How do universities view gap years?
The good news is that deferring for a year shouldn’t affect your uni application. It can actually be good to have a gap year, if it's for the right reasons.
For more advice from admissions tutors themselves, see our video on how to make your university application stand out.
How do you apply to uni if you're taking a gap year?If you're thinking of taking a gap year, you broadly have three options:
- you can either apply alongside everyone else, but for a ‘deferred entry’ meaning you'll be considered for an offer for the following year.
- you can apply in the following application cycle, once you have received your results and have a better idea of what you have achieved, and what course you’re thinking of applying to.
- you can request deferment after you have received your offer.
Make your year out countHowever you choose to approach it, the universities you’re interested in applying to will be keen to hear a sentence or two (in your personal statement) about your intended plans and what you hope to gain from your gap-year experience – this could be earning some money, gaining further experience in a related field or travelling the world.
Universities will often have their own pointers on applications for deferred entry in their prospectuses or on their websites, so be sure to take a look.
Education-wise, you'll be a year behind your school or college classmates, so if you're set on a gap year, make sure you spend your time out wisely.
Gap years: DO's and DON'Ts
DO: gain some relevant experience
For certain degree courses, it may even be an essential – or at least a highly desirable – requirement to have a year out to gain relevant experience. Social work, medicine and veterinary medicine are good examples.
DO: maintain or improve your skillsWhatever you plan to study, it's a good idea to keep up the skills you've acquired in your subject to date, as well as ideally spending time building and developing them.
DO: earn some money to fund your studyUniversity is expensive – something even universities themselves will admit, and your tuition fees won't cover everything. Using your gap year as an opportunity to save up some money will only be viewed positively by admissions tutors. Saving up to fund your studies, according to the University of Sheffield: 'Reflects very well on you as an individual, as you are demonstrating social responsibility.'
DO: spend time 'discovering yourself'This could be time spent backpacking around Europe or further afield, getting involved in a local community project or even just learning a new skill or hobby.
DON'T: waste it
However you decide to spend your gap year, make sure that it's a constructive use of your time. Don't just spend the year having a good time and not doing anything that will add value to your time at university – it won't do you, or your application, any favours.
The best way to avoid wasting your gap year is to ensure that you plan out your time effectively. Do your research well in advance to avoid any unexpected pitfalls, such as costs for travelling or volunteering that you can't afford to meet, or not getting a work experience application in on time.
So, is it good to take a gap year then?
Most universities see the advantages of deferred entry and welcome the maturity and motivation, as well as the additional experience, that an applicant who has taken a gap year can bring to their degree.
However, remember, when it comes down to choosing whether to take or not take a gap year, the final decision is ultimately in your hands. Do what you feel is right for you.