Is It Okay to Take a Gap Year/Break From College?

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By: Elana Goodwin, Uloop

As a parent, you want your student to succeed at university and know the value of a college education. But sometimes there are extenuating circumstances in which your student may need to take a gap semester or year from school. Even if you may not fully understand why your student wants to take a break from college, it’s important you support their decision if it’s for the right reasons.

Here are some situations that your student may be facing or going through that would prompt them to want to take a break from school — and when it’s okay to do so.

If they are questioning their motives

Sometimes students get to college and realize they do not really know why they are there or what they want to do. Rather than them just taking random classes and changing majors multiple times a semester in the hopes of finding one they like and that will stick, taking some time away from school may be valuable.

During their break, they can spend time exploring different jobs and gaining work experience and maturity to help them decide what career path they want to take before returning to school with renewed focus and clarity. Before deciding to take a break from school for this reason, your student should talk to their academic advisor to see if they have any resources or advice that would help your student tackle this uncertainty as plenty of students have encountered this issue.

If there is a family situation

If someone in your family is dealing with a major illness, there’s been a death, or some other major upheaval has occurred that would greatly impact your college student’s ability to really concentrate and do well at college, it may be worth it for them to take a semester off.

It is hard to go to class, do homework, work at your job, and socialize like a normal student when a family crisis is happening. If your student recognizes that whatever is going on at home is impacting their life at school negatively and they’re unable to compartmentalize, taking a break from college may be crucial. They may find that coming home for a semester and being there to help deal with whatever is going on in the family is key to their future success at college and you should support their decision to do so.

If money is an issue

College is very expensive — and even if your student received a financial aid package from their university, it does not mean the remaining costs of school are affordable for your student or family. Perhaps worrying about money is affecting your student’s ability to concentrate and thrive in their courses or they cannot juggle a job with the demands of classes.

If paying for school becomes a struggle or your student has taken out excessive loans to cover tuition costs, taking a break from university to work may help them financially in the long run, even if they lose some of their momentum. Before your student takes some time off school to work and save money, talk to the university’s financial aid office or appeal the financial aid package your student received to see if there are any more available monies or fiscal resources that can help.

If they find they are struggling to keep up

Even if your student did really well in high school academically, they may find college to be a challenging transition that they are failing to conquer. It’s not always just a certain class or professor that your student is finding hard to perform well for — sometimes it’s the level of the work expected that they are just not prepared to do. If that is the case, taking some time off of school and going to community college classes or getting some tutoring or other help with integral skills may be the best answer so your student can then go back to university ready to triumph.

If they are dealing with a mental health concern

College is a very stressful time and if your student is not handling that stress well and realizes it, taking a break from schooling may be beneficial and important for their overall health and well-being. Many students deal with anxiety and depression while at university and overcoming those issues can often take professional help.

If your student recognizes they are not in a good mental place to be going to classes and trying to deal with schoolwork, it may be a good idea for them to take some time off school and focus on their health. Once those issues are dealt with, they can return to school more committed and able to really dedicate themselves to their studies.

Not all students follow the linear four-year path to a college degree — and that’s okay. Discuss the issues or reasons behind why your student wants to take a break from school and make plans as to how that time off from school will be spent addressing and solving those problems so your student can then return to school better than ever.

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