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20 things to do if you’ve deferred university

If you have deferred university or are in the clearing process considering deferring university, here are 20 things you could accomplish during your time away.

Fl647 Blog 20 Things To Do If You Deferred

Updated July 2021

Deferring university means different things depending on where you live. Most of Europe consider university deferrals as students who decide to take time away from their course but plan on returning in a year or two – or those who delay starting their course altogether. However, in the USA, deferring university is usually when you are not accepted onto a programme but may be accepted in the future. 

In this post, we’re going to take the European definition of deferring university. So, why might you choose to defer?

  • You may be unsure of what course to take and defer before starting university
  • You may defer because of COVID-19 and want to wait until university courses return to normal
  • You may have a personal or family situation that requires you to defer during your university degree
  • You may have not received the grades you hoped for and are in the UK clearing process – and not enthusiastic about your current options. 

No matter what your reason for deferring university, you can use your time wisely by experiencing and accomplishing many things. Try not to do everything, but do try to make the most of your time.

So, what can you do when you have deferred university?

20 things to do if you’ve deferred university

1) Make your gap-year goals

The first step to take when deferring university is to figure out what you want to do with your time. The fact that you’re reading this says you have already started thinking about it. You can take the next step by researching more and coming up with a series of goals that you want to achieve during your time away.

The other 19 ideas below will help shape your goals.

2) Volunteer

Volunteering is one of the easiest ways to gain experience in an industry that you might want to go into in the future. Plenty of businesses and charities require helpers to keep their good work moving along.

Of course, you don’t have to do volunteering in an industry you’re thinking about working in. Just helping other people and contributing to those in need can be a fulfilling experience – and it looks good on your CV as well!

3) Start an online business

Your generation has an opportunity at their fingertips that boomers and those before did not have. They can make use of the internet and new entrepreneurial technologies that enable them to sell products and services around the world. From freelancing platforms to personal eCommerce spaces online, it is never been easier and cheaper to run an online business.

And the even better news? Most of these businesses are incredibly low risk. So, what can you offer? Maybe you will be a great illustrator, proofreader, or sell handmade candles around the world.

4) Make a start on your savings

University is a lot of fun, but it can be stressful too. It’s not just coursework and exams that can send your stress levels through the roof. Working out how to make ends meet can cause anxiety and worry. 

For this reason, using your deferred time to make a start on your savings is a worthwhile idea. You could pick up some work (maybe while living at home) and save well ready for your degree. 

But don’t think that saving money means you won’t be able to have fun while you do it. Read our latest blog to discover how you can save and still enjoy yourself.

5) Travel… if you can

Travel is arguably the best thing to do when you are taking time out as it will put you out of your comfort zone (just like uni!), develop independence, and foster a greater cultural appreciation.

The COVID-19 pandemic may be limiting where you can travel over the coming months, but that doesn’t mean all destinations are off the table. Make sure to research what you can do and where you can go safely.

Alternatively, consider travelling closer to home. UK residents have the advantage of being able to explore some exceptional areas of natural beauty, including the Lake District, Snowdonia and much more. That’s on top of historic medieval cities and interesting destinations waiting for your arrival.

6) Working holidays

One special type of travel is a working holiday, which is a type of visa that enables you to go abroad and explore the tourist destinations but also pick up work along the way to fund an extended period of exploration. 

The most popular working holiday destinations are Canada, Australia and New Zealand (the UK is also one). You can get a visa for as long as two years in some of these places, giving you a lot of time to learn more about yourself and what you want for your future.

7) Take online courses

If travelling is not something you want to do right now, but you still want to learn more about yourself and what you enjoy doing, taking an online course is another solution. 

There are hundreds of online courses available that can be completed in a matter of weeks, introducing you to topics that you may want to explore as a degree option. What’s even better is that these courses will also give you a qualification and can be used as motivation on university applications if you decide to go into similar niches. You might even be able to take a course or two from your preferred university.

8) Read more

Most of us have a reading list we want to get through but rarely find the time to actually do it. Lots of things get in the way of us picking up a new book and learning something new. But when you have deferred university, you have a much greater opportunity to brush up on your Orwell or other books from the literature canon. It’s also a great way to get a grounding in your chosen subject.

9) Request your future course’s reading list

The libraries are your oyster when picking out books to read, or you could zone in on the reading materials you will use during your upcoming university years.

If you’ve already chosen your course and modules, you can contact your future professors or simply check out the course pages on the university website. Here you can find what books or materials you are expected to read. By reading them beforehand and at your own leisurely pace, you may grasp a better understanding and mitigate any stress that would accumulate during the term.

10) Learn a language

Languages are proven to be valuable skills across the job market, especially with the ever-increasing globalised world. Companies require professionals with language skills so they can work across borders with clients and partners. And let’s not forget, that speaking another language is really cool, impressive and can have personal benefits.

Learning a new language is good for your university years as some courses offer optional language modules that you can receive credit for. With a new language under your belt, you can sail through these modules with minimal effort, giving you more time to study for those harder modules.


11) Learn to cook or bake

University doesn’t have to be cold pizza for breakfast and baked beans on toast for dinner. You can still eat nutritious meals at affordable prices if you know your way around the supermarket aisles and the kitchen. 

Learn to bake or cook during your time away from university so you can eat healthier during university and also save money. You’ll need your energy for the parties and late-night studying sessions!

Learning the basics of nutrition will also help you to stay healthy when you’re on a student budget.

12) Get fit

If lockdown kept you away from the gym or our favourite sport, or you’ve never found one that speaks to you, this is a great opportunity to find a healthy pastime that keeps you strong, fit, and healthy. You’ll have time to explore options nearby and take plenty of taster classes to find something that you love. It’s even a great way to make new friends.

13) Try new things

It is also a time to start experiencing new activities, attending different events than you normally would and just embracing unique opportunities. 

By trying your hand at many different hobbies as possible, you are likely to unearth new activities you are good at and enjoy doing. These new hobbies may help you decide what you want to do with the rest of your time at university, or where you want to specialise in.

If you’re not sure where to start, this post might help you with a little inspiration.

14) Au pair or camp jobs

One other way to get abroad without having to worry about hostel bookings or an income is to work as an au pair or summer camp worker. Your options may not be as wide as normal due to the pandemic, but many opportunities still exist throughout Europe.

Some of these jobs can be extremely rewarding and fun, as well as opening the door for you to travel on weekends to new destinations.

15) Get an internship

If you do want to work but prefer to stay closer to home, there may be internship opportunities nearby. These can give you a taste for work and the industry you choose, and they may even lead to full-time job offers now and in the future.

Search the best UK job sites to find internships or contact universities to see which internship providers are open to recruiting future students.

16) Clean up your social media

Our social media is not as hidden as we think with almost half of employers now checking out our socials before offering us a job or internship. 

You may not have anything offensive on your accounts, but that doesn’t mean there will not be a photo or status that employers won’t like to see. Try to clean up your social media accounts at the start of your deferred university year. It may benefit you when it comes to any university acceptance interviews too.

The general rule is if you wouldn’t say it out loud in a crowded lift, then don’t say it online.

17) Have a social media (and news!) detox

Did you know that too much social media and reading too many sad news articles can severely affect our health? It’s not just our mental health that can suffer too. Some researchers have discovered that reading repeated negative news stories on terrorism can cause us to experience bodily reactions that make us more susceptible to infections.

Maybe it is time you tried to detox on your social media and news intake. This doesn’t mean quitting altogether. You can simply take the digital fasting approach by allocating periods throughout the day when you can check your accounts and the latest news stories.

If you want to learn more on digital wellbeing, take this free short course from the University of York.

18) Learn something new every day

If you try to fit in as much of the suggestions on this guide as possible, you are bound to learn new things every day. If not, try to search reliable internet sources, watch award-winning documentaries and speak with your family about their life to learn something new about the world each day.

19) Go camping

Get out into the wild and go camping with friends and family. These trips are a fantastic way to escape modern life and hone your survival skills. Learn how to put up a tent, make a fire, roast marshmallows and to look for the constellations in the sky.

20) Revisit your goals

At the end of your deferred period, it is time to revisit your goals and see how many of the things you wanted to achieve were completed. Did you learn Spanish? How many new friends did you make? Or how many kilograms did you lose in weight? 

Whatever your goals were, you can track these easier by writing blogs or keeping a journal.


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