My dyslexic college experience

young man in grey sweater doubting and shrugging shoulders in questioning gesture.

by a dyslexic student

At school I didn’t think I was different to anyone else. I was not a low achiever but found exams stressful. I hated being asked to read aloud in class. I was a slow, not very fluent reader. I wasn’t very good at spelling and was rubbish at languages. I’m not artistic but am OK at maths and sports. Looking back, I used coping strategies such as watching YouTube videos rather than reading lots of text. Doesn’t everyone in my generation?
A college friend had dyslexia. It wasn’t discussed much. She was regarded
as non-academic and used a reader and scribe to get through exams. My
difficulties were not on the same level.

Looking back, I used coping strategies such as watching YouTube videos rather than reading lots of text. Doesn’t everyone in my generation?


Discovering I’m dyslexic

Two things suggested to others that I may have dyslexia. Firstly, my mum
was aware of how stressed I became preparing for exams. I spent more
time studying than my friends because text-based learning took me longer.
I thought my stress was a family inheritance.

Secondly, my maths teacher commented that in exams, I used every second available and was always one of the last students to leave the room. I thought I was being persistent,
working hard and that I wanted to achieve more than my fellow students.

Mum wanted me assessed for dyslexia as it runs in the family. I put off having
the assessment at school as I thought it would be more stress in addition
to studying for GCSEs. When mum mentioned assessment to my college
teachers, they didn’t believe dyslexia would be confirmed as I was a high
achiever. They were amazed when it was.

I found my dyslexia assessment tiring. It was 3 hours long with lots of
questions. I felt stupid giving some answers and particularly frustrated with
the pattern recognition test. I was surprised by how bad my memory was in
some tests.

Coping with university

I am now at university and get 25% extra time in exams. I chose a science
subject to avoid too many essays.

I still had difficulties keeping up with lectures. In first year, I wanted to write
down everything the lecturers said and felt their slides moved on too quickly.

My university had an online system for recording lectures even before COVID,
which helped. Some lecturers would not record their classes. I called mum
for moral support when I found my course challenging. She also did my
proof reading.

The university provided software and a printer/scanner. I get a Disabled
Students’ Allowance which pays for this. But all the tech can be scattergun
and overwhelming. Looking back, the training sessions could have been
shorter and more frequent.

COVID changed university life. All lectures were recorded and I was able to go
over them as often as required. Lockdown meant limited social activities, no
clubs, sports or practical classes. This was particularly challenging as I learn
best doing hands-on tasks. However, I shared a student house and garden
with friends. This helped us all cope with the sudden changes to the university
experience. I would have hated being stuck in halls with no outdoor space
and people I didn’t know.

Succeeding in work

I am now working for my industrial placement year doing practical laboratory
work. There is a standard report template which everybody uses. I am able to
joke with my colleagues about my poor spelling, telling them it’s my dyslexia
and asking them to spell words for me. As it’s a small company, my boss
reads over almost everything, including my work.

Later this year, I return to university for my final year. I still expect it to be
stressful as I want to do well. My dyslexia means I know why I have to work
harder than others. I have grown in confidence as the last year has proved to
me that I can hold down a job.

We know that being a dyslexic student can be lonely and hard work. Having a safe space to talk about the emotional experiences of dyslexia in Further and Higher Education can help you through your studies. Sign up to Dyslexia Scotland’s Dyslexic Student Network to get support from others just like you.

Join the Dyslexic Student Network

Published by Dyslexia Scotland

We encourage and enable people with dyslexia, regardless of their age and abilities, to reach their potential.

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