Sooner or later?

Emily Ross explains how to organise deferred entry and a gap year
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Many students take up the option of doing a gap year, and one of the main decisions is whether to take it before or after university or college. If you decide to take it beforehand, it’s important to indicate that you want to apply for deferred entry when you are picking your institution on your Ucas form. Here we take a look at how to get yourself organised…

I like the idea of a gap year, but what are my choices?

There are hundreds of organisations out there that can help you make the most of your time. Whether you want to volunteer on a conservation project in Borneo, get a paid placement teaching English in Korea or spend six months in a language school in Guatemala, the opportunities are endless. The Year Out Group has a database of gap year providers at, which is a good starting place for your research.

I’ve planned my year out and chosen my course – how do I go about deferring entry?

In Section 3j of the Ucas form, university applicants will need to put a D in the box for deferred entry. This shows that their application is for the following year; for example, if a student was to apply for deferred entry this year, they would receive their offers at the same time as students who apply for entry in 2009.

Most universities prefer it if students can explain what they will be doing on their gap year, particularly if it is relevant to their degree. This information can be added to the Ucas personal statement or explained in a covering letter. College applicants will be asked to indicate if they are applying for deferred entry for each course and college they apply to in the choices section of their Ucas form. The Ucas website,, is your one-stop shop if you have any further questions about deferring.

Will taking a year out put me at a disadvantage when applying for courses?

Most universities and colleges see gap years as a positive move, giving students the opportunity to mature and broaden their horizons before they enter their next stage of education. That said, it is a good idea to call the admissions department of the university or college you have chosen, or check on their website to find out whether they accept deferred entry students for your specific course. Once you have been given the go-ahead you can apply in the usual way.

How can I prove my year out has been well spent?

Including information about your gap year on your CV is a good way of showing future employers that you have had a constructive year. If you’re stuck for what to write, make a list of all the practical, personal and social skills you gained during your gap year before you start writing.

Nick Wright, 19, is doing a course in Hispanic studies at Queen Mary, University of London

Deferring my studies was the easy part – I just explained on my Ucas form that I had joined a scheme to teach English in Mexico and my university didn’t see it as a problem at all. I chose to take a gap year as I wanted the experience of living in totally unfamiliar territory. I spent four months living in a house of eight volunteers in Amanalco, a rural village in Mexico. Every day was amazing, particularly once I’d learned enough Spanish to banter with the teachers. Our working hours were only 7am to 2pm, so there was lots of time to visit Mexico City. When the four months were up, I extended my travels and spent two months travelling through Mexico improving my Spanish. I had lots of fun and met some absolutely fantastic people.