Guest blog - Forms, forms and more... forms

by Rhodri Buttrick on 11 September 2009

After A-level exams is an incredibly stressful time for students. Despite the fact the exams are confined to the bin of history and you've done all you can, you still can't help worrying about it. I've discovered it's extremely difficult to actively stop thinking about something. I spent the first quarter of the holiday trying my best to forget about exam results day. I did this mainly by going to parties, meeting up with old friends, watching films and listening to the news (which gave me plenty of other things to worry about!). One thing I certainly didn't want to do while waiting for my results was filling in endless piles of forms for student finance, disabled students allowance, hall allocation and university.

Some forms have to be filled in by hand which is impossible for me due to my dyspraxia, so I have to dictate to my parents. I would love to see some admin bod try to read my hand writing! To be fair to them you can request an electronic copy, but that means waiting for them to send it and you just want to get through these forms as quickly as possible before you run out of time and patience!

Student finance and university related forms are now available online. You would have thought this would make it much easier for dyslexics and dyspraxics but quite often it means the opposite. I was under the impression technology was meant to make life easier but in the case of these forms, the power of the web has been misused to make the forms ten times longer and more complex. It makes about as much sense as designing a washing machine that dirties your clothes before washing them, thus making process longer than doing it by hand! The layout of the forms is not always very good for people who have difficulty reading. There are often no lines cordoning off sections of the form and so it is sometimes very hard to tell which field corresponds with which question.

To illustrate my point, as a dyslexic myself, some words look incredibly similar. Why do they always put the field for "country" and "county" so close together? Also another thing which I find confusing is remembering what order to write down your address. The forms often leave a number of unlabelled fields under the heading "address", it would be helpful if they were labelled "street name" and so on.

I am finding it very hard to refer to specific forms during this article because such was the volume of forms they have all blurred into one huge bureaucratic ball of paper in my bemused brain!

Another point I have to make about all the forms is that the exam results are released little more than a month before people start going to university. All the forms have to be filled in before you know your results. So after all this kerfuffle, there is sadly always the chance that wading through this sea of paperwork may have all been in vain.

Fortunately for me I got the results I needed and at the end of September will be starting at Reading University to study Philosophy. I feel I need a degree simply to fill in all the forms. Now with everything filled in and ticked off for University, I am now trying to find a part time job. If you thought the Universities made their forms difficult, just wait until you see some job application forms!

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