Around this time, if you live in the UK and are in year 13 or equivalent, the majority of people will be in the process of applying to 5 universities, getting their personal statement ready, getting references from teachers and finally submitting their application. A fair few people will have already applied, received some offers or even got unconditional offers. I’m not one of those people. Instead, I’ve decided to apply next year.
A year ago, I was all set to do it all this year. I started thinking about open days and in June, I went to my first one in Birmingham. Since then, I’ve gone to 4 more open days, really got a feel for the course I want to do – English Literature and Creative Writing. Although I didn’t work on my personal statement in the summer, I was going to start in September. Why, then, did I change my mind, when everything seemed to be in place?
To explain all this, we’ll have to go back a bit. The first thing to say is that I’m “Severely Sight Impaired” – in other words, I can’t see much at all, or much to be useful. My independence is very lacking; I concentrated on GCSEs so much that I think I let my mobility and drive for independence go to the sidelines. That’s a whole other issue but the point is that I don’t have much independence; just being visually impaired isn’t the sole reason because there are so many VI people who lead independent lives and are happy. For me, instead of going to a special school for Sixth Form, the idea of going to one for a year after my A-Levels finished to increase my independence was suggested to me and I finally started to realise that not only would it be a great idea but it would make me much happier and more confident.
I applied for 2018 entry, got a place on what they call a Pre-Entry Assessment and went there in October. I can honestly say it was such a great experience – I spoke to the teachers there and the people who could really help me to get funding to go. It was then that I started to truly realise that applying to university whilst I was there would be a better option, for reasons I’ll get onto in a minute. After coming back from the assessment, I got a phone call saying that I had a place (in my usual fashion, I was shocked and I think I genuinely squealed?).
Up until 2 months ago, the resolution of applying and deferring held. However, I had some reservations about the whole thing. Firstly, I thought, if I got a place at the college for the year after, I could just apply there and that stress would be reduced. Going there and discussing it with them helped with that: they were supportive and one of the staff members mentioned to me that deferring might actually cause me more stress in case something went wrong. At the moment, the less stress I have, the better.
As well as that practical side of things, I have extremely bad mental health at the moment. In no way is that an excuse to not do something but many things are going on in my life, such as new opportunities but also personal issues, which means that my stress levels are off the charts. University applications have made that so much worse. I know that just delaying it isn’t the answer, that I should work on it, but for me it doesn’t feel like delaying or avoiding. It just feels like I can apply when I personally feel ready.
There are many reasons why applying now would be a good idea and I get that. First, it gets it out the way; it also gives me a goal to work towards. It puts me in the mindset of higher education and also would make my future a little more certain, yet this can all be done next year. This has all been said to me, both by others and by myself, but those arguments don’t convince me. Because I know that I’ll be able to apply next year, that I’ll have more time and I don’t feel right about applying this year, I think that applying next year will be the best option for me. It won’t be the same for many people but we’re all individuals and what works for someone won’t work for someone else and vice versa.
A lot of my teachers have told me to apply this year and defer. I’ve explained some of my reasoning to people; most understand but some don’t at all. However, I know that plans and people and lives change. Hell, next year I might decide I don’t want to go to university at all, that I want to do a different course or that I don’t like the unis I applied to. Also, it means I can apply with the results I already have: motivation of getting a certain grade has never held me up. Because of that, I’m not going to be putting that awful pressure on myself that made me collapse into myself before; I just feel that it might be better for me all round. It will probably make me feel the most healthy, the most put together and the least stressed out of my options.
I want to apply when I know I’m giving myself the best opportunities I can. My personal circumstances – where I know I’m taking a year out next year – have allowed me to do that. At the moment, pretty much everything is uncertain compared to what it was before. That’s okay. Life doesn’t always have to be about certainty.
Whether you apply this year, the next or the year after, remember that you should always put yourself first. There will be things you do, decisions you make, that people won’t understand, where they think you’re not being sensible or that you’re just taking the “easy” way out. Remember, though, that life has a thousand different roads you can go down and it’s fine if your road doesn’t run in the direction you thought it would.
Don’t be afraid of doing something that’s not “typical” of what people usually do. For whatever reason, you might decide that doing what the majority of your friends are doing isn’t for you right now. Consider all your options but most importantly? Don’t let university applications be the most daunting, most terrifying thing ever. You’ve got a life to live besides that, after all.
I hope this has helped anyone, whether that be to realise they do want to apply now or not, or just to let you think a little. I’ve done enough screaming over uni – I don’t want you to do the same if people are being shitty about your decisions.
Are you applying to uni this year? Did you decide to take a year out? Let me know in the comments!
From Elm 🙂