How to defer a college place for a year

Information on postponing the offer of a college or university place

Written by spunout


Deferral means holding a college place or offer until the following year. Some new students prefer to take a break before going to college or university after the hectic timetables and exam pressure of the Leaving Cert. In other cases, current students might have had a difficult year and may need to take some time out before continuing on their course. Thankfully, most universities and colleges allow students to defer an offer of a place on a course for a year.

Once you are granted a deferred college place, the college or university will usually keep a place reserved for you for one year, even if the points go up for your chosen course the following year.

How to defer a place on a course as a new student

If you have decided you want to defer for a year after receiving a CAO offer, here’s what to do:

Finding out the university policy

All the colleges and universities have different policies regarding deferrals and most will expect you to have a specific reason for deferring your place or at least a plan for the year ahead. 

It’s important not to assume that you will meet the requirements of their deferral policy. Go to the university website to find the policy. If you are unsure, contact the Admissions Office as soon as possible and ask about their deferral policy.

In some colleges, there must be exceptional circumstances to allow a deferral. In others, you may only be allowed to defer certain courses. It’s important to find out as early as possible if deferring is an option for you.

Contacting the Admissions Office to defer

If you have received an offer through the CAO and you decide to defer, do not accept the offer. Instead, contact the Admissions Office of the college or university immediately to let them know you want to defer.

Make sure to mark “DEFERRED ENTRY” clearly in the subject of the email or on the envelope if you are communicating by post.

You will need to provide:

  • Your name as it appeared on your CAO application
  • Your CAO application number
  • The course code of the course you wish to defer
  • The reason why you want to defer

The Admissions Office must receive this request within two days of the Reply Date on your CAO offer, which is the deadline for accepting the offer. 

The Admissions Office will let you know if your request to defer has been approved or not. If they do not approve your request, you can still accept your CAO offer for the current year, provided you accept it before the deadline.

Claiming your place after the deferred year

If you have successfully deferred and you want to take your place on the course, you will need to apply for the course through the CAO again the following year.

You will need to put down your deferred course as your first and only choice. Make sure to tick the “Deferred Applicant” box in the Course Choices section of the application.

If you include any other choices, you’ll forfeit your deferred place and you’ll be taking your chances with points again. You can change your mind and choose another course, but this means that the deferred course will not be held for you.

Make sure to find out if there are any additional requirements from your college or university.

Taking a leave of absence as a current student

Sometimes it might be necessary for current students to take a break from their studies in the middle of their college course. This is often known as taking a leave of absence. This could be for personal reasons, health problems, financial difficulties, or family circumstances.

Most colleges and universities will have a policy for allowing students to take a leave of absence in exceptional circumstances, and there are usually different procedures if this is happening at the beginning of the academic year or in the middle of the term.

The process is different in each college. To find out how about taking a leave of absence, speak to the Student Affairs office to find out what steps to take.

Usually, you will need to fill out forms, explain your reason for wanting to take a break, and provide supporting documentation (like medical certificates) if required.

What can I do during my deferred year?

Many universities will want to know if you have a plan, or what your reason is for deferring. Keep in mind that you cannot accept a place on a college course and defer another place as a back-up plan in case you change your mind.

However, it is possible to defer a university or college place and complete a Post Leaving Cert or Further Education course in the year of your deferral, as these are regarded as further education rather than higher education.

Need more information?

We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.

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