Pros and Cons of Taking a Semester Off

If you’re feeling overwhelmed in college, you may be tempted to take a semester off. This gives you time to refocus, regroup, reorganize, and plan for the future. There are some downsides to taking a semester off that you need to consider before making the plunge. Check out these pros and cons to make the best decision for your goals.

Pro: Time to Recoup When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

One of the biggest benefits of taking a semester off is giving your mind a break. You’ve been absorbing information for months or years now, and you don’t know if you can take on any more. Over 80% of college students experience burnout, which can stifle learning or derail your education altogether. Having some time away from school could let you clear your mind and return refreshed in the following semester.

Con: May Take Longer to Get back on Track When You Return

The more time you spend away from college, the more likely you are to forget what you’ve learned in the previous semesters. Thus, it may feel harder to get through classes when you return from your semester off. You can bypass some of this frustration by doing some light studying before you return to school. Refresh yourself on key points from each of your classes to make the transition smoother.

Pro: Evaluate What You Truly Want for Your Future

Did you know that 50-75% of college students change their major at least once while they’re in school? Many students find that the reality of their field of study does not align with their expectations. Your passions may be shifting, or you may have a new perspective on what you want for the future. Taking a semester off could give you space to make a plan for the path ahead.

Con: It’ll Take More Time to Graduate

Taking a semester off will delay graduation by at least one semester, but it could push it back a year or more. For example, you may need to take a class that is only available during the spring semester. If you skip that semester, you’ll have to wait until the following spring to complete it. Talk to your college counselor about how this plan might affect your timeline, and they can help you see what your options are.

Pro: Give Yourself Time to Save Money for Tuition

If you’re struggling to pay for college currently, taking a semester off may give you some financial relief. You can work full-time to save more money, or you could dedicate time to applying for scholarships and grants. Visit your school’s financial aid office for additional resources.

Con: Difficulty Finding Work during Your Semester Off

You may be able to request additional hours with your current employer, but that’s not always an option. If your employer wants to maintain your current schedule, you may need to find a second job to supplement your income. Seasonal and temporary jobs are hard to come by in certain areas, so make sure you start your job hunt early.

Also, note how your semester off may impact your living situation. If you currently live in on-campus housing, you may need to move out while you’re taking time off. This might increase your monthly expenses and take up some of the money you would otherwise be saving.

Find a Balance between Your Career Goals, Finances, and Mental Health

Taking a semester off is a personal decision. Do what’s best for your mental health, but take note of the financial and logistical consequences of this choice. You might be better off shifting to a part-time schedule for one semester rather than spending the entire semester away from school. On the other hand, you may need a clean break to think clearly about what you want for the future. Talk to trusted advisors in your life, and listen to your gut feeling. It will guide you in the right direction.