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All you need to know about deferring a place

The Leaving Certificate year is an exhausting period for many students and many of them feel like taking a well-earned break from study. Although most applicants go straight into college, the concept of a year out, or a gap year, between school and college is attractive to some.

There may be many reasons, other than post Leaving Certificate fatigue, why students would like a break between school and college. These could include wanting to spend a year abroad, or needing to work to save some money towards the cost of going to college.

The benefits of a year out can be enormous. The practice is common among British applicants to UCAS each year, with about 7pc of those accepting places seeking deferrals until the following year.

While equivalent figures are not readily available for CAO, all Irish universities and other third-level institutions will allow students to defer accepting a place they have been offered, and the college will hold the place for them until the following year, regardless of whether or not the points go up.

CAO applicants will find all details on page four of the CAO's handbook of a common deferral procedure which is used by those colleges who permit deferral. It is emphasised that permission is not guaranteed, and is totally at the discretion of the higher education institution in question.

All Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) will consider applications for deferred entry. Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) will only grant permission under exceptional circumstances for deferred entry to any of its courses.

University College Cork (UCC) will only consider applications for deferral under exceptional circumstances in respect of its medical, dental, pharmacy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy courses (CK701,CK702, CK703, CK704, CK705).

Students wishing to defer accepting a place are instructed on page four of the handbook as follows. On receipt of the offer notice:

1. Do not accept the offer in the manner shown on the Offer Notice.

2. Write immediately to the Admissions Office of the appropriate higher education institution setting out the reason(s) for the request. Mark “DEFERRED ENTRY” clearly on the envelope.

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3. The appropriate part of the Offer Notice must be attached to the letter, i.e that part of the notice which shows the offer you wish to be deferred.

4. The letter must arrive in the Admissions Office at least two days before the “Reply Date” shown on the offer notice.

5. The HEI will communicate the decision to the applicant. If the deferral is not granted, you may still accept the offer for the current year.

6. All communications about deferral must go to the Admissions Offices and not to CAO.

In order to take up the deferred place, the applicant must reapply through the CAO in the succeeding year, paying the appropriate application fee, and placing the deferred course as the only preference on the Application Form.

When reapplying the following year you must complete an application fully. In other words, you must include again any documentation, if any were needed, which you provided with the original application.

This is an extremely important point. If students apply for and are given permission to defer accepting a place, they will still be offered any higher preference courses to which they are entitled in any later round this year.

They will be free to accept any higher preference offer, or to seek permission to defer accepting that offer, if they want to. If you accept a later offer, the deferred place lapses, just as any later round acceptance cancels and supersedes an earlier acceptance.

It is not possible to accept one offer and to seek permission to defer another place on another course just in case you do not like the course you are on.

A deferral is a postponed acceptance so, generally speaking, a college will not allow students to defer a place in one college, and take up another college place in the same year. Some colleges are not sympathetic to deferral if the applicant plans to repeat the Leaving Certificate.

There is usually no problem, however, with taking a place on a Post Leaving Certificate course (PLC) during a deferral year because a PLC course is not allocated through the CAO system, and is regarded as further education rather than as higher education.

College admissions officers notice that not all students who defer accepting a college place actually take it up the following year. A significant number of them either let the offer lapse, or reapply for another college course.

During the intervening year they may have realised that they did not really want the college course that they deferred accepting. But there is no problem if applicants reach that decision. They are perfectly entitled to apply for a new set of preferences to CAO.

They may even include the course they have deferred in a lower order of preference if they wish. The only difference is that they will not be automatically entitled to it if the points have increased.

They will be competing along with all other applicants for courses on the points levels of the year in question. It is worth reminding students that the points they gain in any year are like a currency which remains valuable into the future.

A student may apply to college for years to come on the basis of the points they gained in the year of their Leaving Certificate.

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