The Pros and Cons of Taking a Semester Off from College

11:47:00 AM

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College is stressful. I’ve seen students cry in class in front of people they have never even spoken to before. I’ve seen breakdowns on campus and I’m sure you have too. Maybe you were even one of these poor souls. Rough classes and a lot of credits mixed with numerous work hours is a recipe for hair pulling anxiety. Whatever reason you choose to blame, anxiety is the most popular disorder that plagues college campuses with depression following suite. These two facts make it easy for one to believe maybe taking off for a semester isn’t such a bad idea?

So, let us tick some boxes under the pro column shall we.

Mental Decompression
Taking off a semester is a good way to decompress and relax. You feel, even though you haven’t graduated yet, it’s kind of relieving to not have to worry about midterms finals papers homework and making schedules or having bad professors. The list is extensive and with each one you breathe a sigh of relief. This can be the first step to coming back more focused and motivated to succeed upon your return.

A woman in a gray hoodie and white sunglasses relaxes on green grass
Mental clarity can do wonders for the mind. Source:
A Chance to Explore Opportunities
If you’re going to take just one semester off than you have to be careful about opportunities that you seek out and potentially accept. But doing so intelligently can be beneficial to you in a myriad of ways. Seeking out contract offers or internships that expire after a matter of months is an excellent way of making connections, garnering experience and oh yeah, making some money.

Gain Perspective
You’d be surprised by the number of students I have spoken to that are second guessing their major or career aspirations. Take this semester off to take a look at where you are, what you want to do and how you can strategically move forward. Often times you’ll find that changing majors or setting a new career goal may not set you back the time and money you once thought it would. Some down time will allow you to reflect and if your using this time to get into the field, even only briefly, you can use your experience to gauge future interest or paths.

Now, as with all things in life if we talk about the good, we should probably talk about the bad.

Lets start by addressing the obvious. If you take a semester off then you are setting back your entire plan. Graduate by this date, get a job by this date, by a house by this date. The plan usually goes a little something like that. Then again life usually doesn’t go according to our plans. You shouldn’t be afraid to deviate from the plan; just be aware of how much time you are actually losing and adapt to conjure up a new plan.

Breaking Rhythm
If you leave school for an extended amount of time you are running the risk of breaking rhythm. What this means is you have now broken that continuity of having a schedule, keeping a schedule and keeping up with deadlines. Now that you have taken time off you could potentially fall out of that sense of time management you culminated over college semesters. This could be detrimental upon returning to school. Breaking rhythm will have the reverse effect of this whole plan. You may return to school sloppy and tardy. Being mindful of breaking rhythm will help you ensure it does not occur.

A stressed looking man in a white shirt looks upset at his silver apple macbook laptop
We've all been there. Source:
Short Term Turns to Long Term
So far it seems like the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to considering taking off for a college semester. The fact that doing so comes with a risk of never returning may just swing the pendulum in the opposite direction however. Whenever students take a semester off from college they risk never returning to finish their degree for a number of reasons. Take into consideration the fact that getting a better paying job now that your schedule has opened up may be a short-term gain but a long-term mistake. Getting too comfortable in an entry-level role could improve your current situation and standing but in the grand scheme of things it could leave you reaching shorter than the self-investment of a college degree.

Taking a semester off from college isn’t the huge deal everyone seems to be making it out to be. Be mindful of the pitfalls and career traps that could ensue and you should be just fine in taking some time for yourself. Whether you do so or not in your particular scenario is a call you’ll ultimately have to make by weighing up your own situation. Make sure if you do decide to go on a little vacation from college that you use your time wisely and return more focused and more motivated. After all, that is the purpose of this whole idea. 

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