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Should I go to University next year? How to make the decision during a pandemic

Making the decision about what you want to do after school is not exactly an easy one. Throw all the complications of the last year with the Covid-19 pandemic in with that and it’s totally

uni next year

Making the decision about what you want to do after school is not exactly an easy one. Throw all the complications of the last year with the Covid-19 pandemic in with that and it’s totally understandable if you’re feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of choosing what to do next.

Despite the fact that the pandemic hit at the start of this year, universities received a record number of applications in lockdown.

Then, when the start of term came around, the news was dominated with stories of students being locked away in halls across the UK, having to quarantine because they or their flatmates have coronavirus. Students spoke out about the fact that starting uni under such strange circumstances has been tough.

Despite these complications, there will still be many people out there feeling glad that they made the decision to start university this year and looking forward to what the next few years has in store for them. 

Starting a uni course next year is a decision you – and only you – can make, even if you’ve got lots of voices telling you what to do.

You’ve got to work out what’s important to you and what you want to get out of university. Do as much research as you can, ask all the questions and consider the following before you make your final decision. 


How long is your course?

First things first, how long is the university course you want to apply for? The reason this may be important is because if you’re applying for a longer than average course, you could decide to head to uni next year and accept that, even if the pandemic isn’t completely behind us by then, that you’ve got a lot of years ahead of you in which to make the most out of your experience.

If you are doing a seven-year medical degree, for instance, you might decide that you’d rather get stuck in than delay your studies for a year considering how long the degree is.

How important is university for the career you want?

It’s a question you should ask yourself before applying to uni anyway, but it may be even more important during these strange times. 

Do you already know what career you want to follow? Most people don’t know at this stage, and that’s completely ok, but if you do, consider whether you need to go to uni for the professional path you want to follow, and whether you truly want to.

If uni isn’t actually essential to your job, could you start working and then return to the idea of uni later down the line if you still fancy going?

What do you want to get out of university?

Write a list of what you hope to get from going to uni. As well as a degree and a greater knowledge of your subject, this might be more skills for your CV, more work experience, meeting new people, joining new societies, trying new sports, discovering new places, finding out more about yourself, challenging yourself and having fun. 

Work out how many of these you could do properly at the current time. If a lot of them wouldn’t really be possible at the moment, maybe delaying uni for a year would be best for you.

As an example, all three years of my uni experience were great fun, but all for different reasons. By third year, I was lucky enough to have solid friends and be a long-standing member of some societies and sports teams. My first year, in contrast, was all about trying lots of different things out and meeting tons of new people. I tried dodgeball and promptly realised I was terrible at it, for example. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do most of that during the current pandemic times. 

Could you get your degree in another way?

If you’re on the fence about going to uni, and the current state of the world is making you doubt whether you want to go, consider getting a degree in another way.

Maybe you really want a degree but you’re also keen to start working and earning money for yourself. In this scenario you could consider a distance learning degree, for example with the Open University. Your workplace may even fund it for you. 

What would you do in the meantime?

You may have already decided that you want to delay your university study, keen to avoid the possibility of being in your fresher’s year while we’re still in a pandemic. This is a totally fair decision, but it’s really important to think about what you’ll do for the year instead. If you don’t plan your year, you might end up looking back at it with regret that you didn’t make the most of it.

While there may still be restrictions in place, there are countless amazing things you could do with your year before uni. You could work and build up your CV while also earning some money, or you may decide to build skills through volunteering. You could embark on some other studying opportunities, for example some online courses, or use the opportunity to learn a completely new skill, such as a language or a practical skill that may help you later in your career. You could even start your own side hustle. Depending on restrictions, you might want to spend some time travelling and exploring the world before you get stuck into uni and work. 

What to do next

If you feel totally overwhelmed at the prospect of post-school life, feeling even more stressed about the decision because you’re trying to take the pandemic into account, then you should realise that you’re absolutely not alone. Making important life choices is difficult, let alone in a world that has such an uncertain future.

In terms of next steps, ask yourself some of the above questions, and see if that helps you. But reach out to resources around you too. Speak to friends and family about the difficult decision you’ve got and see if they have any wise words. Chat to teachers as well, if you’re able to. If you’ve got specific questions, contact the universities you hope to apply to. 

The UCAS deadline is 15 January so you’ve still got a good few weeks to decide if you want to apply. Remember many universities also offer the option of deferring your place, but double check this will be possible before basing your decision on that.

The Llama's Deputy Editor. NCTJ-qualified journalist, editor and author. Written for The Times, Metro.co.uk and The Mirror among others. Warwick English Literature graduate.

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