The Student Room Group

Should I take a gap year for mental health?

So, I'm a Y13 student that's received 2 offers for Medicine (one from Oxford and one from Birmingham).

I think I have 2 problems -

- Oxford isn't really for me: I was really hoping on a UCL offer, and I'm not sure if I could deal with how small Oxford is (among other things).

- Also, my mental health is down the drain right now (which has been the case since maybe Y7) because of a combination of depression, OCD, and other things (and it has gotten very serious before, including in the past year). I definitely don't think I could deal with the intensity of a course like medicine, especially at Oxford right now, as I have been on the brink about 5 times during A-Levels.

In my mind, there are 4 options -

- Firm Oxford and go this year (obviously would be risking mental health).
- Firm Birmingham and go this year (I did like Birmingham uni but it feels a bit weird to reject Oxford for it).
- Firm Oxford and apply to defer (would have time to save money and sort out mental health).
- Firm Oxford (or don't) and reapply to other London unis next year (I like the sound of this but it might be a big risk given that I'll lose all my places).

I was wondering if anyone had any opinions/advice on what they'd do in my situation or on what they think I should do.

Thanks :smile:
Oxford is not the be all and end all, especially not in medicine. If you don’t think it’s going to be the right evironment for you, don’t go - you will get the same GMC-accredited degree from any other medical in the UK. Your mental health is more important and from what I know about Oxford, it is not the most conducive environment to good mental health, and spending 6 years in such an environment when you are already struggling is likely to be very tough.

I never considered Oxbridge for this reason even though my school encourage me to apply, and I have no regrets - went to a much chiller med school, had a decent time and graduated with prizes, presentations at conferences and all the other CV fodder that I needed further down the line for specialty applications after the foundation programme. Still struggled with mental health, but things were manageable - I don’t think they would have been if I’d gone to Oxbridge.

I think if I was in your shoes, I would probably turn down the Oxford offer in favour of Brimingham, or potentially defer the Oxford offer. If you are dead set on medicine, I think it would be very foolish to turn down both offers with a plan to reapply for a London uni because there is no guarantee you will get a place (you are clearly very able and a good candidate but with medicine, there are never any guarantees - having one bad day on your interview is enough to cost you an offer, even if you were the perfect candidate up to that point).

Whatever you decidie to do, best of luck, and I hope that you are getting help with your mental health and have supportive people around you to help you through this.
Original post by pasdkfjk
So, I'm a Y13 student that's received 2 offers for Medicine (one from Oxford and one from Birmingham).
I think I have 2 problems -
- Oxford isn't really for me: I was really hoping on a UCL offer, and I'm not sure if I could deal with how small Oxford is (among other things).
- Also, my mental health is down the drain right now (which has been the case since maybe Y7) because of a combination of depression, OCD, and other things (and it has gotten very serious before, including in the past year). I definitely don't think I could deal with the intensity of a course like medicine, especially at Oxford right now, as I have been on the brink about 5 times during A-Levels.
In my mind, there are 4 options -
- Firm Oxford and go this year (obviously would be risking mental health).
- Firm Birmingham and go this year (I did like Birmingham uni but it feels a bit weird to reject Oxford for it).
- Firm Oxford and apply to defer (would have time to save money and sort out mental health).
- Firm Oxford (or don't) and reapply to other London unis next year (I like the sound of this but it might be a big risk given that I'll lose all my places).
I was wondering if anyone had any opinions/advice on what they'd do in my situation or on what they think I should do.
Thanks :smile:

Take the gap year if you can! Uni is always going to be around, but youthfulness isn't. In my case, my parents refused me a gap year ☹️ so I just have to pull through I guess.
So if that's what you feel is best for your mental health, take it. As for the school choices, I can't help you there...
Reply 3
Original post by girl_in_black
Oxford is not the be all and end all, especially not in medicine. If you don’t think it’s going to be the right evironment for you, don’t go - you will get the same GMC-accredited degree from any other medical in the UK. Your mental health is more important and from what I know about Oxford, it is not the most conducive environment to good mental health, and spending 6 years in such an environment when you are already struggling is likely to be very tough.
I never considered Oxbridge for this reason even though my school encourage me to apply, and I have no regrets - went to a much chiller med school, had a decent time and graduated with prizes, presentations at conferences and all the other CV fodder that I needed further down the line for specialty applications after the foundation programme. Still struggled with mental health, but things were manageable - I don’t think they would have been if I’d gone to Oxbridge.
I think if I was in your shoes, I would probably turn down the Oxford offer in favour of Brimingham, or potentially defer the Oxford offer. If you are dead set on medicine, I think it would be very foolish to turn down both offers with a plan to reapply for a London uni because there is no guarantee you will get a place (you are clearly very able and a good candidate but with medicine, there are never any guarantees - having one bad day on your interview is enough to cost you an offer, even if you were the perfect candidate up to that point).
Whatever you decidie to do, best of luck, and I hope that you are getting help with your mental health and have supportive people around you to help you through this.

Is it ok to ask which medical school you applied to instead? I'm still deciding but I think it's good that I've find someone who was in least a similar situation.:smile:
Reply 4
Original post by pasdkfjk
So, I'm a Y13 student that's received 2 offers for Medicine (one from Oxford and one from Birmingham).
I think I have 2 problems -
- Oxford isn't really for me: I was really hoping on a UCL offer, and I'm not sure if I could deal with how small Oxford is (among other things).
- Also, my mental health is down the drain right now (which has been the case since maybe Y7) because of a combination of depression, OCD, and other things (and it has gotten very serious before, including in the past year). I definitely don't think I could deal with the intensity of a course like medicine, especially at Oxford right now, as I have been on the brink about 5 times during A-Levels.
In my mind, there are 4 options -
- Firm Oxford and go this year (obviously would be risking mental health).
- Firm Birmingham and go this year (I did like Birmingham uni but it feels a bit weird to reject Oxford for it).
- Firm Oxford and apply to defer (would have time to save money and sort out mental health).
- Firm Oxford (or don't) and reapply to other London unis next year (I like the sound of this but it might be a big risk given that I'll lose all my places).
I was wondering if anyone had any opinions/advice on what they'd do in my situation or on what they think I should do.
Thanks :smile:

From the way you're describing this situation a gap year sounds good but you need to consider your financial situation in this. If you don't have a source of funding to get you through, working through the gap year will most likely not improve your mental health. If you have to chose between working part time (or full time to cover rent) and starting a degree you're already been accepted for, the degree might be the better option and there you need to chose the university where you feel like you'll be more supported throughout your first year.
Original post by pasdkfjk
Is it ok to ask which medical school you applied to instead? I'm still deciding but I think it's good that I've find someone who was in least a similar situation.:smile:

Applied to Durham, Belfast, Cardiff and Aberdeen. Went to Aberdeen, which was my top choice, and really enjoyed my time there.
Original post by pasdkfjk
So, I'm a Y13 student that's received 2 offers for Medicine (one from Oxford and one from Birmingham).
I think I have 2 problems -
- Oxford isn't really for me: I was really hoping on a UCL offer, and I'm not sure if I could deal with how small Oxford is (among other things).
- Also, my mental health is down the drain right now (which has been the case since maybe Y7) because of a combination of depression, OCD, and other things (and it has gotten very serious before, including in the past year). I definitely don't think I could deal with the intensity of a course like medicine, especially at Oxford right now, as I have been on the brink about 5 times during A-Levels.
In my mind, there are 4 options -
- Firm Oxford and go this year (obviously would be risking mental health).
- Firm Birmingham and go this year (I did like Birmingham uni but it feels a bit weird to reject Oxford for it).
- Firm Oxford and apply to defer (would have time to save money and sort out mental health).
- Firm Oxford (or don't) and reapply to other London unis next year (I like the sound of this but it might be a big risk given that I'll lose all my places).
I was wondering if anyone had any opinions/advice on what they'd do in my situation or on what they think I should do.
Thanks :smile:

Hey there, that sounds like a super tough situation. Getting those offers is amazing, but it's totally understandable that you're feeling overwhelmed with everything on your plate.

Let's break it down a bit, mental health first. It sounds like you've been going through a rough time, and that Oxford, as amazing as it is, might not be the best fit right now, especially with how intense medicine can be. Birmingham sounds awesome, but there's that "what if" about UCL nagging at you, right?

Oxford is legendary, for sure, but if the small-town vibe and intensity aren't for you, listen to your gut. Birmingham sounds awesome, too, and a good fit matters way more in the long run.

Also, don't downplay your depression and OCD. Imagine starting a super demanding course like medicine while you're already on the brink. Yikes! Taking care of yourself isn't a weakness; it's heroic.

Ultimately, this is your call. Think about what would make you feel happiest and most prepared for the future, both mentally and academically. Talking to a trusted adult like a counselor, teacher, or parent could also be a huge help in sorting through all this. You've got this!

Good luck!
I'm going to be entirely honest.

You don't know what you want, and you are stuck in a personal quandary.

On the one hand, not to doubt that you believe what you believe - you think you have poor mental health.

On the other hand, you want to go to university for 5-6 years, read medicine and are disappointed that you didn't get UCL.

Unless you are born and bred in Camden, or have some absolute yearning for a highly metropolitan lifestyle - I cannot think of a worse possible place than UCL for what people class as "their mental health". I was at UCL for years and I also worked in Camden for years. I can guarantee you, it is not for the faint of heart.

Before anything else, I think you need to find out either within yourself, or with professional help, whether you actually do have an issue with mental health, or if you've just latched on to the buzzword of the 2020s, and you're a bit pizzed off / upset - because frankly, that's how 90% of the population is, and there is a parsec between that and "mental health".
I was in your situation last year and deferred my Oxford offer. They're actually quite understanding about this but note that you'll probably need a note from your GP/therapist.

And honestly, I do think overall it was the right decision for my mental health. However, not having any structure can a lot of time be stressful and it feels like I'm just wasting my time. You have to keep motivating yourself to do stuff (whether that's work or hobbies) as there are no 'external' pressure and it feels like you have all the time in the world and can always start tomorrow

So basically, if you do take a gap year either have a solid plan which includes some kind of outside pressure/deadlines e.g. a job, flights that you book early etc. or be prepared to feel a bit useless at time which can be negative for your mh.

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