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Applying to university

Deferred entry to university

Find out what deferred entry means, how you do it and weigh up the pros and cons of taking a gap year with our handy guide.

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Deferred entry

If you find yourself asking, ‘am I ready for university?’ it could be worth considering a deferred entry application. Or, if you have already been offered a place, deferring it to the following year. 

What does deferred entry mean?

This is when you decide to take a year out before you start your university course. If you apply for a course starting in September 2021, you could defer your place until September 2022. Most universities will give you a chance to defer when they send your course offer. However, some courses like Medicine don’t encourage or, in some cases, don't allow deferred entry. 

If you know in advance you want to take a gap year, you can apply to UCAS during your final year at school or college – or after you have received your results – as a 'deferred applicant'.

About 5–7% of applicants are accepted for deferred entry to the following year.

Deferred entry or apply next year?

If you haven’t decided which direction to go in, or if you think you need more time to get better grades or more qualifications, you can apply the following year instead, rather than deferring. Whatever you choose, you must think about it carefully and weigh up the pros and cons.  

Deferred entry for 2021-22

Students starting university in September/October 2021 will face some different challenges this year. Therefore, there’s more to think about when deciding whether or not to defer.

In the academic year 2021–22, lectures may still be online, with possible later starting dates than usual for the autumn term, especially with the different type of exam situation in 2021. Smaller group sessions, such as seminars and tutorials, are likely to be face-to-face, possibly with a social distancing element. Any alterations universities make are subject to change depending on the status of the pandemic.

Here are a few things to think about when considering deferring university this year: 

Entry in 2022

This may be more competitive as universities try to compensate for lower attendance numbers this year and last year. Universities may limit numbers of students deferring for 2022 entry to stop next year’s recruitment becoming overwhelmed. 

University life

In 2021–22, student life may function differently. Student societies, freshers week and other social elements aren’t likely to be the same, but unions and clubs will find inventive ways of compensating for reduced social aspects. Remember, the situation may improve or deteriorate, so these contingency plans may be reduced, extended or improved at any time.

Financial implications

If you decide to defer, it would delay your progression into a graduate job, and therefore delaying your income for another year. Taking a year out during a pandemic may also make it difficult to find employment as easily as before, so your personal finances may take a hit. There’s also a risk you could end up with very little to do due to worldwide restrictions. 

On the other hand, you could attend in September/October with pandemic related restrictions and save money in accommodation fees and living costs. 

Deferring advice for 2021–22

Wait before you decide

The situation will become clearer as time goes on and you can see how your university is tackling the current situation. It’ll be easier to make the right decision with more information. 

Weigh up your options

The pros and cons will depend on your situation and chosen universities. It might be unwise to base your decision on whether you like online learning or not. The situation might not last the year and some universities are developing a dual approach to teaching, meaning there’ll be a mixture of online and face-to-face classes.

Think about the longer term

This decision isn’t just about starting in the autumn. If you do choose to defer, think about what you’ll do before you start university and how you’ll do it. If you don’t, be aware it may be a different experience at first, but you’ll be there for three or four years, so you'll still have time to experience university as a whole.

Ultimately, the decision and your circumstances are individual and only you can make the decision that’s right for you. 

Should I defer entry to university?


Normally, gap years are a good thing. It’s possible to go travelling or work full time to earn some money and gain valuable experience. Especially if you’ve worked very hard in your A Levels or equivalent, you may feel like you need a break. A gap year could enable you to start university with a fresh perspective.

If you choose your opportunity carefully, you could develop the kind of maturity and enterprise that will help with your studies and your future career. Being able to demonstrate a sustained commitment can be attractive to employers.

Deferring your entry also means you get your university place arranged before starting your job or travels and won’t have to worry about it during a gap year.

Also, if things go wrong in your exams and you don't get a place, you do get an opportunity to rethink your career options or resit exams and still start university when you planned to.


A deferred entry means it’ll be one year later before you’re in the job market and earning a salary. If your chosen course is a long one, this could be worth considering.

It may take you a while to get back into serious study – but most students soon catch up and regain the study mentality. 

How do you defer entry to university?

As a general rule, universities are happy to consider deferred applicants, but if the prospectus doesn’t make a clear statement about the university's policy, check this first.

If you already know you want to take a gap year when you're filling in the online application, indicate you wish to defer when you complete the Choices section. You'll need to give reasons for this in your personal statement. Your application will go through the same process as those applying for the current year of entry and you may receive offers at the same time too.

If you haven’t indicated on your application that you'd like to make a deferred entry, you may still be able to once you receive your place. Call the university to ask for advice. Be prepared to answer questions about why you’d like to start the following year.

You cannot apply through Clearing as a deferred applicant, but if you change your mind and want to apply for another university and attend this year, you must tell the university that’s holding your deferred place so they can release it.

If you defer your place and then change your mind, it will be a long process and you may not get a place this year – so be sure this is something you really want.

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