Taking a gap year

Year planner

Credit: Pete

We welcome applications from students who take a gap year between finishing school and starting at King's. Roughly one in ten students at Cambridge take this option, and it can be a good opportunity to develop all kinds of skills and gain work or other experience before starting your course.

Should I take a gap year?

This is entirely your decision! We do not mind whether you take a gap year or not. We hope that you will make the best decision for you.

We welcome applicants from European Union countries. If you are thinking about a gap year as a non-UK EU citizen, please ensure that you make an informed decision taking into account financial arrangements. For students deciding between entry in October 2018 and entry in October 2019, please read the information in the grey box here.

When do gap year students apply?

If you are taking a gap year you have two options for the timing of your application to King's:

Option 1: You could apply in the October of your final school year

This would be an application for deferred entry, and you would state the year that you are applying for on your UCAS application form. Other than that, you follow the normal application process and we assess you in the same way as we assess applicants who are not applying for deferred entry. If we make a conditional offer in January, you will need to achieve the grades by the end of the following summer. Assuming that all has gone well, we will confirm your place that August, but you then wait a year before starting at King's (there is a page in the offer holders' section for deferred offer holders).

Although we have no preference either way, there are some practical advantages to applying whilst you are still at school rather than finishing school then applying during your gap year: 

  • you still have access to the people writing your reference.
  • you would start your gap year knowing where you will be going next.
  • If you don't get the offers you want, you have the opportunity to make further applications to other universities and / or re-apply to Cambridge during your gap year if you choose to.

Option 2: You could apply in the October after you finish school

In this case you follow the normal application process. As you already have your qualifications, if we make an offer in January, it would not normally have academic conditions. 

If you will be away from home during your gap year, it will be important to be contactable, to make sure that you've understood what you will need to do when (read how to apply carefully), and to think about arrangements you may need to make with your former school for your UCAS reference, the practicalities for taking any pre-interview written assessment and attending potential interviews in early December etc.

With the exception of applicants for Medicine, we do not mind which of the above options you take, and it will make no difference to your chances for making a successful application to King's. Applicants for Medicine who take a gap year are advised to apply after they have finished school as it is difficult for us to make deferred offers due to constraints in the number of offers we are allowed to make in Medicine.

What should I do during my gap year?

We advise you to use your gap year productively, but we have no set views about exactly what you should do. Whilst some students participate in activities or employment that is related to their course, this is not a requirement.

A few pointers:

  • Where mathematics is important for your course at King's, it would be wise to take steps to ensure that your maths does not get rusty during your year out. Many students take a further qualification in maths (A level Further Mathematics, STEP etc.) or make good use of resources such as NRICH, Isaac Physics or http://i-want-to-study-engineering.org.
  • Keeping languages going is also important for some subjects.
  • If you are planning to take a gap year for financial reasons to earn money before your degree, do ensure that you have read our finance section carefully first and looked at the financial support available.
  • In all cases (whether you are studying, working or volunteering) we hope that you will continue to develop your academic interests during your gap year.
  • We might ask you about your gap year in interviews so do be ready to discuss you plans / experiences.
  • Mica, who studies Philosophy at King's, has written about her gap year. Have a look at what she says here.

Reapplying to university? We'll welcome your application.

Old Lodge, S Staircase and Bodley's

There is no disadvantage if you have previously applied.

Sometimes students apply to university in their final year at school, but later decide to decline all offers in order to apply to Cambridge during a gap year. It may be that you did not apply to Cambridge the first time around but have since become interested in studying here, or it may be that you were unsuccessful in a previous application and would like to reapply now that you are further on.

The decision to decline your university offers to apply to Cambridge is not one to take lightly. Please ensure that you have thought about it carefully, and that you have a good 'B' plan for if your application to Cambridge is not successful (statistically, roughly 1 in 4 applications to Cambridge result in an offer).

If you have previously applied to Cambridge (whether to King's or to another College), you are welcome to apply to King's. Sometimes students prefer to apply to a different College the second time in order to avoid a sense of déjà vu associated with buildings, people etc. This comes down to your personal preference. We assess each application as a fresh application, and all candidates are considered strictly on the basis of their academic promise. Please ensure that you read the online prospectus and all instructions thoroughly. Things do change from one year to the next, and do be aware that different Colleges sometimes have slightly different ways of organising things.  

NB. If you are reapplying this year, do note the new information about written assessments in particular.

Further Information

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