To defer or not to defer?

As course offers begin to arrive, you may be asking yourself whether it’s worth taking some time off before starting your studies. This could be because you want to see the world, spend a year or so in the workforce or just take some time out to recharge and refresh before committing to three or four extra years hitting the books.

Here we’ve compiled some of the facts about deferring, as well as the advantages and disadvantages.

To defer or not to defer, that is the question

  • When you receive your course offer, you should also be given information about deferring your place. In most cases, deferring is as simple as submitting a deferral request through the institution’s online system or through your state or territory’s Tertiary Admissions Centre (TAC). This depends on the institution’s process so it’s best to check with them first. You may also need to provide a reason for your deferral and what you plan to do over the year (such as wanting to take time off after school to travel).

  • You can usually defer a full year of study, although some institutions allow you to put your place on hold for as long as two years. If you would prefer to take less time off, and if mid-year intake is available in your course, you can defer a single semester and begin your studies in July.
  • Not all course places can be deferred, so it’s best to check with the institutions you have applied to if you are considering putting your place on hold. This may apply to courses that are particularly competitive or those that have intakes every second year. You may also find that this applies to vocational and postgraduate courses.

  • Your offer may lapse if you undertake tertiary study during your time off. While there’s no harm in studying a short course to indulge a hobby (craft, for example), you generally cannot undertake study from certificate III level onwards. This is because you are altering your academic record and must re-apply based on all academic qualifications achieved.

  • Some institutions charge a deferral fee (anywhere between $100–200), which must be paid when you apply to defer. Remember to check if this fee is refundable (in the case that you don’t take up the spot the following year, for example).

Advantages of defering your course

  • You can take advantage of official gap-year programs, which may be offered either through specific gap-year companies or through universities.
  • You have the opportunity to clear your head and recharge. If you worked particularly hard to get into your course, taking time off can help you avoid the ‘burnt out’ feeling some students experience in their first year. This is especially true among students who are entering fields with a lengthy study requirement, such as architecture and medicine.
  • You’re given a taste of adult life earlier than students who enter tertiary study straight out of school, which helps you become more independent. This could include experiencing full-time work for the first time or learning to do things on your own — from the basics, such as operating household appliances, to travelling around the world on your own. This is something that most students don’t experience until they are well into their 20s.
  • You have time to consider (and re-consider) your study options. During your time off, you may realise that your true passion is in a field quite different to the course you were accepted into. This gives you time to think about your options without the pressure of exams and deadlines.

Disadvantages of defering your course

  • Generally, students find it easier to continue on with their studies straight out of school because it doesn’t require too many lifestyle changes. Taking a year off can make the transition back to study a little more difficult, particularly if it means swapping sleep-ins or a full-time income for morning lectures and years of careful budgeting.
  • There is also the concern that once you have time off, you won’t go back. Whether you choose to explore the world, work full time or even just chill out on the couch, there’s a very real temptation to continue this lifestyle even once the new academic year begins.
  • If you have been granted a scholarship or bursary along with your course place, you may find that it has a ‘no deferral’ condition attached. This means that you will not be granted the scholarship when you begin your studies.

Useful links:

A A practical guide to university preferences
Accepting Accepting your tertiary offer
Change Change of preference tips