Should I Defer a Year?


When applying for University, there is an option to apply for deferred entry. This means that you apply but delay your start date by a year. The decision to defer entry to University is a big one. There are several pros and cons which should all be considered before you decide what’s right for you. So, what are some of the reasons we might want to defer entry and what are the positives and potential negatives of doing so?

I deferred entry to University. I applied to the University of Leeds to study French and Italian. Apart from family holidays and exchange programmes, I had not spent much time in either country. I had worked very hard to achieve my B grade in French at A level, but I was very aware that many of my peers would already be at a better level than me and I knew that if I went straight into my degree, I would lack confidence. I started to investigate deferred entry, which would allow me some extra time to spend developing my language skills.

After much searching, I found an organisation that seemed to offer the right thing; with their help, I organised to spend the year studying the French Baccalaureate at a lycée in Toulouse, France. I lived with a family whose daughter was in the same class as me which meant that I had someone to shadow for those first few nerve-wracking weeks and it worked well.

At the end of the year, I had developed my language skills to the point where I could hold sustained conversations, understand the television, write essays about French literature, and even wake up having dreamt in French! But it was the other skills that I developed during this year which prepared me the most for the transition to University.

I found that this year allowed me to develop my organisation skills; I needed to open a bank account, I needed to buy a mobile phone, I had to shop and budget my weekly spend. I also had to get a bus pass and work out the routes and timetables that I needed. I searched for local clubs and activities that I could take part in after college. It allowed me to organise myself in a more independent way than I had ever done previously. The impact of this was huge; the transition to University, by comparison, felt much smoother, less stressful, because I had already practised it!

I also arrived in France wanting to make friends. I’d had the same friends for years at school and the prospect of making new friends seemed daunting! However, some of the students in my class shared my taste in music and we soon swapped band recommendations, I learned some French ones and suggested some English ones for them. I made sure that once a week, I arranged to meet up with some classmates in town and they would show me their favourite shops and we would grab lunch. It sounds so simple, but this really helped me with moving on to University afterwards. I felt far more confident approaching groups after lectures for a chat and quickly made a close circle of friends.

I am glad that I deferred a year, and I am convinced that it allowed me to successfully transition to University in a way that I might not have done without these experiences. Because I had already secured my place at University with my school’s help, it took the pressure off for the year too and I didn’t need to think about UCAS or anything whilst I was away. It would have been tricky to liaise with my former teaching staff for references etc whilst in France. I already had my student finance sorted, too and so could really enjoy my year. Also, crucially, I had a goal for the year; I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve and what I needed to gain to feel that it had been of benefit.

Some people defer because they just need time to decide whether the course they have selected is really right for them, but deferring entry gives them a purpose and a deadline and they can concentrate on making that decision with the time available.
Of course, deferring entry isn’t right for everyone. There may be some negatives. Watching your friends go off to University without you can feel hard and if you haven’t set a goal for your year, you may feel a bit aimless. Make sure you have a purpose for the year rather than just taking ‘time off’ or spending time with friends who are also deferring.

Also, make sure that you’ve really considered whether deferring entry is right for your chosen course. Are you going to be able to develop skills during the year that will benefit your chosen course or career or is it possible that time away from studies will negatively impact your learning? Will the Universities and courses you have shortlisted agree that deferring is a good option for you? If the answer is no, consider your reasons for wanting to defer.

Whatever you decide, it is important to know your options when considering deferring entry. Do your research, talk to admissions staff, and ask whether deferring is an option for you. If it is and you make the decision to defer, make sure that you include your reasons and justifications for your choice in your Personal Statement. Good luck!

Top tips to consider if you’re thinking about deferring university:

  • Have clear reasons for wanting to defer
  • Have a clear plan for the year
  • Know how the skills you will develop during the year will benefit you
  • Know how these skills will impact your future studies positively