Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Taking time off can be conflicting for students

After graduating from high school, many students head straight to college the next fall without skipping a beat. Some students, though, decide to take time off from classrooms either before or during their time in college.

Cheyenne Paiva, a third-year biology major, has taken eight months off during her college career – one fall semester and one summer. Paiva said she was burned out and needed a break before continuing her education.

“I basically had my quarter-life crisis,” Paiva said. “If a student got that stressed, I would definitely recommend taking time off.”

Paiva used her time off to get a “dead-end job” at Target and to become more financially independent. Paiva said working in retail also put her situation and stress in perspective.

“You inherently meet people who have faced more challenges than you can even imagine and challenges more difficult than you know exist,” Paiva said. “You learn that everyone has a hard story. They remind you what it’s like and why it’s important to work hard.”

Laura Moore, a sophomore majoring in anthropology, said she also needed a break in routine. Although Moore did not take a full semester off, she reduced her student status to part-time.

“I worked about 25-35 hours a week between two jobs and was beginning treatment for OCD, so I was overwhelmed by my personal life, so to speak,” Moore said. “I am also behind because I started college at Tulane in New Orleans.”

Taking time off can have both positive and negative consequences. On one hand, students have time to get their life in order, whether they’re addressing health issues, overcoming a burnout or learning to better juggle several activities. There’s also money to be made and financial stability to reach for.

Taking time off can have its drawbacks, though. Students will be behind their peers and graduate later than they initially planned. This gap can cause tension with friends and family members.

“It was difficult just because the time apart really damaged most of my friendships,” Paiva said. “I lost things to talk about with people who probably would’ve been my best friends if I had stayed. Also, I underestimated how hard it would be to transition back to being a student.”

Students can also lose scholarships if they decide to take time away from school.

OVERSET FOLLOWS:Hannah Wolter, a junior majoring in nursing, went straight to college after high school instead of opting for a break.

“I knew I had to go to college to have the career that I wanted, and I didn’t want to wait to get started,” Wolter said. “The sooner you start school the sooner you get out.”

Wolter said she also worked a job as a full-time student, a workload many UA undergraduates shoulder.

Although there are some consequences from taking time off after high school, Harvard University and other schools are encouraging students to take a “gap year” following their enrollment into the institution.

Harvard’s website has a page dedicated to explaining how students should find time between high school and college to engage in “a special project or activity, work or spend time in another meaningful way.”

According to an Australian study of 2,502 students published by the Journal of Educational Psychology, taking time off before pursuing higher education leads to higher levels of motivation. These students often found employment, traveled or took part in internships in their planned course of study.

“The best time to try new things is when you’re young,” Paiva said. “Taking off a semester to figure things out first is definitely better than graduating with a degree only to realize that you never bothered to figure out anything,”

Timothy Alford, the 100-level coordinator for the Spanish Program at the University, said he took time off before and during his college years.

“I didn’t go straight to college,” Alford said, “I wanted to be a banjo player in a bluegrass band, and I did that for a couple years. Then I went to a junior college, then I took some more time off to work.”

Alford urged students to take time off while they are young to find out what they want to do and discover things about themselves.

“I have three daughters, and I always encouraged them to do something similar,” Alford said. “And it worked out for them.”

He said that two of his three daughters took time off during and after college to pursue their interests.

“When you take time to be of service to others, you can discover what your passion is,” Alford said, “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that’s a very important thing for young people to do.”

Taking time off is a personal decision for every student and should not be taken lightly. It is best to consult with parents, families or close friends and consider all possibilities before committing to take time off. The UA Career Center or academic advisers can also assist students in making this decision.

More to Discover