We all know how it goes right? We stress through the Leaving cert, anxiously await the results followed by the CAO letter which reveals our future for the next few years. Bags are packed and within the month we start college/university. After a stressful year, and an anxious summer we undertake the daunting task of starting a whole new journey as a first-year college student.
This means we are catapulted into a whole new way of life, which includes living alone for the first time, cooking, paying rent, self-focused study and of course paying endless bills. It’s no wonder that with these new adjustments that first-year college students experience extremely high levels of distress, anxiety and depression.
What if there was another way? During the leaving certificate I like countless others experienced a high level of anxiety and depression. Results consumed my every thought. This coupled with changing family circumstance’s and moving house increased my stress. After months of stress and worry, the consequences started to show. My work was slacking and I was unbelievably tired. Due to this family members, teachers and my GP all expressed concern. It wasn’t until then someone mentioned a deferral. This would mean that when I got my college place, I wouldn’t accept it but would reserve it for the following year.
A deferral for me was barbaric. I didn’t know anyone who had done it. I couldn’t imagine watching all my friends start college and university while I waited a year. What was the point? I was so worried about what others would think. I also worried that maybe I would never feel ready to attend university. Would this year be a disaster? August rolled around and my offer came in. I was so excited after a stressful year that my hard work had paid off! But to be honest I knew I wasn’t ready. I knew that starting college would bring lots of changes and new stress and I didn’t want to do something I would regret.
I googled “what the hell was a deferral?” Will I still be able to attend my course the following year? What about the SUSI grant? And how do I even defer! I rang the college and discussed my options. If I deferred I would have a year off, then I would be able to take up my place the following year. Even if the points increased that spot would remain open for me. They also reassured me that I would still get my SUSI grant when I attended the following year. I sat down with my family and we discussed my situation. My family where really supportive and shared their views. I also talked to friends and other people who were in college.
My mum said I had nothing to lose, my sister said I could spend the year doing a hobby that I loved. I was told I could use the year to ensure that the course I had picked was the one for me, which would lower chances of me dropping out. The more I researched the more I realised this was a fantastic option for me .The deferral would mean I would get the chance to enjoy a year of no college stress. I could pursue a hobby and learn how to manage my anxiety and depression all in the safe knowledge that I will be able to attend my course the following year! The relief was overwhelming.
Once the decision had been made I contacted the university who offered me my course. I was instructed to fill out a deferral application form that was on their website, this form included questions as to why I would like the deferral and what would I spend the year doing. After the form had been filled I posted the application along with a doctor’s note to the address they had provided. Now all I had to do was wait.
On a sunny day after work, while sitting on the beach I got the email. My deferral was a success. While every one of my friends embarked upon their college experiences I was able to breathe. I accepted a place to do art in a local college, I always loved art but never had the time to focus on it so now was my opportunity. I spent the year painting, drawing and making sculptures. I learned new things, and even got the chance to exhibit some of my artwork in an exhibition! I felt full of passion and enthusiasm and focused this energy on doing volunteering work, getting my driving licence, meeting new people, learning new things and most importantly I used the year to focus on reducing my anxiety.
When the following August rolled around I was in a completely different mind-set. I was more confident, less anxious and I was just rearing to start college. After a rough sixth year in school with my anxiety I was nervous starting university but I now had loads of new skills and ways to cope with my anxiety so I just threw myself into first year and had endless amounts of enthusiasm. I am now in the second semester of my first year and I’m loving every moment of it. I am so happy that I decided to defer I know that this year was less stressful after the year off. The transition was much easier and I was ready.
The deferral gave me a chance. It helped bridge the gap between being at secondary school and being at university. I would really recommend applying for a deferral, I gained so much from mine. Unfortunately, deferrals are not talked about much. They seem to be the road less travelled, but if you are a leaving certificate student and are stressed, nervous, anxious, depressed or experiencing any difficulty or even if you just don’t feel ready for college yet, there are options out there. The deferral gave me a chance, to prepare myself for the exciting journey that university is. It also helped me re-examine my course choice, I was so much more confident starting this September as I was certain this course was the one I wanted.
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