Taking Time Off School “Is Not Time Wasted”
by Elyse Jost
For many students, the same haunting questions accompany each new semester. The whispers of doubt weigh on the backs of their minds as they consider not going back to school. “What would it mean for me to take time off?” they wonder.
As someone who took a gap year between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college, it is hard not to be biased. However, even looking at these “gap periods” objectively, I find them to be a productive, beneficial alternative to the standard, streamlined process of graduating high school, getting a degree and starting a career.
During my gap year, I was able to dance pre-professionally in Copenhagen, Denmark. These months off also allowed me to fully prepare for ballet company auditions and gave me time to focus on and find aspects I was looking for in prospective universities. They enabled me to take the time to be thorough in my college applications and fully submerse myself in the fields I had come to realize I wanted to study in college.
Taking time off before attending a university or deciding on a major can be highly productive. Volunteering, traveling, trying out different jobs or internships in related areas can allow students to decide more easily when it comes time to declare a major. Rather than spending money on random classes in an attempt to find a passion, you can figure this out for little to no monetary expense while taking time off school.
Worried about an upcoming class? Study on your own so you can be prepared for the following semester. Students can work and save tuition money to minimize stress for the next session of school they attend, and they can also save by taking a class or two at a community college and transferring the credits back when they decide to return.
Time off is not time wasted if one uses it properly. The pros of taking time off from school far outweigh the cons, and I would encourage any student contemplating a break to think long and hard, decide and then set up a secure plan to get the most out of their gap period.
Time Away From School Means Risks and Setbacks
by Emma Tanner
People talk about taking time off from school like it’s supposed to lead to independence, personal growth, frequent international trips and making money out the wazoo at the job you didn’t have time for during school. But, contrary to expectations, taking a break from higher education doesn’t always lead to memorable adventures overseas with your friends or incredible financial savings. So, no matter the grandeur of its potential, it is important to consider the cons, as well as the pros, of taking time away from higher education.
Taking time off from school will probably set you back academically. If you’ve taken some college courses and are even into your major requirements, it is likely that you’ll forget some of what you’ve learned, and it could take some backtracking to regain the knowledge and skills you lost while away. This is a cost in terms of both money and time. You may have to spend money on review courses and tutors to regain what you’ve lost. And if you choose to dive in where you left off, you might be overwhelmed and unable to perform at the level your courses require, which could ultimately be discouraging and could cause your grades to suffer. When you don’t have a structured, consistent and engaging school schedule to adhere to, you’re left with more free time. When there’s little encouragement or reason for discipline and routine, it can be a lot easier to lose focus and abandon your goals.
People may find themselves becoming less productive — partying more and sleeping later instead of setting out on exotic adventures or working a more rigorous job schedule like they said they would. Taking time away from school can make it harder to come back, especially if your time away is extensive or if you take more than one break over the course of your academic career. It takes time, effort, relearning, adaptation, cuts in pay and disposable income, among other things, to get back into the academic system and earn a degree.
A study conducted in Texas by Toby J. Park, an assistant professor at Florida State University, revealed that while “76 percent of degree completers took a break from college. After [dropping] out for a second time, the percentage of students completing a bachelor’s degree decreases substantially.”
“If you leave twice, you’re not going to come back,” Park said. This makes taking a break seem risky. Breaks are nice, and everyone needs one here and there. But saying “hasta la vista” for too long or too many times might leave you waving goodbye to your closest friends and peers. Unless you have the tightest squad around, and everyone takes time off together, you might have to watch everyone move on without you — to more advanced and engaging courses, to graduation and desirable careers. Meanwhile, you’re left sitting next to the younger, more obnoxious and immature “hooligans” you were dealing with years ago but you don’t necessarily want to deal with anymore.
Don’t get me wrong — there is almost nothing more appealing than a productive and adventurous break from school, especially, in my opinion, between your undergraduate and graduate degrees. But to make it worth it, I think it’s important to consider the possible risks and drawbacks that may come from following through with a decision to take time away. Nothing goes without consequences of some sort, so make sure your gap year or break is worth it to you.