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What to Know About Taking Time Off From College

Written by CB Community

There are a lot of reasons you might be considering taking time off from college as a student.

Common reasons include needing a mental break, taking time to explore what’s important to you, or you could be dealing with an injury from an accident. Some people take time off because of illnesses, or you might need to help a family member for a period of time.

Regardless of your reasons for taking time off from school, you could have some anxiety about what the experience could look like and what the effects might be.

The following are things to know about taking time off from school if you’re in college.

What is a Leave of Absence?

You’ll sometimes hear a break from college described as a leave of absence.

During a leave of absence, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed in any way.

What you should view this time as is a way to deal with issues that might be more pressing at the moment. Then, when you can return to school, you’re more likely to be successful once you’ve dealt with those issues.

A leave of absence can be voluntary or involuntary.

A voluntary leave of absence might be something like medical or personal leave.

An involuntary leave is different and means you aren’t leaving school by your own choice. Your academic performance, not following the school’s financial requirements, or personal conduct can lead to an involuntary leave of absence.

If you take a voluntary leave of absence, you’re temporarily suspending your schoolwork. Most colleges will let you take up to a year for a leave of absence, and you are still affiliated with the school.

You’re still officially enrolled if you file for leave and get approval even though you aren’t taking classes. Going through the proper channels if you’re going to take time off can help protect your grades so that you’re not withdrawing after the drop date and getting failing grades that show up on your transcript.

What is the Process Like?

Every school has its own specifics as far as the process of taking a leave of absence.

At many schools, you apply for leave either before the start of the semester or even after classes begin.

If you have a planned leave of absence, your college will likely encourage you to start the official paperwork as soon as you can, and it’s easier to take a leave of absence before the start of the semester.

If you wait until the term starts, you might have to file additional documentation. You could also be asked to submit a doctor or mental health professional letter.

A Break Isn’t The Same As Dropping Out

If you think you could benefit from time off from school, but you’re worried about taking it, realize that it’s highly beneficial for a lot of students.

Taking a break doesn’t have to be a bad thing automatically. Your education is a priority, but so are many other parts of your life.

If you take time off, some of the benefits might include:

  • You’ll get time to focus on your well-being, physically and mentally. If you’re dealing with an injury or illness and you keep trying to push through, you will suffer physically, but your education may as well. Too often, students will try to keep going without getting help or taking the time they need because they don’t want to feel like a failure. Completing your school responsibilities can feel impossible when you’re not at your best physically or mentally. Taking time lets you come back to school ready to recommit and focus.
  • Sometimes financial reasons can lead you to take time off, or you might want to avoid future financial issues by not taking classes in which you’re not going to perform your best.
  • Your time off could lead to new experiences and opportunities. For example, maybe you get a great internship or job offer. It’s okay to pursue other things in your life.

Then, there are some reasons when it’s not a good idea to take a break. If you haven’t explored all the resources available to you, or other options, you should do so before filing paperwork.

You also have to consider whether a leave of absence could affect your financial aid. It could lead your loans to go back to repayment.

Overall, time off from college is a personal decision and not one to take lightly, but it can have significant benefits for many students.

About the author

CB Community

Passionate members of the College Basics community that include students, essay writers, consultants and beyond. Please note, while community content has passed our editorial guidelines, we do not endorse any product or service contained in these articles which may also include links for which College Basics is compensated.