It’s Totally Okay to Take a Semester Off and Here’s Why

All I’ve ever heard from friends and family was that taking a break from school is the worst thing you could ever do. “You’ll never go back!” was something I heard at least a hundred times. I was left feeling dejected and a little bit confused. I wanted so bad to take a break and travel for a bit. On the flip-side, I also wanted to finish school, I’ve worked so hard to be where I am. And if all these people were right, either I should give up on my dreams to travel or give up on school. 

Instead, I ignored them and I took a break and now I’m headed back to start my senior year! I don’t regret my time away at all, in fact, I’d encourage anyone to do the same!

You’ll never feel more rested after taking a well-deserved break. It’s never a bad idea to put yourself first. Like a lot of students, I’ve worked every summer since I was 15. For five years I’ve done a cycle of school, work, school, work and back again. I haven’t had a chance to rest my brain, even for just a few months, since my sophomore year of high school. Being able to take four months off of school, I could focus more on the fun things in my life; hiking, hanging with friends, making art and simply taking a minute to breathe. 

I’m returning to college ready to learn again. I had my chance to rest and now I feel more prepared than ever to tackle another year of school. Normally for me spring semester comes with dread, disinterest and the heavy weight of exhaustion. However, this year, spring brings the excitement of new beginnings.

A semester off is a chance to explore the world. Many of us scroll through Instagram watching influencers travel constantly. It’s so easy to sit and dream of living the life they do. And let me tell you— you totally can! If you save and plan the right way, you can take a trip and live at the cost you normally would staying home. It may be for a short time, but you’ll benefit from taking that first step out your door. 

When we took our trip, I felt accomplished. Since I was a kid I’ve dreamed of backpacking through Europe and after a year of planning and saving, I was able to do it! 

There is no better time to learn about yourself than when you’re pressing pause on life. There will be very few (if any) other chances for you to take a moment to put yourself first. You are living in the time before you’ve picked a career path, started a family, or settling in somewhere, so why not take advantage of that? Make it a priority to take time for just you. Read new books, take at least one new hike, try that new facemask you put in the back of your bathroom drawer. Listen to new music and share it with others. If you give yourself the chance to be a priority, you begin to learn what makes you happy. 

While you are not fulfilling life-long dreams of world-travel, you can be working and growing your savings. This will only work if you have a job that is willing to give you more hours for a few months. If your boss and schedule are flexible, add some more hours to your paycheck. Take advantage of this new-found freedom and save more money for when you’re back in school! Adding to your savings can only relieve stress later!

How to plan for taking a semester off:

  • Save now and plan a budget.

I planned for about a year before I took my semester off. I told myself I had to have some sort of a plan so that I wasn’t just sitting on my couch for four months. I talked with my employer about working more. I planned an entire backpacking trip and budgeted for every week of my break. I ended up spending a little more than expected, but if I hadn’t have budgeted I would have been broke by the end! Budgeting takes a lot of stress off taking that long of a break. 

  • Plan your trip in advance (if you want to take one)

If you book ahead of time you’ll save more money than you’d expect. In my own experience, I booked a four-star hotel in Germany four months in advance and got it 75% off! Make planning your trip a fun thing on your To-Do list. I loved how it felt to book a train or excursion. It made me look forward to taking that break even more. 

  • Prepare for next semester.

Sign up for classes as soon as you can. Make a plan to return to school so that you can’t give up on it. Finishing college is important and no matter how awesome it was to take that break, it’s also awesome to finish your degree. You’ve worked hard to be where you are, make sure you follow through!

College is tough; it’s a huge commitment in time and money. I think it’s important to take a step back and realize why you’re working so hard. When your head is filled with thoughts of your next class and final grades,it can be hard to remember the reason you’re doing this. Taking a semester off is the best thing I’ve ever done to clear my mind and get excited about going back to school. Whether it’s to give yourself a mental break, to see the world or just to make more money, taking a semester off is definitely a valuable experience.