Whether you need a flexible course application process or just want to take some time out before commencing your studies, you may consider one of two options: deferring your place or applying through mid-year entry.
Although these are two quite different processes, some common rules and tips apply.
What is deferring?
When you receive a course offer, you generally have two options: to accept the offer and begin your studies in the next semester or to put your place on hold for a set period. The latter of these is a popular option among students who want a little bit of time off before starting their course.
You may find that some courses do not allow places to be deferred. Check with institutions when you are researching courses to see whether this rule applies to those you are considering. If you are applying for scholarships, it's possible that some will not allow deferral either.
When you receive your course offer, you should also receive instructions for deferring your place. This is usually as simple as submitting a form through the institution's online system.
What is mid-year entry?
Mid-year entry is another great option for students who would like some additional time before beginning their course. Rather than applying for first semester and then putting your place on hold, mid-year entry allows you to apply for a place in the mid-year intake. New students begin their course in the middle of the year, and there are often catch-up options such as summer semesters (or trimester models) to enable students to graduate at the same time as those who began the course at the beginning of the year. Mid-year options are available in a number of courses, across all tertiary education sectors and levels.
Depending on the institution and course you choose, you will either apply through your state or territory's Tertiary Admissions Centre or submit a direct application. Make sure you check with individual institutions, as application processes may vary. See The tertiary application process for more information.
It's important to remember that mid-year intake is not available for all courses, so you should check with each institution to see which programs are eligible. Refer to your local Tertiary Admissions Centre's website or the institution's website for a full list of participating courses.
Reasons to defer or enrol mid-year
You need time off after finishing school
Many school leavers take some time off after finishing their final year — whether it be to travel around the world, earn some money or just to relax. In this situation, you can apply for mid-year entry or apply for first semester and defer your place once you have been accepted.
You miss out on a place
If you missed out on a place for semester one or took up a place in your second or third preference, mid-year entry can help you snap up a spot in your first choice as many institutions allocate additional spots for mid-year entry. Likewise, if you are accepted into a course you are not 100 per cent sure about, deferring can give you time to assess your options and see if something better arises.
You choose the wrong course
Students often think that once they begin a course they are "stuck", but this is not the case. If you truly hate your course or realise that it's just not the right fit, mid-year entry allows you to transfer to a different course (often with some credits granted for your first semester). Deferring allows you to buy some time until you have found a course that better fits your needs.
You need flexible study options
If you are a mature age student looking to study for the first time or getting ready to begin a second degree, mid-year entry and deferral can provide you with extra flexibility. You may need to begin your course later because you have commitments at the beginning of the year (children getting ready for school, as one example) or simply because you would like a little bit of extra time before you commit to a (possibly lengthy) degree.