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Top Reasons to Take a Break From College

By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: September 19th, 2023
Top Reasons to Take a Break From College

Sometimes, college doesn’t work out quite as you expected it would. Some students may face family issues or health problems during their college years. Others might be having academic issues or just have trouble adjusting to college life. If you’re wondering, “Should I take a break from college?” we’ve got answers for you.

Deciding to take a break from college can be difficult, but sometimes it is a necessary choice. In this article we’ll weigh the reasons you may be considering taking a break. Many of these reasons are unavoidable and students should definitely take a break if they are experiencing them. We’ll also go over the potential consequences for taking a break from college. It’s important to know what you may be getting into. We’ll work through how you can mitigate these consequences and how to move forward. Let’s dig in:

Family issues

If you are having family issues, it could be a good idea to take a break from school. If a relative is ill, you may want to spend time with them. It could be that your family needs you to help out at home. At the end of the day, family comes first. It could be a good idea to speak with your family and work out a plan of action. Decide whether you can finish out your semester or if the situation is urgent enough that you should leave right away.

In some serious family situations, a college may be willing to work with you. If you have to depart suddenly to help your family, you may be able to take your finals later. This is more likely to happen if your emergency takes place close to the end of the semester. If the semester is just beginning, they may be able to offer a partial refund for the semester. Either way, it’s a good idea to be in tight communications with professors and administrators during family issues. If you are vocal about your problems early on, there’s a better chance your school will support you.

Physical or mental health issues

Physical health

In order to be an effective student, you need to have your own affairs in order. That means you need to be in good physical and mental shape. If you are suffering from a physical injury or illness, your studies will be impeded. Depending on the issue, you may be able to work out a solution with your school. 

For example, some students may only need to take a few weeks off to deal with a physical barrier. Talk to your doctor to determine how much rest you’ll need. Afterwards, try speaking with your advisor and professors. See if you can work out a plan to finish out the semester while accommodating your medical issues. If this isn’t possible, it’s probably a good idea to take a break from college. Your health should come before your academic studies.

Mental health issues

If you are struggling with mental health issues, you’re not alone. A 2023/2023 study found that 41% of college students had issues with depression. Similarly to mental health issues, you’ll have to listen to what you need. Look inwardly and speak to your psychologist or psychiatrist. Determine how much time you need off, and whether you think you can finish out your semester. If you are in between semesters, work with your counselor to decide whether you are equipped to start a new one. 

Make sure to take the time that you need. It’s better to decide you’ll take a break before the semester starts, than to decide after. You’ll avoid spending unnecessary money and entering a stressful situation.

Poor grades

If your grades are not looking good, you may want to take some time off to regroup. You’re paying to be at school, and if you are not performing well, you’re wasting money. Your poor grades may be due to extenuating circumstances, or a sign that you are uninterested in your major. Or you could just be in over your head and need to reduce your courseload or find more support. If you think that you can return to school and improve your grades by changing something, go for it. But if you need time to identify and remedy the problem, you should take it.

Inability to decide on a field of study

Let’s say that you have been taking classes in neurology and studio art. You know you won’t be able to double major, but you can’t decide between the two fields. It could be a good idea to take some time off to decide. If you really can only pursue one of the fields of study, and you can’t decide which to commit to, it’s better to take time off to decide than spend more time pursuing a major you’ll switch. 

Remember, every semester you show up to school, you are spending your time and money. Make sure that you are spending it wisely before you decide to return.

Also read: How to choose a major

Financial difficulties

If there’s been a change in your or your parents’ financial situation, you may need to take an academic break. If your parents lost their income, you may be unsure whether you can afford the next semester. Speak with your financial aid office and your parents to determine whether you can afford it. You may be able to work with your financial aid office to adjust your award accordingly. Alternatively, if you need to take time off, you could get a job to help fund your return to school.

Also see: How to write a financial aid appeal letter and Emergency financial aid for college students

Job offer you can’t refuse

This is the most optimistic choice on the list, but also one of the least common. If you are in school and receive a perfect job offer, it can be a good idea to take a break from school. The job may be the perfect role you’ve been looking for, or it could be high-paying and you could be in need of money. Either way, a job offer could be a good reason to step away from school. You can always go back, but the job offer may not be there forever.

What to consider if you decide to take a break

Although there are some great reasons to take a break from college, students should be sure to learn the consequences of the decision before they go through with it. Depending on your situation, taking a break from college could affect a lot.

Changes in financial aid

Some forms of financial aid may discontinue if you take a break. Private scholarships, federal grants and loans, and institutional grants all have different terms for what happens if you take a break. Some grants may even require that you repay them if you don’t eventually obtain your degree.

Make sure to check in with your financial aid department if you are thinking of taking a break. If you are a private scholarship recipient, you should also reach out to them. Make sure that you know how your grants, scholarships, and loans will be affected before you decide.

Related: How many credit hours do you need for financial aid?

Learn about the process for returning to college

If you plan on returning to your college, check in with the registrar before you make a decision. You should learn what you will have to do to re-enroll should you decide to do so. Oftentimes, taking a break from college is unavoidable. But even if the results won’t affect your decision, you should know what you are getting yourself into.

Assess your student loans

If you’ve taken out student loans, you should learn how dropping out will impact them. Depending on the length of your break, some loans may enter repayment. Most will begin to accrue interest as well. Learn whether you can work with your loan servicer to work out a flexible repayment plan and figure out how you will afford payments if it comes down to that.

Also see: All about income-driven repayment plans

Next steps for deciding whether to take a break from college

Deciding to take a break from college is a tough decision. No one wants to fall behind from their class and lose their rhythm. But for some students, it’s a necessity. If you decide that you need to take a break, just remember you can make the transition smoother for yourself. Communicate with your school and your professors openly and often. Learn how your financial aid and loans will be affected, and you’ll be able to make an educated choice. Good luck!

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