It's OK to get cold feet about your university decision

How sure are you about that university choice you made months ago? It's absolutely normal to have second thoughts, says Sarfraz Ahmed, careers adviser at Leicester College.


Last month he saw a student who wanted to switch from a degree in aeronautical engineering to sports science. “I found him some free sports courses at the local football club over the summer so he could try it out,” he says. “He was delighted.”

More than a fifth of university students might have chosen differently if they had a second chance, a study by The Student Room showed – and previous studies put this number as high as a third. All universities will advise you to study a subject you love, and most students don’t know where this will lead them. But if you have cold feet about the future, you have a choice.

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Careers advisers urge you to speak to them first if you’re having doubts, and there are many options: change course, change university, defer for a year – or do something completely different. Says Ruth Sparkes, editor of teen magazine, Future Mag.

Deferring a course for a year could give you a little breathing space and universities usually allow this, though each institution operates its own admissions policy. “It shouldn’t matter, as long as you can give them a valid reason,” says Mr Ahmed. “Wanting more experience or time is understandable. You don’t need to go into the nitty gritty.” A few courses such as medicine may not allow deferred entry. “If the university declines this then you can give up your place and reapply next year,” says independent careers adviser Ray Tarouilly. “But only do this if you have a sound reason.”

Or you can ask to be released from your firm and insurance choices – and this allows you, if you want, to reapply somewhere else in the same university cycle, through Clearing. You can always ring universities’ admissions departments before making this decision, to see what’s available – you might now have a better idea of what you are looking for. Once you’ve decided, you’ll need to tell Ucas too.

If you ‘ve decided to attend a course that you previously rejected (one of your offers) call the university to see if they still have places available.

More students than ever now apply directly to university through Clearing – numbers of students taking this route rose 14 per cent last year.

Remember if you’ve done better than expected at A-level. “You can always choose to “trade up” universities, using Ucas’ Adjustment system, says Ms Sparkes. “Your firm place remains safe for a short window whilst you can look around for a course with higher grade requirements.”

Taking a year to consider, or just a gap year, is a wise move, says Mr Ahmed. Any short course or work experience won’t be wasted – he even advises ringing companies directly to ask for work experience if you’ve got a specific job in mind. “If they’re big enough, try the HR department,” he says.

And you can also apply for an apprenticeship, even while holding a university offer – the application process is entirely separate.

If you want to dig more deeply into a career before committing to university, there are some programmes which help you hone in on your skills and abilities. Many schools and colleges offer a form of psychometric testing. For a quick insight of what this can do, try the Buzz Quiz ( which offers a simple assessment of your personality type, and careers which might suit. Or you might get access to tools such as Kudos or the Morrisby test which offer more detailed testing, backed up with tailored careers guidance.

Remember there are other ways of studying too, says Mr Ahmed. You can study flexibly online while you work, or through a degree apprenticeship “Or look for part time or voluntary work,” he says. “You really don’t need to rush to go to university – there are students there of all ages.”