It seems many students are keen to start medical school this year, seeing the opportunity of deferment as an unwelcome distraction or waste of a year (or years earnings) stuck at home. This is somewhat admiral and demonstrates the commitment that drives medical students.

However, I would like to point out a few facts, which may not have been considered and may help you come to a reasoned decision.

First of all: If you begin university (medical school) in 2004 you will not pay top up fees full stop - that is for the full duration of your time at uni.

THE SAME APPLIES TO ALL STUDENTS BEGINING UNIVERSITY IN 2005. Therefore if you decide to defer this year, and start next you will not pay top up fees for the duration of your time at university. So in terms of fees you would be no worse off.

Only students beginning university in 2006 will pay top up fees (every year of their course in most cases). [As laid out in the higher education bill which has now received royal assent (1 July)]. So students now applying to university (for 2005 entry) may not afford the luxury of a gap year as they would enter uni in 2006. This puts you (2004 or 2005 entry) in a somewhat privileged position.

My next point is the money available in the form of a scholarship. 1000 is arguably not a considerable amount of money. HOWEVER the 500 available now would buy you a round the world air ticket (contact STA travel). With say 10 stops, you could spend 10 months jetting round the world. With a little careful planning, a shoe string budget would'nt break the bank - or you could work in hospitality, agricultural, healthcare or leisure industries as you travel which would not eat into your savings at all, paying for itself. Its an opportunity to see the world gaining some valuable life experience and interpersonal skills of which no formal academic training can provide. As a med student / doctor you have many responsibilities NOW you have none, so consider enjoying the freedom of youth now. The chance may not present itself to you ever again.

On beginning med school the other cash lump sum of 500 will provide disposable money for some serious partying (in the less stressful 1st year). Probably I hasten to add, at the envy of other medical students and your peers.

My last point is the fact that I speak from experience, having worked for water sports schools becoming a scuba diving instructor, on cruise ships as a social director, in bars as a humble barman and as a care assistent in care homes and hospitals, I have travelled the world in little under 2 years visiting, living and working in:

UK France Germany Belgium Luxembourg Spain Italy Greece Egypt Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Townsville, Caines, Lord Howe Island, Hamilton Island, Brisbane, Jervis Bay) New Zealand (Wellington, Auckland, Napier, Bay of Islands, Christchurch, Dunedin) Vanuatu Fiji New Caledonia Solomon Islands Tonga Japan Bali India Malaysia Oman

(from memory LOL hope I didn't miss anyone)

I have no debts, and though I will start med school a at 23, with my peers already ahead of me in the career stakes, I will have the experience to get the jobs I want - not the jobs I'm given. (Thats not supposed to sound arrogant - I talk in terms of advantage of other applicants)

To end: I am probably bias having had a ROCKIN couple of years but feel I really have benefited from my experience, and my patients and career will to. In fact the idea of practicing medicine was a direct result of my experiences. It may not be everyone's cup of tea to up root, and I am not denying that you will have the best time of your life at medical school (even if you start this year), but if you ever see an opportunity, no matter what it is, grab it, and don't look back!!!