Step Two: Applying for Mainstream Colleges

Mainstream colleges are becoming a more popular choice for blind and partially sighted students and it is important to make the right decisions when choosing which college to go to.

How do I decide what the right mainstream college is for me?

When choosing a college, there are different factors to take into consideration. This can be factors such as the level of support you will receive, the accessibility of teaching, attitudes to inclusivity, location and learning options. Read below for a helpful breakdown of what to consider when making your decision.

Online research. All colleges will have a dedicated website. You can find out loads of useful information by researching the college you want to attend online and check how they can support you throughout your studies.

 Plan a visit. It’s important to firstly set out a list of colleges you are interested in and then arrange a visit. This is always a great way to get a feel for the college and can assist your decision. There should be a contact at the college who leads on supporting students with a disability, that you can ask to speak to directly, so plan this as part of your visit.

Speak with support staff. Getting the right support is vital in making sure you can get the most out of your time at college. The support available will vary from college to college. That’s why it is important to speak with the support staff at the college to find out what support they could offer you during your studies, ask questions and discuss your needs and check how they have helped other blind and partially sighted students. It’s a good idea to write down some questions beforehand on what you want to know, what support you would like and what support has been effective for you in the past. More information on what support may be available to you is covered inStep Three: Getting the Right Support in Place.

Speak to other blind and partially sighted students who have attended the college. This can be a really useful way to see how they have experienced learning within the mainstream environment, and how well the college has supported them.

Accessibility, location, and orientation. These three factors will play a big part in your journey throughout college and can determine how easily you will settle in. While you probably get the best understanding of this from visiting, it is recommended to speak to support staff at the college or anyone else who is responsible for ensuring accessibility within the college to find out if it’s the right place for you. Find out more about what colleges can do to make their learning accessible.

Top tips 

  • Give yourself plenty of time. As always be as organised as you can. Plan which colleges you are interested in, do your own independent research, and visit them to ensure they are right for you.
  • Mainstream colleges are for everyone. This may mean that they aren’t always best prepared for supporting blind or partially sighted students, but don’t let this put you off. By visiting and asking the right questions, they can put the right preparations in place to give you a good learning experience by better understanding what you need.
  • Think about the future. It may feel daunting at first, but further education can set you on your career path. So, try to give some thought to what the college can offer you professionally as well as educationally. For example, work experience, volunteering opportunities and progression routes/connections into higher education.
  • Read reports online. Ofsted’s reports on colleges and their rating as an educational provider may support you with additional accessibility information. You can also check out our College accessibility tool to see how your college scored in our research into the accessibility of colleges.

Check out the other steps...

Step One: Your Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP)

Find out all the information you need for completing a Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) to support your studies at mainstream college.

Find out more about 'Step One: Your Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP)'

Step Three: Getting the Right Support in Place

Find out the different types of support that may be available to you within mainstream college and what you can do to access it.

Find out more about 'Step Three: Getting the Right Support in Place'

Step Four: Funding Available

Learn what funding options may be available to you when studying at mainstream college.

Find out more about 'Step Four: Funding Available'

Step Five: Technology for Your Studies

Learn more about the different types of assistive technology which may be available to provide support with your education.

Find out more about 'Step Five: Technology for Your Studies'

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