For many students, going straight to university after finishing A-Levels is not the best option. Some people want to take a year out to travel, work, or decide if they even want to continue into higher education. It can be a great way to gain life experience and make lasting memories before starting the next chapter of your life. There isn’t just one way to take a gap year, and in this article, I’m going to explain the options available for you.
There are two main ways in which someone can take a gap year before university – either through deferred entry, or simply applying for courses during your gap year. Deferred entry means that you delay the start of your studies for a year when you apply to university in your final year of sixth form college. This can be stated on your application to begin with so your university choices will be aware of your intentions. If you don’t want to do this, you can just apply a year later than you originally would have done. Both methods are relatively straightforward, so if you’re worried that taking a gap year will be too difficult, don’t be!
If you are looking for some further information on how to take a gap year, hopefully the article below will help.
Option 1 – Deferred Entry
As I said, getting deferred entry simply means that you apply and get a place at university alongside everyone else in your year group, but instead of starting in the next academic year (after leaving college), you start a year later.
When applying to university through UCAS, there will be a section on the form for start dates, and this is where you would notify them about your intention to take a year out. This is very simple and is something you do on the application form by simply selecting the year you wish to start university.
You can decide to defer a year once you have already got a place at university but in that case, you will need to contact your university to find out if this is okay as some universities may not allow it.
For late deferrals, they will ask you for a reason as to why you want to take a year out, to see if you are doing something that will benefit your understanding of the subject or help you gain experience in a certain field.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t just take a year out to go travelling, but try to be aware that some universities may not accept this as a valid reason for deferral. This is something that you should find out before you apply to avoid any disappointment. Some courses, medicine for example, won’t allow you to defer a year as they require a certain amount of time between getting your exam results and starting the course.
However, this is dependent on the type of course that you are hoping to take, and the university you want to study at as they do have different rules so make sure you take the time to research the course you are considering and the university.
One of the big benefits of getting a deferred place at university is that when you are applying, it is likely that you will still be in college or sixth form. Because of this, you will have access to support from teachers and members of staff regarding personal statements and other areas of your application. If you have any questions about applying for deferred entry, make sure you speak to your sixth form’s support team for university applications. They will be able to point you in the direction of the right information so you can make an informed choice about your university application.
Option 2 – Applying a Year Later
If you are unsure about which course to choose, or haven’t completely decided whether university is for you yet, applying a year later may be the better option for you. The main difference between deferring and applying a year later is that you will have to go through the application process on your own when you apply a year later as you will not have the support of your college/school. This does make applying to university more challenging but if you are unsure it still could be the right choice.
This way, you should have time to gain some experience and make your mind up about your future plans. Then, if you pick your ideal universities, and choose a course that you would like to take then you can just apply before the UCAS deadlines, from November to January of the academic year before you wish to start.
Even if you haven’t decided about going to university or not while you are in college, you can still take advantage of the help with applications that will be offered. Although you may not be applying at the same time as your classmates, it’s definitely worth learning how to do the application when you can so that you have a vague idea of how to apply a year later if that is what you decide to do.
When you do decide to apply, it could be stressful for you if you are unsure of how the applications work, what you should be adding to yours or how to write a personal statement. This is why most schools and colleges offer help, usually during tutor, or specific sessions they may put on. Most teachers have a lot of experience helping students prepare their university applications and will be happy to help you make a start. I would definitely advise you take advantage of this help whilst you are at college even if you are waiting a year to apply, it will make the entire process much less stressful.
If you already have a personal statement prepared, it will make your life during a gap year significantly easier. As it can be quite time consuming to create one completely from scratch, doing it beforehand will give you one less thing to think about before you apply to university.
It won’t be completely up to date by the time you are applying, but you can add all the things you have been doing on your gap year to make it even stronger (just make sure you keep it somewhere safe and accessible!).
When Should You Take a Gap Year?
Most students who take a gap year choose to do it before starting university.
This is because at this point, they probably don’t have other commitments that would prevent them from doing so.
If you decided to take a year out in the middle of a degree, it could really harm your grades and performance. It would be hard to get back to studying a subject after a year, as you would struggle to remember the previous content without actively going over it. During a gap year, it’s very unlikely that you would want to spend your time revising.
Having a gap year can really help you to gain some experience, whether that’s through doing some work in a field you’re interested in, or travelling the world.
Some people just take a year out to get a job and save some money to help finance their degree the following few years.
If you would like to take a gap year at some point, but for any reason don’t want to do so before starting university, you could always take one after finishing your degree and before starting work.
It could be really helpful to you, and may potentially appeal to future employers if you have experience in doing things that will improve your job performance once you begin working.
However, it could also put you at a disadvantage compared to other graduates, as some employers might not value experience you have gained while travelling for example, if it isn’t going to make a difference in your career.
But don’t let this hold you back if you think taking a gap year will be beneficial for you.
It’s completely up to you what you choose to do during the time you spend away from studying, and if you would like the complete guide on taking a gap year, please take a look at this useful article for some further information.
Will a Gap Year Affect Your University Application?
In the majority of cases, taking a gap year shouldn’t affect your university application.
Many universities either don’t have any issue with it, or see it as something enriching that will benefit you in your studies. There may be some cases that it is a problem, but this is mainly for specific courses.
When deferring a year, your application will go through exactly the same processes as any other submitted before the deadline. You will get interviews, and hopefully offers, at the same time as the people in your year group, not in the year before you start your degree.
This means that you will also accept or reject places at this time.
If you apply a year later, your application will be exactly the same, but you may have to attend interviews during your gap year which could prove to be difficult if you are travelling (for example).
Some universities however don’t accept deferrals so it is important that you check their websites for this information as you don’t want to be unaware and then lose out on your place. If this information is not readily available, make sure to get in contact with university admissions teams before applying.
Other universities may expect students to have done something course related in their gap year so be aware of this too when applying.
In most cases, courses such as medicine or dentistry don’t accept deferrals or gap year students. There may be certain circumstances in which they do, such as if you undertook a year worth of work experience directly in the field, but as these are among the most competitive subjects, you need to factor this into your decision about taking a gap year.
Before you make your mind up, make sure you thoroughly research the requirements for entry to your course and again, if you can’t find this information, don’t hesitate to contact the university there is always someone who can help.