I Need a Break From School!

by
Oct 23, 2001 (Updated Jan 28, 2006)


The Bottom Line Taking time off is a personal decision, and it can greatly delay, or eliminate, any chances for completing a degree.

Going to college can present many challenges that a young student may not be adequately prepared to handle. Financial strain can force a student to reconsider whether or not to stay in school. So can academic pressure from parents and the general stress caused by studying. There could also be a personal issue with health problems. These factors can all influence an individual’s decision on whether or not to stay in school, or take time off.

Is it a Good Idea to Take a Break?:

For some individuals, the stress of school and the newfound responsibilities can become unbearable. It can get to the point where the student can no longer manage his/her time effectively. In this instance, the possibility of taking some time off might start to sound appealing.

If you have just graduated from high school, you might also be tempted to take a little bit of time off, in order to save some money and prepare yourself for the day you decide to become a full- time student. If you decide to take this route, it's a good idea to keep the break short (no more than a year, if possible) and enroll full time as soon as possible. If you wait too long, it could lead to social problems and other personal issues relating to the age difference between yourself and your fellow student peers.

Taking a little time off, after you have already started college, can sometimes prove to be just the remedy that your stressed- out body was needing. With a little time off, you can switch over to working full- time, straighten out finances and save some money. If your reason for taking time off is related more to academics than to finances, then you can use your time to relax a little, reduce stress, and regain focus for when you decide to re-enter college.

In some instances, the reason for taking time off might be health- related. If a serious illness arises, the young student might be forced to withdraw from his/her studies for a while, until the illness is eliminated or brought under control. The same is true with family issues. Perhaps there is a serious illness in the family, and the student feels obligated to take some time off to take care of a family member. Or maybe the parental pressure to succeed is getting too difficult to handle. In these cases, taking time off might not be so much a choice as a necessity.

What are the Negative Aspects of Taking Time Off?:

Taking an extended leave from your studies might help you relieve stress, regain focus, and earn a little money, but it's not void of risk. First of all, you need to remember that if you take time off that you will be postponing your graduation. This means that it will take even longer to enter the workforce and make a decent living. If you are experiencing financial problems, your time off can possibly help you find temporary relief. But if your financial problems are chronic, then you need to concern yourself with graduating and entering the workforce as soon as possible, so that these problems can be quickly eliminated.

Another risk of taking time off is probably the one that I’ve witnessed most frequently. It’s the probability that you will never go back to college and complete your degree! I have seen this happen to several students. They decided that it was in their own best interests to take a semester off. They left school with good intentions, expecting to come back full time in just 6 months, maybe slightly more. However, once they found a job and started to make a living, they started to lose interest in school. The absence of academic pressure and family pressure seemed very nice and enjoyable. They decided to put off coming back for another semester, and then another. Finally, in many instances, these students never went back to school. Some of them decided to get married. Some found decent jobs. The jobs paled in comparison to what they could have gotten if they had stayed in school, but it was still a job nonetheless. As more and more time passed, these individuals lost interest and decided to forget about college altogether.

Yet another risk that you take when you leave school is the possibility that some of your credits will “expire”. Depending on where you are going to school and what program of study you are in, there is a good chance that you will have to retake some of your classes, if you are gone for too long. For example, when I was in graduate school, they had a five- year limit for completing the program. If a student dropped out for a while, he/she had to make sure to come back within the five- year allotted time limit. If you failed to do this, you would have to re-take any classes that you took more than five years ago.

Final Thoughts:

Taking time off of school is a personal decision, and everyone's situation is unique. Some people can adapt to the additional stress and responsibility that college entails; others cannot. Some students feel that they really need some time off to get their lives back in order.

When I was an undergraduate, I considered taking time off on many occasions. I was very tempted to do this, because of my bleak financial situation and the destruction of my health caused by going long periods of time without eating. Each time, though, I was able to talk myself out of it. I decided that, while conditions were bad, it would be even worse in the long run to take time off because it would delay my entry into the workforce. I wanted to start working and making decent money as soon as possible, so that I could start paying down all my debts and start living like a normal person.

If you're debating over whether or not to take time off, I would suggest that you think about it, and then think some more. Are you committed to finishing school? Have you made a promise to yourself that you will go back to college and finish? The greatest risk that you take is that you won't go back. And, from my experience and observations, I have noticed that the longer a person takes off, the harder and harder it becomes to go back. It can also be difficult, the longer you wait, to get back in the “groove” of having to study again, conduct research, and write papers.

Give the idea of taking time off some thought. Ask others for advice. Think about ways that you could possibly restructure your time and your busy schedule so that you won’t need to take any time off.

This is your future, so don't throw it all away. It's very important that you handle the decision with care.




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