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Charlotte-Coulter-main_image1

Creating her own opportunities


Charlotte Coulter is a Bachelor of Nursing/Bachelor of Business Administration student determined to make it through her degree, despite a diagnosis of dyslexia and dyscalculia. Her approach to her studies is a little different to most, but Charlotte is completing her course, her way.

Falling into place

When Charlotte first entered the simulation hospital wards, where nursing students spend much of their time, it was nothing new for her.

“I used to fall over – a lot,” said Charlotte. “We still don’t know why. I did it from the time I was very young, all the way up to Year 10.

"I’ve had so many concussions and been in hospital many times over the years, but that’s where it all started for me.

"I just loved watching the nurses and seeing them work. I knew early on that this was what I wanted to do.”

Making sense

Despite her long-held ambition to complete a nursing degree, Charlotte’s path to university didn’t run smoothly.

“Quite simply, I didn’t understand most things in high school,” she said. “I’d record my classes because I was so busy trying to write everything down that I wasn’t really paying attention.

“When a tutor was trying to determine what was going on, he asked me to write down the same letters side by side and I kept messing it up. I thought this was crazy as when I was doing it, it didn’t seem wrong to me. He’d then say a sentence and ask me to repeat it back to him and I just couldn’t finish it.

“I later found out I was reading at a Year 3 level and had dyslexia as well as dyscalculia, which is when you have difficulty understanding number-related concepts, symbols and functions related to maths.”

A helping hand

Charlotte’s diagnosis came as a shock to her and her family.

“All I knew was that I had to keep finding different tools and strategies to learn,” she said.

For Charlotte, with help from her mum, this meant getting creative.

“For science subjects in particular, I taught myself a series of hand signals and handshakes to do by myself during an exam to help me remember words and concepts – I think of it as a dance routine for my hands. Using these gestures would jog my memory. Now that I’m at uni, I’m doing the same thing. I have an exam coming up soon and I have already made up some new hand signals for it.

“I also take photos of PowerPoint slide presentations in my lectures as I was really struggling to write everything down fast enough. This way I can just listen to what the lecturer is saying and take notes in my own time.”

Exams are particularly stressful for Charlotte and she has welcomed the additional support and allowances she receives.

“I get extra time, which has been great, but the small things, like being allowed to use highlighters, has made a huge difference to me. I know it sounds like nothing, but highlighting words really helps me read and understand what I’m being asked to do in an exam.”

Creating confidence

For Charlotte, receiving a Creating Opportunity Fund scholarship was a huge confidence boost.

“My mum encouraged me to apply and said, ‘Why not? Just have a go’. I never expected to get one. I was so worried my application was wrong somehow and I thought I was wasting my time. But the process was easy and I actually enjoyed writing about myself and the obstacles I’ve had to overcome to make it to ACU.

“When I received the email with the news, I saw ‘Scholarship’ in the email header and thought it was a scam! I just didn’t think it could be for real. I was so excited.”

As a Creating Opportunity Fund scholarship recipient, Charlotte was awarded $4,000 and instantly knew how she’d put the money to good use.

“I’m saving for a car, which will help me get to campus much more quickly. I’m also using it to buy textbooks and I can’t wait to get my first nursing uniform."

“Sometimes I ask myself how did I even get into uni? Just being accepted into nursing was amazing to me.

"I’m so incredibly grateful to the Creating Opportunity Fund donors. They’re amazing! It’s so nice that there are people out there that want to help someone like me. The scholarship made me feel even more determined to complete my degree.

“I actually like that one of the scholarship’s criteria is you have to pass all of your units. This is a big motivation for me to work hard. It feels like if the donors believe in me, I have to keep going. I’d never want to waste this opportunity.”

If you’re interested in a scholarship like Charlotte’s, learn more about the Creating Opportunity Fund.

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Impact brings you compelling stories, inspiring research, and big ideas from ACU. It's about the impact we’re having on our communities, and our Mission in action. It’s a practical resource for career, life and study.

At ACU it’s education, but not as you know it. We stand up for people in need, and causes that matter.

If you have a story idea or just want to say hello, do contact us.

Copyright@ Australian Catholic University 1998-2019 | ABN 15 050 192 660 CRICOS Reg: 00004G