to pay for my support needs?

    As a student with epilepsy, you may be eligible for financial support through the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). DSA is a government fund for people who have a long-term health condition and are applying to be an undergraduate or post-graduate student.

    DSA is not a loan, so you don’t need to repay it. The money you may get will be based on your level of need, not on what your income is.

    The aim of DSA is to cover some of the extra study-related costs you may have because of your epilepsy. It doesn’t pay for everyday student costs, such as course fees or accommodation.

    Here are some examples of things DSA might pay for:

    • Digital voice recorders
    • Assistive software, such as text to speech software, voice recognition and mind-mapping software
    • One-to-one study skills support if you have difficulty in understanding and remembering information
    • A mentor
    • Assistance with study-related travel costs, such as taxi fares

    Disability Rights UK have more information about applying for Disabled Students Allowance.

    DSA is available through Student Finance England, Student Awards Agency Scotland, Student Finance Wales or Student Finance Northern Ireland.

    If you are applying for general student finance, you can usually apply for your DSA at the same time.

    You may also be entitled to certain benefits.

  • What learning support can I get?

    The college or university should help you to make the most of your education. They need to bear in mind the equality laws and consider reasonable adjustments to support you.

    The disability adviser or disability support team at the university you are applying to can explain what support you may be able to get and who it will come from.

    When you contact them, it would help to provide evidence of how your epilepsy may affect your learning. This can be a letter from your doctor. The more specific the doctor can be about your needs, the more likely you are to be able to get the right support.

    If you have problems with memory or understanding information, your consultant or family doctor should mention this in their letter.

    Don’t expect the disability adviser to be an expert in epilepsy. You may need to help them out to improve their awareness and understanding of how epilepsy can affect people.

    Here are some examples of possible reasonable adjustments:

    • Finding you a room in halls of residence with staff on site
    • Supplying notes or making sure you have a ‘catch-up session’ if you miss a lecture because of a seizure
    • Making sure any material they use is not going to trigger your seizures, if you have photosensitive epilepsy
    • Having handouts and discussion materials provided before a lecture, to help you become familiar with the content
    • Having lectures recorded, so that you can listen or watch again after the lecture
    • Having tutors and lecturers provide you with written instructions and feedback
    • Giving you flexible deadlines to finish your work
    • Giving you extra time to copy information
  • What exam support can I get?

    Access arrangements

    Access arrangements (also called individual arrangements, special exam arrangements or examination adjustments) are arrangements made for someone to take an exam in a slightly different way to other people. They must be put into place before the exam period starts.

    Universities make their own arrangements for exams and assessments. Each university will have its own process to follow, and you will need to apply for any adjustments. Individual universities should have information about the process on their website. You may also be able to get information from the university’s disability advisor.

    Your university must have proof that you have epilepsy and details of how your epilepsy affects you. There is usually a deadline for applying for access arrangements, so it is really important to speak with your disability adviser or exams officer as early as possible.

    Examples of possible access arrangements include:

    • Having supervised rest breaks during an exam
    • Having extra time in your exam, if you have absence seizures, or difficulties with memory and processing information
    • Taking an exam at a different time of day or place to other people who are taking the same exam. For example, if you usually have seizures first thing in the morning, you might be able to take the exam in the afternoon
    • Getting one-to-one support for practical exams

    Epilepsy and assessment

    It may be possible to take your epilepsy into account if you feel your marks for an exam or assessed piece of work may have been affected by your condition. Possible situations could be missing an exam because of a seizure or feeling you have performed less well than you could have because of a seizure.

    It will normally be your responsibility to inform your university that your performance has been affected by your epilepsy. You may also need to provide supporting evidence such as a letter from your doctor.

    How you do this varies between places of study, so you should check the rules for where you are studying. If you had support during exams at school or college, it may be possible for this to continue.

    If you have not had support at school or college, you may still be able to get some. The disability adviser at your university should be able to help you with this.

  • How do I make a complaint?

    This will vary depending on where you study. But if you’re not getting the support you feel you need, here are some suggestions:

  • What support can I get with healthcare?

    If you are moving away from home, you will need to register with the campus medical services, or a local GP practice. You might also like to book an appointment to talk to them about your epilepsy medicines and repeat prescriptions.

    If you go to university in England, you can get a medical exemption certificate once you turn 19. This will allow you to keep getting your prescriptions for free. In the rest of the UK prescriptions are free for all ages.

    If you see an epilepsy specialist at a hospital near your family home, you might choose to keep your care with them and travel home for appointments. You will need to give them the details of your new GP.

    If you would prefer to see a specialist at a hospital closer to your university, talk to your GP or your current specialist about how to transfer your care.

  • How should I tell people about my epilepsy?

    If your seizures are not fully controlled, you might want to talk to the teaching staff about what to do, and what not to do, if you have a seizure.

    You might also want to talk this over with some of your fellow students or housemates. You could show them our first aid information.

    The more upfront you are about how your epilepsy affects you, the more likely it will be that your friends are relaxed about it.

    Many universities will outline your needs in a student support document which can be shared with your teaching team.  You can use this document to discuss your support needs with your tutors and friends.  Ask your disability adviser if the university provides this type of document.

  • What support can I get with day-to-day living?

    If you already have extra help with day-to-day living you can take your care package (provided by your local social services department) with you into further or higher education.

    If you don’t already have help, you will need to get a needs assessment from your local social services department. Apply to the social services department where you are living before you go to university. It is worth applying for this assessment as early as possible.

  • Useful organisations

    Disability Rights UK

    Disability Rights UK has a range of very helpful resources if you’re thinking about education after 16.


    This is the universities and colleges admissions service. It has a range of information on going to university if you’re disabled, including a detailed list on how to prepare for university.

    National Union of Students (NUS)

    The National Union of Students represents the interests of students through a network of 600 Student Unions. Their work includes campaigning on the rights of disabled students. Speak to your university’s Student Union or visit the NUS website for more information.

Image of Leti, a young woman with long brown hair and a white top

Leti's story

“When I first started university, I was hiding my epilepsy. I didn’t want people to think I was different. I wanted to have the uni experience. But I wish I had been a bit smarter and more patient with myself. I’ve now found a balance where I can go out with friends but I’ll come home earlier to keep myself safe.”

“It’s difficult when you’ve been given the promise of independence to then be given a diagnosis which makes you dependent on people. When you’re 18 going to university where everything is about doing things for the first time, like living by yourself, and then also being told you can’t do certain things. I think that’s what I struggled the most with at the time.” – Leti

You can watch our Lunchtime Live discussion with Leti and her experience at university below.

This information has been produced under the terms of the PIF TICK. The PIF TICK is the UK-wide Quality Mark for Health Information. Please contact website@epilepsy.org.uk if you would like a reference list for this information.
Published: March 2024
Last modified: March 2024
To be reviewed: March 2027
Tracking: L014.05 (previously F105)
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