It isn’t unusual for college students to take a leave of absence or semester “break” during their four years. Seniors, the most common suspects, can “graduate early” if they have fulfilled their major requirements, but must remain enrolled until they can walk the stage. But for those of us who are only halfway through college (and dragging through every minute of it), taking a semester off may not seem like a bad idea.

Sitting out a semester and returning the next does have its perks; you can take time to save up for tuition, recover from a serious injury (medical leave), or just take some time to rethink your career path. Whatever the reason, here are some things to consider before taking your leave:


Semester breaks can save you not only a semester’s worth of tuition but also book fees, housing costs, and Greek/honor society membership fees. However, if you spend close to the amount during your break that you do during a semester, you may want to reconsider your options. Moving back home, taking up a part-time job, or simply keeping a tight budget will help you get financially secure and back to school in no time.

While taking your semester off, you will have plenty of opportunities to review your financial plan for the next few years. Consider taking the semester to recover financially if you are worried about being able to afford your degree. Saving up now could lead to many future opportunities once you return.

New opportunities or field experience

If you are lucky enough to be offered an internship or other form of experience relevant to your major, you may be forced to choose between your credit and work hours. If your schedule is already tight, even with one or two classes, taking a temporary leave may be a good idea. If your university offers academic credit for relevant internships or job opportunities, think about applying in order to keep your credit hours up and stay on track to graduation.

Non-academic travel

Not every experience abroad can be considered study abroad. With a rising number of short-term and experience-based travel programs being made available for students, the time is perfect to go abroad.

Even without a formal program to pursue, opportunities to travel and explore the world (in and outside of the U.S.) pop up all the time. Taking a semester (or half-semester) leave in order to fulfill your burning wanderlust is never a bad idea. Memories of time spent with friends and stories to draw on can only enhance your college experience, so long as you keep your graduation plan in mind when choosing to go abroad.


Burn out happens and so does depression. And although we’ve all tried to fight the temptation, sometimes there just isn’t enough energy left to continue our studies. Whether your wound is physical or mental, you have to take time for yourself. Thankfully, most universities offer medical leave, or a special enrollment plan granted to students going through tough times in place of a traditional semester break. Depending on the university, medical leave may require approval based on documentation or another formal record of the situation.

Applying for medical leave may take time (especially if you apply mid-semester), but if it’s a break you need, it may be the best option if you are truly unable to continue with your classes. If you are unable to take a medical leave, using a semester break to recover or bounce back from “burnout” can also help (just watch your credits!).

Return rate

Not everyone returns from a semester break, and that’s okay. Sometimes a short break is all you need to realize university life isn’t for you. Whether you plan is to jump into the workforce or enroll in technical college or certificate program, a semester leave is a good time to sit down and consider your options, especially if you’re on a timeline.

If you are planning to transfer universities and need a little time to catch up, a semester break may also help. This will allow you time to tour your future school, catch up on advising, and experience the life of an incoming freshman once again. However, keep in mind that your graduation date may depend on the semester you transfer in, so if you’d like to walk in the spring be sure to check with your new university before taking off.