The coronavirus pandemic has driven thousands of A-level students to defer their place at university, with many hesitant to dive into the experience amid continuing uncertainty. But Covid isn’t the only reason why students defer going to university. It’s something that hundreds of students do every year for a whole range of different reasons.

If you’re thinking of taking a year out before going to university, or you’ve already deferred your place, you may be wondering what to fill your time with over the next 12 months. In this guide, we’ll look at the ins and outs of deferring university, and provide some starting points to put your new-found freedom to good use.

What Does Deferring University Mean?

Deferring a year of university is more commonly known as taking a gap year. This means that students can apply for a course to be studied a year in advance so that they can forward-plan their studies or postpone their current university plans for a year.

Say, for example, you receive an unconditional offer from a university, but change your mind and decide to take a gap year; you could defer your place for 12 months. You can also apply knowing full well you plan to take a year out, while the university holds your place for a year.

What’s more, you don’t have to apply to university to take a year out. Instead, you can apply as normal during your gap year, submitting your application before the deadline stipulated on the UCAS website.

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How to Defer University

Firstly, if you’re thinking about deferring but haven’t yet, you need to contact your university as soon as possible, since 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, owing to updates or changes.

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 to your start date when you submit your UCAS application.

Why Might You Defer University

One of the main reasons students might defer a 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 retake their A-levels entirely online, giving them time to prepare for the exams without the need to go back to school.

On the other hand, there are lots of positive reasons why students choose to defer to university. A gap year is a transformative time for young adults, allowing them to embark on a personal journey before their higher education or career begins. It’s a fantastic opportunity to travel, earn money, and develop your maturity ahead of your years of studying.

Also, there’s nothing wrong with needing to take a year out of education for your own sake. Sixth form is a stressful time and your mental well-being needs to be a priority when at university. Meeting new people away from home, and learning to be fully independent whilst studying hard is a time of significant change - deferring university is a way to ensure you're truly ready for such a change.

Six Things You Can Do if You’ve Deferred University

Okay, so you’ve decided to defer university and now you have a whole year ahead of you! How are you going to make your gap year memorable and fun, while still being as productive as possible?

Don’t worry if you haven’t a clue what to do; we’ve listed six of our most popular ideas below:

1. Travelling

Travelling is, without doubt, one of the most popular reasons for students to take a gap year.  And it isn’t just a holiday; the best thing about travelling is seeing new sights, meeting new people, and becoming more independent before you commit to three or more years of study.

Wherever you plan to travel, it’s a good idea to pay for part of your trip by taking on work in the countries you’re visiting. This not only helps you experience more of the local culture but gives more purpose to your trip, helping you develop important skills which you can take into your studies.

2. Learn a Language

 We know it’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s advised for a reason – learning a language is invaluable, 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 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 too.

student on the train listening to music

3. Volunteering

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 many gap year students 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.

4. Get Fit and Healthy

University is a transformative time, but it 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 good about yourself and have a solid understanding of how to maintain your well-being.

Taking a year out to feel physically and mentally strong will help you handle university, as well as any dips in the road along the way. So, you may decide to use your deferred year to take up a new sport, join a club or put your gym membership to use.

What’s more, you could learn how to cook and experiment with healthy recipes too. If you’re living at home during your gap year, practise cooking in bulk for your family so that you can impress your flatmates with dinner parties when it's time to start uni the following year.

student working a part time delivery job

5. Online Learning

We know you’ve probably just finished your A-levels and you’re taking a break from education, but remember that learning is a lifelong process that widens your horizons and creates all kinds of new opportunities.

With that said, why not take this year to explore your interests and learn about something new? Have you always wanted to play the guitar? Perhaps you’re a stargazer curious about astronomy?

There’s a whole world of knowledge waiting for you to explore. You could even request the reading list for your future course or find an online course that will introduce you to the topics you'll be studying to get ahead in time for next year.

6. Spend Time with Friends and Family

When you go to university, you’ll most likely be distanced from the friends and family who have been your support system your whole 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.

Have you enjoyed this article? For more guides and features, be sure to check out the rest of the Oxbridge blog. Learn more about our range of distance learning courses by browsing our website; you can also speak to one of our expert learning advisers on live chat or by calling 0121 630 3000.