We asked freshers: Do you wish you’d deferred a year?

It’s been a first year like no other

Munira was looking forward to starting her Philosophy degree at the University of Sheffield, but in the first few weeks of term, she struggled to get to grips with online teaching and swiftly fell behind on every module. “We didn’t get to experience the typical university life and I found myself stuck alone in my room for most of the year,” she told The Tab. “Due to this, my mental health spiralled downwards and I found it extremely difficult to find the motivation to do any of my work or make any friends.”

Now, she hasn’t done any work since January and thinks she’ll probably fail the year. “I’ve not yet decided but I am thinking of taking a year out next year to take time for myself and return the year after to give it another try when everything has hopefully changed,” Munira said.

It’s clearly been a very tough year for freshers with many saying their sub-par experience means they should get some form of compensation. In light of this, The Tab asked 12 freshers from eight different unis if, given their chance again, they’d have deferred their place at university.

Only Munira said she would have deferred, but everyone we spoke to had plenty to say about their frustrations with how the academic year has gone.

Nat Sodzi, University of Bristol


Do you wish you’d deferred a year? No

Nat Sodzi studies Politics and Sociology at the University of Bristol. She doesn’t think students have been “dealt a fair deal” by the government or the university.

“They need to let go of this facade that we’re getting value for money, because we’re not. Doing a social sciences degree, I was expecting to read actual books and have physical discussions, not being sat staring at a screen for eight hours which has increased the number of migraines I have, ” Nat told The Tab. “I’d definitely say that coming to uni this year I’ve felt like a nuisance rather than an actual student.”

Munira echoes this sentiment. “The expectations for students to pay £9,000 a year for zoom calls and minimal support is ridiculous,” she said. “Paying £6,000 a year for accommodation that we don’t need is also rather silly which is why I joined the rent strike.”

Rent strikes like the one in Sheffield have been ongoing up and down the country all year with students calling for rent rebates and compensation for time when they were actively told not return to return to the classroom.

Corey Jones, University of Leeds


Do you wish you’d deferred a year? No

But it’s not just the learning that’s been impacted. The rest of the university experience, promised to students as the “best days of your life,” has also been eroded this year, leaving many feeling dissatisfied.

Lauryn Anderson, a Media and Production student at the University of Lincoln, told The Tab: “Honestly I think I did make the right choice to come because I was ready to leave home and start my own life, however it is still frustrating that my first year hasn’t been your typical ‘Freshers’ experience as socialising has basically been off the table.”

Leeds student Corey Jones also described the difficulty making friends with people studying on his Media course, but has luckily been able to salvage some level of social life from the people staying in his accommodation.

‘The start of the year was really tough and draining mentally’

These significant dents to the classic university experience have sadly, but unsurprisingly, had a negative impact on student wellbeing.

“The most frustrating thing was that I wasn’t seeing hardly anyone until my course returned to face-to-face teaching because of lockdown rules, and this has had an effect on my mental health,” Lauryn said.

Nat agreed, adding: “The start of the year was really tough and draining mentally because I was away from home, alone, and couldn’t leave my flat.

“Now that things have been opening up I feel a lot happier and healthier.”

Thea Bennett, Durham University


Do you wish you’d deferred a year? No

But did freshers really have any alternative to coming to uni this year? The idea of a gap year would just be impossible with borders closed and travel restricted. And even if they could travel, there’d be a very slim chance they’d find a job to fund their holidays. The alternative to uni would just be being cooped up in the family home with only Netflix to keep them company.

Sophie Arundel, a journalism student at the University of Leeds told The Tab: “What else would I have done this year except work? We couldn’t have travelled really.”

Thea Bennett, a psychology student at Durham Uni, agreed with Sophie, saying: “I get bored quite easily and during lockdown was finding things to do to keep me occupied! However, saying that I am a little jealous of friends who have deferred and my brother who gets to have a ‘proper’ first year.”

Sophie Arundel, University of Leeds


Do you wish you’d deferred a year? No

Despite a disrupted year like never before, freshers are still seeing the positives.

“I’ve loved first year and feel as though my flatmates and course mates and I have made the best of a bad situation,” Sophie said. “Yes it’s shit we’ve missed a whole year of uni experience but I just tell myself there are people in far worse positions and I’m lucky to have a supportive family and a home back in York to go to.

“Some people aren’t that fortunate to have a good home life so I can’t even imagine how shit of a year it’s been for them. But in general I’m glad I came this year anyway because I’ve had a great time despite everything.”

Related articles recommended by this writer:

• Since March 2020, I have only had one contact hour with my university

• My last bit of in person teaching was cancelled and now I’ve had enough

• I did not sign up for this uni experience and I want my money back