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Taking Time Off From College? Here's How to Do IT Right

While most students prefer to complete a degree program on schedule, life circumstances sometimes require an academic break. Leaving school doesn't have to mean not earning a degree, though - individuals can exit college on good terms and use time off to prepare for a successful return. Find advice for students taking time off from school.

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1. Should you take time off?

Make sure you think it through carefully before deciding to take time off. Know what the ultimate reason is for doing so, and find out if there are other options, such as transferring to another school or taking fewer classes. Make sure your decision isn't based on emotion.

2. Talk with your family.

Share your reason for wanting to take time off with your loved ones. Accept their feedback with an open mind as you weigh your decision.

3. Keep going to classes.

Rather than dropping out immediately, go to class until you can review your options. If you stop going to class, you may lose money or receive a failing grade, which could negatively affect your GPA.

4. Seek financial guidance.

Every college has different policies in terms of when to drop a course without being penalized both monetarily and on your transcript. You can find out the dates and penalties for dropping a course by visiting a college advisor.

Also, consider any financial implications for taking time off from school. Your scholarship funds or federal grants may be forfeited, which can drastically change your economic status.

5. Let your school know about your decision.

After receiving your family's input, exploring academic consequences and examining financial aid factors, you should be ready to make a decision. If you do plan to leave school, inform your college and complete any exit paperwork that's required. Note that you may be responsible for contacting providers of campus services individually to let them know you'll no longer be at the school.

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6. Explore who you are and your academic goals.

A break from school can help you figure out what you want to do in life. You may want to start an internship or even become a volunteer in the field of your interest. You may even want to consider traveling or getting a full-time job. Whatever you decide to do in the meantime, make sure you're being productive and using your time off wisely.

7. Make preparations to return.

Any plan you make should include a return-to-college date. If you won't be returning to the same school, do your homework on new colleges. Be aware of admissions, academic and financial aid deadlines to avoid jeopardizing your return.

8. Get any help you might need to come back strong.

Some students exit school due to mental illness, assault, or family tragedy. Make sure you get all the necessary help to return to school successfully by seeking the support of advisors and college counselors. When you do return, participate in welcoming activities to feel more connected on campus, especially if you're a transfer student. Getting the necessary support can help ensure you don't leave school again until after you've graduated.

Are you losing interest in your field of study? Find out when its time to change your major.

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