When going into college, or any other career path, there’s always a timeline. You are told to work hard, to take so-and-so courses, and to graduate on time. You meet with advisors to ensure that you can complete your degree in the allotted time frame—however, what if you didn’t? What if you actually took an extra two years, or finished earlier? What would happen? The simple answer is nothing. You should follow your own timeline without feeling the need to follow “standards.”
As a freshmen student, you are already transitioning into a whole new world. High school might have been a breeze for you but you might find yourself overwhelmed with the rigorous workload and courses that you may be required to take. Why make this transition harder? If you are feeling overwhelmed, it is time to assess your situation. You might be overloading, comparing yourself to your peers, or trying to follow the “traditional” path to graduation. Reflect on your situation and then decide if you need tutoring, a lesser course load, or even if you need to take a semester off.
When it comes to falling victim to comparing yourself to others, you might know so many people who followed the traditional path that you are afraid to step outside your comfort zone or listen to your needs. If you are afraid that people will judge you for taking a less rigorous course load, it’s important to take a step back and say, “So what?” This probably won’t matter to you in five years and the only person who should be involved in deciding a career path is you. No advisor should tell you that it is necessary to graduate in four years. The advisors might be looking out for your best interests, but ultimately this decision is entirely yours.
If you are debating taking a semester off—do it. You can travel, study for a standardized exam, do an internship at a health institute, and many other activities that may be calling your name. College is a great time to gain experience outside of the classroom. Spend time with your family, take a break for your mental health, or even just take the semester off to spend time at home sleeping in (you deserve it after those 8 am classes!). Whatever the case may be, be sure to step back and evaluate your situation. The benefits of this can be of paramount value. If you come back a semester later, you will find yourself energized, less likely to experience burn-out, and it’ll be a fresh start for you! Always learn to say no, to be aware of what your boundaries may be, and what makes you feel the most comfortable. Trust your instinct and how you may be feeling without comparing yourself to other people (I know this may be hard!). You decide your own timeline because your future is bright. Be non-traditional and take a chance. The outcome will be great.