UCAS Deferred Entry: Get in the Know

‘How to defer uni?’ is currently a popular question among prospective students amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a real challenge and taking time to consider your options is perfectly okay. You need to take time to decide what is best for you. With so many changes prompted by the pandemic, it’s understandable that you might be having second thoughts. 

We’re here to give you the lowdown on everything you need to take into account when deciding whether to take the UCAS deferred entry route. Remember, there are no right or wrong paths, it ultimately comes down to you.

How to defer uni?

UCAS deferred entry can be done in a number of ways. If you haven’t already applied to university, you might want to choose the deferred entry start date in your UCAS application. You will then be expected to share your reasons as to why you are taking a gap year and deferring your entry. This should outline any plans such as undertaking a year of work experience. 

If you have already submitted your UCAS application and want to defer your place, you will need to contact the university directly to request UCAS deferred entry and explain your reasons why. This applies if you’re deferring your university place before and after receiving your exam results. 

Your application will go through the same process as students who are applying to start uni in the next academic year so you will need to meet the university entry requirements. It’s not a definite that you will be accepted to defer entry so make sure you take this into consideration. Some courses, like medicine, also don’t allow deferred entry so you would be expected to reapply.

When is the deadline for UCAS deferred entry?

The deadline for deferred university entry is always the year before your start date. For example, if you’re applying for deferred entry in 2021, you will need to apply by the 7 September 2020. 

If you’ve already applied to the university then you will need to contact them directly and ensure you make them aware of your plans. They will likely ask you for your reasons for deferring your place. Make sure you are absolutely certain that you want to postpone your place as you won’t be able to change your mind again.

How many years can I defer my place for?

Typically, you’ll be able to defer entry for one year but it’s worth checking with the university directly as this sometimes varies and they will be able to advise on how long you can defer your place for a particular course.

What are the pros and cons of deferring university entry?

If you’re seriously considering deferring your university entry, then you might be wondering what are the pros and cons. Take a look at them to see if they can help you decide whether deferring university is the right choice for you:


Gives you time to decide – If you’re torn over whether to go to university or not, then taking time out will give you the chance to come to a conclusion. Not going to university isn’t the be-all and end-all. After a year out, you might decide against university. 

If this is the case then there are lots of other options available to you. Whether you’re thinking about a degree apprenticeship or interested in getting your first job.  Alternatively, you might decide that university is the right route for you and after taking time out you might feel better prepared. 

After years of education, it gives you the opportunity to do something new and worthwhile – Studying can be very intense and after years of it, you might decide you want a break away from education. As long as you’re planning on doing something productive then deferred entry could be a good route for you. You might decide you want to find a job to gain key work skills or travel. Due to COVID-19 this might not be possible just yet, however, make sure you check the Government website for up to date information on travelling outside of the UK. 

Next year student life might be more social – Due to COVID-19 causing restrictions, ultimately, student life will look very different from previous years. Up to now, only pubs have been able to reopen with the club nightlife associated with university and group selfies looking set to be none existent for the foreseeable. It’s also unknown right now whether universities will switch to online learning. 


Some universities don’t accept deferred entry – When deciding whether to defer your university entry, it’s a good idea to check directly with your university to see whether they or the course you’re taking accept deferred entry, as some courses don’t, such as medicine. 

You’ll delay getting a graduate job or scheme – Deferring university entry for a year means you’ll be entering the graduate market a year later than your peers, which will delay you getting paid and employed. As we’re right in the middle of a pandemic, it’s expected that it won’t be as easy to find employment than previous years, so take this into consideration. With travel restrictions also in place, you might not be able to travel to certain countries if that is what you had planned.

2021 is expected to be much more competitive – With many students currently pondering whether to defer their UCAS entry, universities may be left with little choice but to limit the numbers of students deferring their 2020 entry to ensure 2021 doesn’t end up swamped.

Should I defer my place because of COVID-19?

Wondering, ‘should I defer my university place due to COVID-19?’ If this is the case, only you can answer that question. You’ve got to do whatever is right for you. For some students, the possibility of studying for a degree online might seem like a huge challenge filled with distractions, which you wouldn’t normally find in the classroom. Whereas others may prefer online study alone. It’s a lot to take in so don’t rush your decision. 

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that if you’re wanting to take a year out to work or travel, there might still be restrictions on this and there may be fewer employment opportunities but there are definitely still jobs out there! 

We suggest you have a long chat with your family, friends, career advisors and reach out to the university you’ve applied to or are thinking of applying to. This will give you a chance to fully explore all of your options before making any rash decisions.  

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