What to Consider Before Taking a Semester Off

There are many reasons why you may like to take a semester off, including for health reasons, to rest after a tough year, or to pursue another opportunity. However, putting your education on hold is by no means an easy decision. It will mean you graduate later than your friends and it could even be difficult to return if you land a good job. To determine if taking a semester off is the right choice for you, there are a few factors to consider.

1. What Your Academic Advisor Thinks

To leave for a semester, you need to do more than simply not sign up for any more classes. It’s important to inform someone at your university — and an academic advisor is a top choice. You’ll be able to discuss your situation and conclude whether taking a semester off is your best option, as there may be alternatives you hadn’t considered.

2. How It Will Impact Financial Aid

Stepping away from university could impact your eligibility for the financial aid you’re receiving, like loans or scholarships. Losing financial aid could make it prohibitively expensive to take a break from education. On the flip side, if you will be working during the semester you take off, it could end up being easier to pay for university. The financial aid office at your university will be able to give you more information about your situation.

3. What You’ll Do Instead

It’s important to know in advance how you’ll spend the semester you’re not at university, both to placate family members, friends, and professors who may be worried about your decision and to ensure you make the most of your time. Of course, you can always change your mind about what you’d like to do if a better option turns up, but it’s still a good idea to have at least a vague idea of what you want to do.

For instance, you may like to go abroad to improve your foreign language skills, find a job in the field you want to enter, or search for an internship. You could even use the chance to explore different options to confirm whether your major is right for you.
It’s best if whatever you do ties in with your long-term goals but also meets your short-term needs, whether that’s recovering from burnout, reassessing what you want in life, or something else entirely.

4. Whether You Want to Return

If you want to take a semester off because you’re not enjoying your time at university, the solution could be to transfer to a different school. Perhaps you’re finding it difficult to be far from home, you’re struggling to fit in at a large institution when you could be thriving at a smaller school, or you would prefer to enroll in a program that better suits your career goals.

5. How You’ll Return

No matter if you want to come back to your current university or enroll elsewhere, you should have an idea of how you’ll return to education. You’ll need to talk to the school about requirements to sign up for classes again, consider how you’ll rejoin clubs and other extracurriculars, and figure out your financial situation. If you’re taking a semester off due to burnout or health issues, you’ll also need to be prepared for the possibility that you won’t be ready to return after just one semester. In this case, you’ll need to find out if it makes any difference if you decide to come back after two or more semesters.

You’ll also need to find somewhere to live when you return to university. For Waterloo off-campus housing, there are Preston House and Bridgeport House, both of which are just a short walk from campus. You’ll have the chance to meet many new people in the communal areas, and you can request to be matched with roommates who have a similar study style to you. Book a tour to check out the suites and onsite amenities at the building of your choice.