Questions and Answers

Making buns

How is a specialist college different from school?

At a specialist college you will be treated like an adult. You will learn the skills you need to live independently, learning how to look after your own money, shopping for food and cleaning products and learning how to travel on public transport safely.

If you are starting a residential college, you will live with other students who are the same age as you.  You can enjoy lots of activities like sport, cinema or art and drama clubs, learn new skills like playing an instrument and get the chance to take part in work experience or voluntary work.

Most college courses are designed to help you get a job or live more independently. College courses include: art and crafts, media and IT, horticulture, admin, horse-based learning or retail and hospitality.

Can I visit any colleges I like?

I baked a cake in session today

You can visit as many colleges as you like. It is a good way of finding out whether you would enjoy being a student. You will meet staff and students and get the chance to look at the college’s facilities. You can find out about a college’s open days by looking on their website or ringing them.

What if I don’t like the college when I visit?

7 Student making bags to sell and give to visitors

If you do not like a college when you visit it, tell your family or carer and continue to look for a college you do like.

Where are specialist colleges?

Foxes student with fox

There are over 70 specialist colleges across England, Wales and Ireland. Some are in towns or cities and some are in the country. There are lots of different colleges to choose from so you should be able to find somewhere that you like.

How will I travel to college?


Outdoor mobility training

Outdoor mobility training

If you are moving into a residential college, a parent, friend or carer can bring you to college on your first day and help you to settle in. If are starting a day college you will travel back home at night and may want to get a lift from a family member or friend. When you are settled in, you could get a taxi to college or use public transport. Your college tutors will help support you to travel safely on public transport as part of your independent living course.

How will I find my way around college?

Staff and students at college will help you to find your way around. When you get to college, there will be sign posts or students to show you where to go.

What do I need to bring to college with me?

4 Student on our independence programme washing his clothes

Your college will send you a list of things you need to bring with you on your first day. If you are living at college, you can bring things from home to put in your bedroom and any equipment you need to communicate, learn or move around college. You can bring some personal items, which may include your i-pod, CDs and CD player, DVDs, Game Boy, a Play Station or a mobile phone. You should think about whether to leave valuable things at home as your college can’t take responsibility for them. Your college will have a shared TV area, you would need to ask your college if you can bring your own TV. You will need a TV licence if you have your own TV.

What will my bedroom at college be like?

Mencap Pengwern College

At a residential college you will have a bedroom. The best way to see what the bedrooms are like at a college is to arrange a visit. You may be sharing a room with another student, which can be a good way to make friends. If you would like your own room some colleges can arrange this, but every college is different. You will share a kitchen, dining room and TV area with other students, which gives you the chance to make friends and learn to live with other people.

Where will I have my meals? Can I choose what I eat?

Pupils follow an individual living skills programme

Every college has a canteen, restaurant or café that you can eat in. If you live at college you will also be supported to cook your own meals in your kitchen, cooking and eating meals with college friends can be a lot of fun. If you need a special diet and can’t eat gluten, dairy or other products, your college restaurant will cater for your needs and support you to cook and buy food that is safe for you to eat.

What happens if I have any problems whilst at college?

Using public transport – travel training programmes to increase independence

If you have a problem at college that you can deal with yourself, you will be supported to sort the issue out yourself. If it is a serious issue, the college may need to tell your parents and you will usually be invited to take part in the meeting with your parents. Your college has to report any serious incidents to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and your home area Local Authority. In rare cases they may need to speak to social services, the child protection team or the vulnerable adults unit. This is because colleges take your safety very seriously and want to make sure they follow the right procedures to keep you safe and happy.

Your college will have some rules and processes that are designed to keep you safe; they will talk to you about these during your independent living course or tutorials. Whilst at college, you will learn how to keep yourself safe and healthy.

How will my parents know what is happening at college?


You can keep in touch with your family by phone or email. Your college should support you to manage the cost of running a phone, if you have one. College will also contact your family by letter, email or phone to talk to them. If you are a day student, college will still contact your family or carers with the information they need.

Do I need to bring money to college with me?

You will learn how to look after and manage your own money as part of your independent living course. Until you feel ready to look after your own money your college can help you look after your money, giving you access to it when you need it.

Can I bring my computer to college? Will I be able to use the internet?

Using an iPad to read

You will be able to bring your computer to college and there will always be access to the internet. Your college with teach you how to use the internet safely and things you should be aware of before using sites like Facebook or Twitter.