The Student Room Group

Durham vs. gap year

In a real dilemma here - completed first year of a course at a uni, but realised pretty early on that the course wasn't for me and that while I loved the uni/campus/sports/people, I felt that I did quite well at A-level and could be at a much better uni academically.

I really, really, really loved Warwick when I went to the open day last year so ideally would wanna go there. But I've messed up. Since I realised pretty early on I'd rather be doing a diff course at a diff uni, I applied before the January deadline this year, problem is, I didn't apply to Warwick. (BTW the degree I'm interested in is general engineering, as I'd like to specialise later on). Thing is, in January I was convinced I wanted to study renewable energy eng or chem eng, both of which Warwick dosen't offer, so I didn't apply. Also to note, I was experiencing severe depression and other mental health issues at the time - still am tbh. But as the year went on, I researched more and more, and realised that I would HATE to study chem eng,it's nothing like what I thought, and renewable energy eng is too narrow. I realised I'd be much much better suited to Electrical eng.
I currently have a firm unconditional offer from Durham, and they do offer electrical eng as a specialism. But I missed the application deadline for Warwick since I didn't apply to them in Jan, and they have no spaces in clearing for eng as the course has been very oversubscribed this year, I also kept an eye on Extra, but even then there was nothing. So no more option for 2023 entry. But the thing is, I don't really love the course at Durham, and I much, much prefer Warwick's. Not only do they have way more flexibility so that you can really tailor the degree to your interests, they also incorporate management. This is very useful bc at this stage, I'm not sure if I want to work in smth directly related to eng or to branch off more into finance/smth else. Durham's course is very restrictive, and I found their engineering facilities pretty ****. They dont have much flexibility or room for optional modules. Also to be fully honest, Durham is okay but I absolute fell in love with Warwick, and like the vibe wayyyyyy more there than at Durham, I feel I'll fit in better and it's way more my style.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm currently 21 y/o. I took 2 gap years due to covid and mental health. I started uni in Sept 2022 aged 20, realised the course and uni aren't necessarily working for me, and decided to change which brings us to now.
If I start Durham this Sept, I'll be 21 (which worries me as I'm afraid I'll be judged or won't fit in), but if I defer my place and apply to Warwick I'll be starting uni is Sept 2024 aged 22.

But taking a gap year feels wrong, it'll be a 4th one technically, and kinda makes me feel like I'm stagnating. Also my family really don't want me to take a gap year and tbh I feel kinda embarrassed taking another one as it shows I really can't get my **** together.
The other thing is, it's a risk reapplying to Warwick bc I may not get a place due to the gap in my education ( unis were very lenient about my 2 gap years when I applied for 2022 entry due to covid). But Warwick may not like that I've spent a year at another uni and then dropped out and have had so many gap years and that I'll be 22 at time of entry. Basically they won't like the huge gap in my education and will view other applicants as much stronger bc of these reasons. The other thing to note is that Warwick want AAA for Beng, or A*AA for Meng, including maths and physics A-level. I have A*AAC, with A* in maths, C in physics, and AA in bio and eng lit. Also bio was taken separately to the other 3. Anyways the C in physics was due toseripus mental health issues, plus I didn't sit the exams for it due to covid. But I fully believe I could've and still could achieve an A. My GCSE grades are seven 9s, and three 8s. Warwick states that applicants with only one of maths or physics A-level will be considered if they have a strong academic profile, thing is idk if I'll be considered as having a strong academic profile bc of the gaps in my education, the year spent at the other uni, and the C in physics. Additionally, if I were to get rejected then I'd still have my place at Durham for next year assuming I defer, but then the year used to reapply will have been a waste,and instead of beginning at Durham in Sept 2023 aged 21, I'd start aged 22 the following year.
It's not an option to do this year at Durham and apply to Warwick and then if I get in start at Warwick in Sept 2024,bc I've already used my gift year from SFE at the uni I'm dropping out of. So I only have finance for my full degree, i.e. no more drop out years.

Alternatively, I thought about second year entry into Warwick in 2024 ( do first year at Durham and transfer into year 2 at Warwick) but Warwick are veeeeery strict about second year entry, they rarely allow it and only for some courses ( they haven't specified on the website), and it's only allowed under exceptional circumstances, which I don't know if mine will be thought of as such.

Anyways, huge dilemma - what to do? Gap year and reapply, or start at Durham and potentially be very unhappy with my course and regret forever that I didn't go to the uni I liked the most? (Tbh my vision is pretty clouded, bc I'm very fixated on Warwick - I like the uni and the course smmmmmm more, plus it's closer to London. Durham feels in the middle of nowhere and very small town and claustrophobic. I do think it's quite nice and ranked 2 or 3 places higher than Warwick, but I would choose Warwick over it. Warwick feels perfect for me, I felt so at home there, felt out of place in Durham. Durham could be good, but even if it is, I'll always know I much prefer Warwick)

Please can anyone help? Any opinions would be much appreciated. I realise my situation is pretty damn specific...
Apologies for the essay, I really do need help, and soon. I have under a week to confirm my place at Durham.

P.S.My third alternative is stay at my current uni and change course to Electrical eng here, I've not exactly dropped out yet. I really have been happy socially at this uni, and it is actually quite a good uni, it's a Russel group and targeted highly by employers, but I feel I could go somewhere better with my grades, and it dosen't really have the academic environment I'm looking for, also not a huge fan of the teaching.

Feel free to reply on the thread or PM me as well, I'd really appreciate it.
I got as far as "I don't really love the course at Durham, and I much, much prefer Warwick's". You already know what you want to do.
(edited 6 months ago)
Reply 2
I lost the will to live half way through this.

Could you summarise your query into one paragraph / question?
Take a gap year

See if you can get into a yini placement https://www.etrust.org.uk/yini-vacancies

Reapply to Warwick AND 3 other choices you like the look of (and save 1 choice back just in case you change your mind again).

Don’t go to Durham if you don’t like the course or the place. 3-4 years of a degree is a LONG time to make the best of something and you’ve already used up your gift year of funding
Reply 4
Original post by random_matt
I got as far as "I don't really love the course at Durham, and I much, much prefer Warwick's". You already know what you want to do.

I understand what you're saying. In the later part of the thread though, I mentioned that I'm worried I'm idealising Warwick because I've been fixated on it for so long; no place is perfect. I don't know if I'm being very close-minded re Durham due to this fact. Am I obsessed with it just bc it's out of my reach rn, or am I actually convinced of the reasons I mentioned?

Also, I have a A*AAC in maths, eng lit, bio, and physics respectively. Bio was taken in 2022, the others in 2020. Split A-levels, gaps in education, and C in physics may be viewed as a weak application.
With that in mind, what would the best course of action be?
(edited 6 months ago)
Original post by Llh---
I understand what you're saying. In the later part of the thread though, I mentioned that I'm worried I'm idealising Warwick because I've been fixated on it for so long; no place is perfect. I don't know if I'm being very close-minded re Durham due to this fact. Am I obsessed with it just bc it's out of my reach rn, or am I actually convinced of the reasons I mentioned?

Also, I have a A*AAC in maths, eng lit, bio, and physics respectively. Bio was taken in 2022, the others in 2020. Split A-levels, gaps in education, and C in physics may be viewed as a weak application.
With that in mind, what would the best course of action be?


Apply to Warwick.
Reply 6
Original post by McGinger
I lost the will to live half way through this.

Could you summarise your query into one paragraph / question?


I'm sorry, I've not articulated myself particularly well as my thoughts are all over the place + veey stressed rn.

Completed A-levels in maths, eng lit and physics in 2020 with A*AC respectively (fluctuation in grades due to mental health - I was very miserable with physics but my col wouldn't let me drop it. I let my grades go to **** throughout y12 and y13, was planning on making it up in exam, wasn't able to do so as we had covid grades which were teacher assessed, didn't resit due to horrible depression spiral). Gap year, then 2021/2022 did a bio A-level, achieved A (altogether A*ACA)

Did a year at a uni but was very unhappy with course and felt I could go to a better uni with my grades, mental health spiralled further (diagnosed with severe depression, referred for ADHD assessment/diagnosis), so reapplied. Did not apply to Warwick - application was very rushed (due to aforementioned mental health issues), did not research unis/courses properly. Realised I should've applied to Warwick as I fell in love with the place and felt the course there was much more flexible and diverse than the uni I firmed (Durham). Felt ill at ease at Durham and found the course to be restrictive and inflexible (maybe due to bias as I am convinced Warwick is perfect for me) No option for entry to Warwick through clearing.

Options now: go to Durham (very good uni, highly ranked) or defer + gap year and apply to Warwick (chance I may be rejected due to 'weak' academic profile, plus waste of a year if rejected).

Sorry, this again has been quite long. I've probs missed important details, if you can read the main thread it'd be better, but if not that's fine too. Sorry again.
Reply 7
Original post by PQ
Take a gap year

See if you can get into a yini placement https://www.etrust.org.uk/yini-vacancies

Reapply to Warwick AND 3 other choices you like the look of (and save 1 choice back just in case you change your mind again).

Don’t go to Durham if you don’t like the course or the place. 3-4 years of a degree is a LONG time to make the best of something and you’ve already used up your gift year of funding

You're very correct, 3-4 years is very long, and I can't afford to spend a year and then leave due to loans. Thing I'm worried about is, is my view very clouded because I'm so fixated on Warwick? If I couldn't get into Warwick I'd go to Durham, but since I didn't apply I keep thinking what if.
But am I dismissing Durham or framing it a certain way to myself bc I'm so blinded by my past mistakes and my fixation on Warwick as well as my obsession of making the 'perfect' choice since I already messed up once?
Reply 8
Original post by random_matt
Apply to Warwick.

Even with the likelihood of rejection? Bear in mind, at this point I'm 21, and also my physics grade is C. For Warwick eng they state that applicants with only one from maths/physics at A-level (at grade A) will be considered if they have a strong academic profile.

The fact I've had 2 gap years, completed a year at another uni (essentially a third gap year), and now am taking ANOTHER year out (four), is that not going to be looked upon unfavourably, like I can't get my **** together? (Ofc mental health issues, plus some very big flaws in the way I think are the main cause of me not being able to get it together, but that dosen't change the facts)

Ig logically speaking, I know that this is all very stupid, but once I'm convinced of something - in this situation, that Warwick is 100% perfect for me - logic goes out the window, which makes for alot of big mistakes and wrong decisions.
Original post by Llh---
Even with the likelihood of rejection? Bear in mind, at this point I'm 21, and also my physics grade is C. For Warwick eng they state that applicants with only one from maths/physics at A-level (at grade A) will be considered if they have a strong academic profile.

The fact I've had 2 gap years, completed a year at another uni (essentially a third gap year), and now am taking ANOTHER year out (four), is that not going to be looked upon unfavourably, like I can't get my **** together? (Ofc mental health issues, plus some very big flaws in the way I think are the main cause of me not being able to get it together, but that dosen't change the facts)

Ig logically speaking, I know that this is all very stupid, but once I'm convinced of something - in this situation, that Warwick is 100% perfect for me - logic goes out the window, which makes for alot of big mistakes and wrong decisions.

If the grade A is very rigid, then you will unlikely get a place. It is probably best to take another offer or redo the A-Level.
Even if Warwick is a long shot I would still recommend another gap year and reapplying.

You’re not confident about the decision to go to Durham and don’t really like the course - even if Warwick doesn’t work out there’s likely to be 3-4 other universities and courses you do like.
Reply 11
Also guys I have to mention this bc I want to be honest with you all. A factor in the Durham vs. Warwick debate is location. I know that's a superficial thing but I want to be honest. I feel that Durham is very up north and far from everything, kind of very small-town. Lots of people really love it, some people find it's too far from everything and too small.
Warwick is in Coventry, which is closer to London. Coventry is bigger, but very rough. Most people (that I know of/on tsr lol/have talked to online) seem to hate it, and say its only advantage is its proximity to London.

For some reason, the negative thoughts re Durham's location is at the forefront of my mind. But I'm idealising Warwick such that I'm not thinking ab the disadvantages of its location. (Again going back to I'm only looking at Durham's negatives and Warwick's positives - I realise I'm doing this but that's not stopping me from doing it)

Also to mention, I'm very into bjj which is big at Warwick - they're known for it (they host comps and training camps, have excellent coaches). I don't know if that's in the back of my mind too during my thought process, I really, really hope it's not a factor that's subconsciously influencing me, bc I can't be romanticising Warwick/Coventry for such a stupid reason.

Am I only seeing so many flaws in Durham and no flaws in Warwick bc my stupid brain is subconsciously being influenced by superficial factors and biases? I've not honed in on the positives of Durham like the collegiate system, the prestige, its higher ranking comp to Warwick, its excellence in sports (#2 in BUCS) etc. I'm saying these things but they're not actually registering in my head (scary).

Also at one point in the last month or so, I got it into my head that I should resit physics apply for one of oxbridge. I realise this is a ridiculous notion but at times really convince myself and believe that it's worth doing and that I may have a small chance. Is this (subconsciously) influencing me too?

When I come to one decision (e.g. go to Durham) I convince myself of the disadvantages of this and the merits of the alternative. When I decide on the alternative (gap year + apply to Warwick) I convince myself of the problems with this option and so on...

I'M SORRY, MY WHOLE THOUGHT PROCESS IS SO CONVOLUTED AND CONFUSING.
Take PQ's advise.
Reply 13
Original post by PQ
Take a gap year

See if you can get into a yini placement https://www.etrust.org.uk/yini-vacancies

Reapply to Warwick AND 3 other choices you like the look of (and save 1 choice back just in case you change your mind again).

Don’t go to Durham if you don’t like the course or the place. 3-4 years of a degree is a LONG time to make the best of something and you’ve already used up your gift year of funding

Btw I forgot my manners, thank you for sending me the link. I glanced at it briefly so I could be wrong, but it looks like it's for uni students who are on their industrial placement year?
Reply 14
Original post by PQ
Even if Warwick is a long shot I would still recommend another gap year and reapplying.

You’re not confident about the decision to go to Durham and don’t really like the course - even if Warwick doesn’t work out there’s likely to be 3-4 other universities and courses you do like.

Thing is, if I don't get into Warwick, I think I'd go for Durham. I'm making Durham sound worse than it is, maybe bc I'm fixated on Warwick. The problem with Durham is that it's not Warwick. I think I'd be unhappy there bc I'd keep thinking about Warwick. But if Warwick rejected me and I knew there was no way there then I could probs hack it at Durham.
Durham's course structure is closest to what I want (obvs besides Warwick) bc first year or two are general eng, and you specialise later on, which works for my chronically indecisive personality.
(edited 6 months ago)
Reply 15
Original post by Llh---
Also guys I have to mention this bc I want to be honest with you all.

Something else I need to be honest about. I'm not even sure what I want to study, just that I want it to contain a significant maths and science component so that I'm well prepared for a range of careers, and I'll have more opportunities than someone who say does economics, bc I'll have a science background, so I can work in a scientific or non-scientific field, whichever I find I prefer. Also smth that leaves the door open for further study (e.g PhD) in case I want to go down the research route. I chose engineering bc it seems to open these doors, even gives you the skills for smth like working in tech. Basically something that gives a diverse and wide range of opportunities.

Nat Sci seems to be the other option that allows this (maybe even gives more flexibility in terms of PhD study topics), BUT it seems to matter which uni you go to for it (Durham or Cambridge are good, but somewhere like Bath maybe not since they have a limited range of subjects). Eng also seems to have the higher average starting salary. If I could get into Cambridge, I'd go for natsci, but unless it's natsci at Camb, it seems as though eng is the safer degree out of the two since it's vocational.

Also I want to be honest and say that I went to the open day at Warwick but it was a general open day, and didn't have subject talks. So I've not actually been to an open day for eng at Warwick (I have for Durham) meaning any judgements I make on Warwick's course are not as well informed.

Smth else as well, taking a gap year is smth my family would not be happy with since I'm now 21, and would be 22 once I enter uni if I take a gap year. Additionally, they're not happy that I've wasted this year at this other uni.
My mum is very against it, saying that the fact I didn't apply to Warwick and that I didn't go there last year means that Warwick wasn't meant for me and that I need to move on, that Durham may turn out to be better for me than Warwick, and that I need to leave the past in the past, and live with my mistake of not applying to Warwick when I had the chance this January. My friends are telling me I should go to Durham, unless I actually do smth worthwhile that'll contribute to my CV/academic profile in my gap year instead of just doing what I've been doing all summer which is working a retail job and going to the gym.

Everyone in my life is saying go to Durham, everyone on TSR is saying gap year and reapply. So I'm arguing with everyone in my life telling them why the gap year is right and doing the opposite on TSR lol...
Reply 16
Original post by random_matt
If the grade A is very rigid, then you will unlikely get a place. It is probably best to take another offer or redo the A-Level.


It says on the website that applicants with only one from maths or physics A-level at grade A will be considered IF they have a strong academic profile. Idk if I'm considered as that. Maybe i would've been last year due to very strong GCSEs, plus I'd had only 2 gap years (easily explainable bc first was due to covid as uni was online only,many people took one. 2nd was to take bio and chem A-levels, i.e not a useless gap year), and I hadn't completed one year at a diff uni (basically a third gap year). If I were to reapply, then essentially 4th gap year.

Would you say the same with this to consider, or would it be delusional to take the risk with this in mind too?

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