Once your application has been approved, you will receive an email from Student Finance confirming that you are eligible for the DSA.
Attached to the email will be your DSA1 confirmation letter. It is important to keep hold of this letter because it proves that you are eligible and provides instructions on arranging your needs assessment.
The key thing to remember is that your needs assessment is not a test but an opportunity for you to discuss your learning needs openly.
Arranging your needs assessment is straightforward:
- Find your local assessment centre. You can choose where to attend your needs assessment. It might be online, over the phone, near your home, or near your university.
- Choose where you would like to be assessed. The centre you choose is entirely up to you and don’t worry about the price; your assessment is completely free, paid for by Student Finance.
- There will be a section on most assessment centre websites where you can ‘book an assessment’. You can also always email or phone them directly if you would like to know a bit more about how they will run your assessment.
The assessment is confidential and conducted in a relaxed, informal and supportive environment by assessors with specialist experience supporting higher education students and discussing recommendations for support. You will have the opportunity to talk about your past experiences and any strategies you have developed to address challenges. Once your learning needs have been discussed and the barriers identified, the assessor will propose support that could benefit you.
Your needs assessment will usually include a discussion of the following areas of university life:
- Research and reading
- Writing and reviewing academic work
- Note-taking in lectures and seminars
- Managing time and organising work
- Access to and use of technology
- Practical sessions, placements, field trips and additional course activities
- Examinations and timed assessments
- Social interaction and communication
- Travel and access to your higher education environment
- Additional information
Your assessor may request you bring some information with you, or email it to them in advance. This can help ensure they have all the specific information they need to best understand you and your support needs.
They may request:
- Your DSA1 confirmation letter (here’s a reminder of what that might look like)
- Your medical evidence
- Information about your computer or laptop, if you have one
The assessment is your opportunity to discuss any challenges you face in education. It’s steered by the amount of information you share. You might consider making a short list of things you find challenging to ensure you remember to discuss them all.
To help you get in the right mindset for the session, you might consider asking yourself:
What kind of support did I receive at school?
Is there something I’ve struggled with in the past that has never been addressed?
How is my course going to be assessed?
Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers to these questions; remember that your needs assessor is there to help guide you to think about the particular challenges you might face and work with you to come up with solutions.
Examples of your work are often helpful. For example: lecture notes, assignments, a course outline and/or a copy of your most recent timetable.
We recommend that you allow up to 2 hours for your assessment, but they are often completed sooner.
After your needs assessment, your assessor will draft a report and send a copy to you within ten working days. If you are happy with everything on the draft, your assessor will send a final copy to Student Finance for their approval.
We would recommend that to agree for a copy of the report to be sent to your university disability services. Giving this consent to your needs assessor during your assessment will enable the university to efficiently support you in setting up the adjustments, support and strategies recommended in the report.
Almost there! Let’s now look at what happens when Student Finance approves your support.