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Taking a gap year

12 February 2024

Whatever your reasons for taking a break from study, this information will help you make an informed decision about delaying tertiary study. From planning ahead to the University Student Exchange Programme, find out more about taking a gap year.

Planning ahead

If you're considering taking time off after Year 13 before enrolling at university to travel overseas or work for a while, it helps to plan ahead so you are ready to enter university when you want to.


Check you meet the entry requirements

At the end of Year 13, check that you are going to meet the requirements to enrol at UC before taking a gap year.

If you do not have University Entrance, you have the following options open to you:


Background requirements

Some courses in Engineering and Science have specific background requirements. It is still possible to study these courses if you do not meet these requirements, however you will need to pass introductory courses first, which may mean it will take you longer to complete your studies.

If you are planning to undertake one of these programmes when you return to study, you are best to seek advice from the Future Students Team before finalising plans for your time away.


Preparatory courses

If you need to refresh your study skills or revise core science subjects, you should consider one of the pre-degree Headstart programmes or other transition programmes


Applying for your choice of study


UC has two semesters each year – Semester 1 runs from February to June and Semester 2 runs from July to November. It is possible to begin university studies in Semester 2, however if you're interested in any of the following degrees you should carefully consider the timing of your return to study as these can only be started in Semester 1:

It is not a good idea to miss the beginning of any UC course, even by a few days. Starting late could hinder your chance of a successful outcome to your study and may incur additional fees.

While some degree-level courses are offered during the summer break, due to their intensive nature, summer degree-level courses are not recommended if you are new to university study.


Application dates

Certain UC degrees (eg: Teaching, Music, Fine Arts) require an Application for Programme Entry in addition to an Application to Enrol at university. See details of these and deadlines.

If you are planning to enrol while overseas, we strongly recommend you do this early. Enrolment opens in early October and applications for most qualifications are due in early December for study in the following year.   

Most first-year students need to submit a verified copy of their birth certificate or passport before they can finalise their enrolment. If you are going overseas, it is sensible to leave this documentation with someone who can send it to UC on your behalf. 


Course advice

If you take a gap year, you will not be able to take advantage of course planning in school, but you can still get advice on the courses you should study in your first year:

  • Visit, email or phone the Future Students Team
  • View publications (such as the UC Undergraduate Prospectus) online or request copies by phoning the UC Contact Centre on 0800 VARSITY (827 748)



If you are planning to pay your tuition fees by Student Loan and are going overseas, you should check with StudyLink what documentation they require before you leave New Zealand. 

We recommend you apply for a Student Loan as early as possible as any delay in the payment of your fees will delay completing your enrolment. 



Each year UC invites all new students and their families for a relaxing, fun and informative day of welcoming celebrations at Herea tō waka | UC Orientation Day. This gives new students an opportunity to find their way around campus, make new friends and to get prepared for their first day of tertiary education. 



Some first-year scholarships require you to apply in advance of any gap period taken. If you are successful, you may be permitted to delay (defer) the scholarship until you start your studies. Other scholarships require you to apply during the gap period.

Scholarships details, including value, may change from year to year and are related to the year that the you want to begin your studies. In some cases, scholarships are restricted to school leavers moving directly on to university study. This means gap students are ineligible.

If you are planning to take a gap period, before you go, you should check the details of first-year scholarships for their terms and conditions and if in doubt, seek advice from the Scholarships Office.

Most first-year scholarships close for applications during Term 3. 



We recommend viewing UC’s Student Accommodation before taking a break. This will give you a good idea of which hall you think would suit you best and help you choose your preferences for your application form. Tours of the UC Campus and Student Accommodation can be booked online.  ‌

There are two parts to the accommodation application process, an online application form that you complete and a common confidential reference form (CCRF) to be completed by your school.

Applications must be made in the year prior to taking up residence and cannot be deferred. You can request that your school complete the CCRF while you are still at school and we will hold it until you submit your application. You need to make sure that this form is clearly marked with the year in which you are applying for residence.

Find out how to Apply for a hall


University Student Exchange Programme

You don't have to take a gap year to enjoy overseas travel - you could do an overseas exchange in your second or third year WHILE you study at UC!

UC offers student exchanges with over 60 partner universities worldwide where you can spend a year or a semester studying towards your UC degree on exchange. You remain enrolled at UC for the duration of your exchange and pay UC tuition fees only.


Stay In Touch

Download our Gap Year Info Sheet

Complete our online form and we'll ensure you're kept up to date on key dates and important information for students on a gap year.


‌Gap year student profiles

The following profiles feature students who took a gap year before starting study at UC.

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