This year, A-level students found themselves in unprecedented times. A global pandemic meant that hundreds of teaching hours in the classroom were lost and exams were cancelled. As a result, students achieved their A-levels based on their teacher’s predicted grades.
Understandably, many students are now hesitant to dive straight into university. Between concerns about a future lockdown and worries that classes will all be online, the uni-experience will obviously be different from what was expected. Young people go to university for the life experience gained through socialising with new peers, contributing in lectures, and living an independent life in a new environment. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that thousands of students have chosen to defer their university place for a year.
What does deferring university mean?
Deferring a year of university is more commonly known as a gap year. It just means that students can apply for a course to be studied a year in advance so that they can forward-plan their studies, or else postpone their current university plans for a year. In this blog, we’ll explore what taking a gap year during a pandemic really means and how you can make the most of it.
How to defer university
Firstly, if you’re thinking about deferring but you haven’t already, you need to contact your university straight away as the clock is ticking and courses will start soon. It’s important to bear in mind that some universities won’t be offering your chosen course the following year, as it may be updated or changed. Ultimately, the decision on whether you can defer your studies last minute lies in the hands of your university admissions centre. Ordinarily, postponing when you start university is as simple as adding a year on to your start date when you submit your UCAS application.
Reasons why you might defer university
One of the main reasons students might defer this year is to re-sit their exams in the autumn to achieve better results and secure their university place the following year. Some students might choose to re-take their A-levels entirely online, giving them time to prepare for the exams without having to go back to school.
On the other hand, there are tons of positive reasons why students choose to defer university! A gap year is a transformative time for young adults embarking on their personal journey before higher education and the career ladder. It’s a fantastic opportunity to travel and earn money, whilst developing in maturity and confidence to prepare for three years of studying.
Also, there’s nothing wrong with needing to take a year out of education for your own wellbeing. Sixth form is a stressful time under normal circumstances, and your mental wellbeing needs to be a priority when at university. It’s a time of significant change, meeting new people away from home, and learning to be fully independent whilst studying hard. Deferring university is a way to ensure you are truly ready for such a change.
Things you can do if you’ve deferred university
Okay, so you’ve decided to defer university and you have a whole year ahead of you! But how will you make your gap year memorable and fun, as well as productive? Don’t worry if you haven’t a clue what to do, we’ve listed our most popular ideas for you below:
Due to 2020 travel restrictions, you’ll be limited on where you can travel to, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out… The best thing about travelling is seeing new sights, meeting new people, and becoming more independent. Who says you can’t do this locally? If you’re living in the UK, there are plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in cultural history and see first-hand the UK’s artistic, modern, and natural wonders.
A little bit of research will help you plan places to visit and you can easily go somewhere different every weekend. Obviously, London is the hotspot for museums, culture, and historical landmarks, but if you’ve been to London before or even if you live in London, explore it as a tourist! Then, be sure to stretch your legs in one of the many UK national parks such as the Lake District or Snowdonia, hunt for fossils along the Jurassic coast of Devon, and step back in time in Oxford or Cambridge. Learn to love the place you’re from!
Learn a language
Now, we know it’s a cliché, but it’s advised for a reason – learning a language is invaluable today, especially in the increasingly globalised job market. It’s worthwhile learning languages from countries with the biggest population and the most active, international business operations, such as: Mandarin Chinese, French, Spanish, German, Hindi, and Arabic.
Whether you use an app, an online course or an old-school translator book, spending a few hours a week learning a language will benefit you greatly in the long run. Not only will you have better work opportunities, but you’ll be able to develop more meaningful relationships and lasting friendships.
Making a gap year memorable has a lot to do with whether you make it rewarding. The year can seem like a long stretch to fill, and boredom can set in if you have nothing to motivate you. That’s why gap year students often volunteer as a way to give back to the community and have a positive impact.
You could volunteer at a local charity shop, foodbank, or community litter-picking group. Furthermore, your volunteer work could be relevant to an industry you want to work for in the future. For example, if you’d like to work in counselling and you’re due to study psychology, volunteering for a helpline, such as the Samaritans, would both support your skills and CV, whilst making a real difference to those who need your help.
Get fit and healthy
University is a transformative time of your life but that can put academic, social, mental, and physical demands on students as they adapt to new living conditions and responsibilities. Therefore, you need to be feeling well in yourself and have a good understanding of how to maintain that level of health. You should want to exercise because it makes you feel good, not just because it keeps you healthy. The regular release of endorphins from exercise will both boost your mood and help you focus on your studies, so it’s a win-win situation.
And if you’re struggling with stress or anxiety, there are plenty of mindfulness-related activities you can do to help your body let go of tension, such as yoga, Pilates, and meditation. Taking a year out to feel physically and mentally strong will help you handle university, plus any dips in the road. So, use your deferred year to take up a new sport, join a club or gym. What’s more, learn how to cook and experiment with healthy recipes. If you’re living at home during your gap year, practice cooking in bulk for your family so that you can impress your flatmates with your dinner parties the following year!
We know you’ve probably just finished your A-levels and you’re taking a break from education now, but remember that learning is lifelong, it widens your horizons and creates new opportunities. So, take this year to explore your interests and learn about something new just because you can! Have you always wanted to play the guitar? Are you a stargazer curious about astronomy? Perhaps you’re interested in the historical events that made the world what it is today? Do your research, ask questions, dig deeper.
There is a whole world of knowledge waiting for you to explore. What’s more, you could request the reading list for your future course or find an online course that will introduce you to the topics you will study to get ahead.
Spend time with friends and family
Above all, 2020 has been a year to reflect and be grateful for the closeness we have with our loved ones. We’re not anti-social beings; we like to connect and be around people. But when you go to university, you’ll most likely be distanced from the friends and family who have been your support system all your life. Moving away is part of your journey, but home will always be home. Whatever you do in your gap year, make sure to make time for the people that matter most, as these will be the memories you carry with you.