Saturday 20 June 2020

How to Make the Most of Deferring a Year Due to Coronavirus

Thousands of students all over the UK may be faced with the dilemma of either choosing to continue straight into university education after their A-Levels, or to defer a year and wait the pandemic out so that they can have the full university experience. 

As much as parents or teachers who have already been to university (and have made the most of their experience!!) may tell you that university is just about getting a degree, it is also about so much more than that. Many people will still choose to go to university this September, and that is brilliant, but it is also absolutely fine if you know that it is not the right choice for you. University is expensive, and you want to get the most out of your experience. Missing freshers week, not visiting the places your new city has to offer, completing your entire first year online, and only making friends with people via your course group chat only to then hate them when you meet them a year later in real life does not come under The Best University Experience.

So if you are planning to defer, there are many things you can do over the course of your year to help you stay focused, motivated, and to keep your academic 'muscles' exercised, so that you are ready and raring to go the next September. Here's how to answer: 'What's your plan? You can't just sit around for a year!' 

There are now more courses and webinars online than ever before as a result of covid-19 and the move to online learning and working. You can take advantage of these during your year to begin learning and building upon a lot of skills that might prepare you for university and post-university. These courses may look brilliant on your CV, and are not something you would necessarily have time to do whilst at university, anyway. Future Learn and Inside Sherpa are two examples of platforms hosting a range of online materials and courses. As someone who is interested in marketing after graduation, I have recently discovered the Girls in Marketing community. As well as offering cheap or free webinars, they also feature a courses section on their website, providing a mixture of their own and others' marketing courses. You may not be interested in marketing, but my point is to highlight that if you are able to join communities based around your degree subject and areas of interest, then quite often this can point you in the right direction towards further resources.

Alternatively, you could create your own project or piece of research. I know the capacity for doing this would vary from subject to subject, but thinking myself as an English student, it would probably have been quite easy for me to undertake some work towards finding out more about a period or style of literature I was particularly interested in. It wouldn't have to be anything intense or professional (you're not writing your dissertation yet!), but conducting your own research could be a good way to spend some time if you are deferring for a year, as it will maintain, or initiate, your abilities to understand and interpret information, your awareness of key terms and phrases, your ability to undertake research towards a project or essay, and will demonstrate your commitment to something you are interested in. You could end up loving what you do so much that it influences your choices of modules in later years of university, or even your final dissertation topic. Similarly, if you don't like the idea of committing to a whole project, simply reading as widely as you can in your degree subject or potential career fields will never be time wasted.
   *Your ability to do this would be greatly improved if you have access to academic articles and archives on sites such as JSTOR. My secondary school didn't have access; during my A-Level education, I had access through a teacher's university alumni login. I believe there are loopholes to accessing academic content for free, but if you can, see if you can borrow someone's institutional access.

Tutoring could be a great option for many of the same reasons previously discussed; it would be stimulating, and provide you with a routine and a focus. Some virtual tutoring platforms, such as the Coronavirus Tutoring Initiative, do require tutors to have already started their degree, but there are lots of other sites on which A-Level students can tutor GCSE students and lower, such as MyTutor. It is highly likely that there will be an increase in demand for online tutors going forward, one reason being that students are likely to need extra support with their learning in the future, whilst their current physical learning has been disrupted, and another reason simply being that it is not currently possible for physical tutors to operate.
Getting a job may be easier said than done, as unemployment rates are currently high due to many people having lost their jobs as a result of covid-19. But if you are able to or need to, there is no shame in spending your deferred year working as a cashier or stacking shelves in order to earn some money - particularly if you are making a financial contribution to your family whilst spending an extra year at home. Your hard earned money will also be able to go towards your university living when you do begin the next year.

I think that most importantly, though, keep a record of it - whatever you do with your year. When you do graduate with a degree, you'll be entering into a highly competitive world, so I think that if you are choosing to defer for a year due to coronavirus, it's important to have something to show for it. Maybe even start a blog like this or a YouTube channel in order to document your experience, the ups and downs, what your year has taught you; a record of what you have been doing could be very beneficial to you in the future. 'Tell me how you used your time during the coronavirus pandemic', 'Tell me about a time you showed resilience in the face of challenge' could end up being coronavirus related future interview questions. 
   So it may not be the typical gap yarrrrrr in which you find yourself whilst back packing through Asia, but that's not to say you can't do something worthwhile and useful with it.

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