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Defer a university place

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"Deferring gives you the security of knowing that you have a university place, in reality the choice may not be open to everyone"

Deferring means to apply for your place at university but to put your actual studying off for a year. While deferring gives you the security of knowing that you have a university place, in reality the choice may not be open to everyone. Different Universities and different course programmes within an institution will vary in their approach to deferrals and where some may be eager for you to take a gap year and gain worldly experience, others, such as Oxford, may just say that it’s not an option. As always, research is everything.

There are usually a limited number of spaces for deferred students and some Universities, such as Bristol, admit that they can make higher offers (i.e. demand higher grades) for these places.

Is deferring university a good idea?

Rather than head straight into studying, a gap year allows you to get some work and life experience or indulge in a grand passion before you start. What’s more, it’s also a break from full time education, and many people feel that they need a rest from studying before settling for a degree. Our article When’s the Best Time To Take A Gap Year can give you more ideas on whether it’s right to defer a year right now, or take a break later, but as with any gap year, the world is your oyster and the possibilities are endless when it comes to deciding what to do on your gap year - work experience, internships, volunteering, travel...

You may also want to gain vocational or language experience which will help you when it comes to your studies, as well as make your application stronger.

Alternatively, with the expense of your studies looming, you may want to use it as a time to earn some money so that you have a little more to play with while you study.

Choosing university or a gap yearSometimes taking a year out before your studies will be right for you

How to defer university

"Some Universities will want a good reason why you want to defer, to know what you are going to do and how it might enrich your studies"

If you haven’t yet applied for university but already know you want to defer, it is best to make this clear in your UCAS application. You can tick the deferred box on the application form and mention it in your personal statement. But do your research and make sure that the courses that you are applying for allow you to defer. You should be able to find this out from looking at their website and attending open days, but a quick solution is just to pick up the phone and ask the Admissions department or admissions officer for your subject.

However, saying that you fancy a year off to go travelling sometimes isn’t enough. Some Universities will want a good reason why you want to defer with an outline of what you are going to do and how it might enrich your studies/grow your confidence/provide valuable experience. But it’s a good idea to have all this thought through anyway as it can be so easy to waste your time on a gap year if you haven’t got a proper plan.

Choosing to defer after being offered a university place

If you decide to defer after you have gone through the admission process and secured your place, you will need to look at your individual university and their own particular process. At some Universities you will have to discuss this with the admissions officer for your course as decisions are made on a case by case basis, and you may have to explain what you will be doing with your year out.

If you are doing something relevant to your subject on your gap year which has some bearing on your course work then you will stand more of a chance than someone who just wants to extend their enjoyment of the South of France’s beaches.

However, at some institutions the process is a little more relaxed. Lesley Harriot of the Applications Team at The University of East London says that at UEL the process can be as simple as emailing to explain the situation, and it can be done right up to the the last possible moment.

The straight answer is it will depend on the Universities you have been to or been accepted at so ask them! If you are serious, you really have nothing to lose. A university can’t suddenly take away your offers if you ask them about deferring and the worst they can do is say “no”.

Be aware though, that you can only defer once, so do think carefully about making the most of your time!

What if the university says “No”?

You then have a choice between going ahead and taking your year off anyway, and reapplying for the following year (and you will have your results by then too), or biting the bullet and decide to get straight into studying.

Deferred university places cannot be changed

You will not be able to change your mind and forgo your deferred year as your place will have been made available to another student. You will have to wait for a year and have your gap year as planned.

Decided to defer?

If you do decide to defer your university place and plan on heading abroad, be sure you cover any eventuality with our cheap travel insurance. We can cover you for up to two years continuous travel, and for as little as £8 per month with our backpacker insurance; what is more, this will also cover you for volunteering and working abroad, as well as all your medical, cancellation and personal possession cover.