Should You Take a Semester Off?
The question on many college students’ minds is: Should you take a semester off? It’s not hard to imagine why the question is a hot topic among college students, whether they’re entering their first year or quickly approaching their senior year. With news about the coronavirus pandemic changing day-to-day, everyone’s plans about their return to college for the 2020-2021 academic year are up in the air.
Some are questioning if in-person classes are going to be allowed, while others are questioning if it’s a good idea to go into the semester at all. With so many factors that need to be considered and with such uncertainty looming over our heads, should we even bother going back to school at all?
For most students, an academic break is not a viable option. For example, those who are on financial aid have contractual obligations that prohibit them from schooling elsewhere or taking time off in the middle of their degree program. Likewise, if you’re trying to graduate early and need credits for your degree, taking a semester off will mean you’ll need to find an extra year of schooling.
For those who are in their final years of college or graduate school and have completed the necessary credits for graduation, it is possible that they might benefit from going home and having some time away from academia. This would give them the opportunity to go back with renewed energy for classes next fall when things settle down again.
In general, I think that students should not take advantage of this situation as a means to get out of obligations at school and instead stay enrolled throughout the summer until more information becomes available about what happens come September 2020.
How would you use the time off?
When considering taking a semester off, it’s important to think about how you would use the time off. For example, if you are taking a break because of mental health reasons or personal challenges, then it’s important to stay engaged in your recovery process and do some work on yourself when away from school. If you want take time off for other reasons such as research opportunities that will only last a few months before returning back to school, this may be worth considering with guidance from an advisor and/or faculty member who can help advise whether there is enough coursework available during those days missed while also making sure that grades don't suffer (though more than one semester should not be taken).
How long can I take?
If you have completed all necessary credits required for graduation but decide to return home over the semester break to care for a family member, the length of time you decide to stay back home is completely up to your discretion and will depend on how much extra work needs to be done.
If you plan on taking some time off from school entirely or are unsure at this point in your academic career what may happen in 2020-2021, there’s no need to rush into making any big decisions right now. One thing that can help with decision-making about whether it's best for you (or not) would be an honest conversation with someone trusted like a counselor or advisor who can help decipher where things stand academically so that if changes are needed, they can be made sooner rather than later.
Take your finances into consideration
As mentioned previously, finances are often a large factor in college students’ decision to take a semester off. With tuition and fees as well as living expenses, there’s a lot to consider.
The question on many college students’ minds — “Should you take a semester off?” It’s not hard to imagine why the question is a hot topic among college students, whether they're entering their first year or quickly approaching their senior year. With news about the coronavirus pandemic changing day-to-day, everyone's plans about their return to college for the 2020-2021 academic year are up in the air. Some are questioning if in-person classes are going to be allowed while others are questioning if it's a good idea to go into the semester at all with so.
With so many factors to take into consideration, it's a question that should be taken seriously. With tuition and fees as well as living expenses, there's a lot to consider.
Check yourself mentally
Burnout is a real thing, and you may very well be feeling it. Are you taking a break to make sure that you're able to handle the workload?
If your mental health is suffering, then it's not worth going back. But if you are feeling okay and just need a break from everything else, take some time off and return when things have calmed down or when classes resume.
There are also pros in for sticking around! If there will be no more school until 2020-2021 than consider this time as an opportunity to study abroad and grab those credits so they'll count towards graduation requirements. Or use the semester away from campus life to take care of personal issues such as volunteering with charities or nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity. Volunteering can help reduce stress while also giving you a sense of purpose.
If there is no more school for the year and your grades are at risk, then consider this time to work on those or retake courses that need retaking in order to better prepare yourself for graduation.
Deciding if it's worth it to take a semester off really depends on what your priorities are during college. If you want an education, then go back; but if not, use this as opportunity to do something else with your life while all other students wait out the pandemic together!
The coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty
If you’re uncertain about your future - both in and out of school, a semester off can be a great way to make sense of it all.
The decision depends on what your priorities are
It's worth talking with the registrar about taking time away from school and if you're eligible for financial aid during this break or not. The risk is that by waiting until 2020-2021 to go back to class, you could have missed too much information in order pass courses when they come up again next year.
If there’s no more school for the year but your grades are at risk then consider this time as an opportunity to work on those or retake courses that need retaking so that you can better prepare yourself for graduation.