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Deciding if you need to take a semester off is not the easiest decision. It’s probably one of the biggest decisions you’ll make for yourself at this point in your life.

If you’re having trouble knowing if you should take time off, taking a look at the reasons why you’re considering it can be a big help. Here are some common reasons why people take time off and how it can help you decide whether to do so for yourself. 

You feel overwhelmed almost every day 

It is no surprise that college can be very overwhelming at times (especially during finals week), but it should also be one of the best times of your life.

Of course, there will be times where you feel super overwhelmed. The difference comes when you feel like that every day, even when you’re not facing something particularly tough. If that’s the case and every day feels like your climbing a mountain, then maybe it’s time for a break. 

Constantly feeling overwhelmed may affect your academics and personal well-being, which is the last thing anyone wants. We want you to thrive and make the most of your college years. 

Before deciding to take some time off, it might be helpful to visit with a college counselor and see if they have any suggestions on how to ease your anxiety. If they agree that time off might be beneficial, you might have your answer.

Career doubts

Having career doubts is totally normal. Choosing the right career is a huge decision and can be very stressful. 

It takes time to know which career path to take and if you don’t have it figured out yet, that’s okay. Taking some time off might give you some perspective on what you’re truly passionate about.

With that being said, if your career doubts are what’s making you consider taking a break, there might be another solution. Talk to your academic advisor and ask if you can change your major to undeclared. This will allow you to explore different majors at the same time and potentially find the right one for you. 

Personal circumstances 

Unexpected things happen all the time. If you’re experiencing a family emergency or a medical condition and think you should take some time off, then go for it.

Similar so what I stated earlier, your time in college should be full of new adventures and good vibes. If personal circumstances are affecting your health and/or academics, then taking some time off is a serious consideration.

Think you need a break? Here’s what to do next: 

Discuss your plans with a school official 

Taking some time off will impact the year you graduate, among other things. Discussing your plans with your academic advisor is key in having the smoothest transition. They have dealt with this before and are more than happy to help, so you experience the best possible outcome. 

Most school officials will be able to assist you, but your academic advisor is equipped to help you create a plan around your return to academia.

Find out how it will impact your financial aid 

If you receive financial aid, your eligibility may be compromised (depending on the length of your break). If you’re currently receiving Federal Student Aid, you must take at least 12 credits per semester to stay eligible. 

Similar to discussing your potential decision with your academic advisor, I recommend you consult your plans with a financial advisor at your school. You can walk-in or give them a call. 

The financial advisor will tell you what your options are and how you can potentially regain eligibility once you return to school. 

Contingency plan: Your return 

Having a plan regardless of whether you plan to return to school or not will give you and your family/friends some peace of mind. However, this doesn’t mean you need to have everything figured out. That would only leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed. 

School is not for everyone, but if you’re still interested in returning, I recommend you put together a contingency plan. For instance, if you’re taking just one year off, plan out which semester you’re coming back. 

Fill out your FAFSA for that semester and discuss what classes you should take when you come back with your advisor. I think having a contingency plan will help you get back on track once you get closer to the date.

Make the most out of this break

While taking some time off, consider doing the little things you enjoy; hanging out with family and friends, catch up on sleep, and, if possible, get a part-time job. As you know, college is very expensive and stacking up some cash while on a break is not a bad idea.

Making the most out of your break might help you feel better and ready to start school strong again. 

Remember, you’re not the only one going through this. Many of your friends might be experiencing the same worries and concerns. Talk to people you trust and try to remember you’re not alone. 

You can only perform your best when you’re taking care of yourself. Whatever that looks like for you, make sure you’re putting your emotional and physical wellbeing first.

We are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, makes the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and assistance available to the public for free at fafsa.gov.