Taking a Break from College: When to Consider a Year Off

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No one decides to go to college expecting to drop out. But there are times when extenuating circumstances, or even self-discovery, can show you that college isn’t the best option for you right now.

And it’s not uncommon, either: 40% of college students don’t complete college within six years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Taking a break from college is a hard step and can feel like a failure for some people. But in many cases, it’s the smartest move. Here’s how you can decide if it’s the right choice for you.

Taking a break from college: 6 times it makes sense

1. Facing a financial hardship
2. Dealing with a personal or family crisis
3. Grades are slipping
4. Not sure college is right for you
5. Unsure of your major
6. Got a great job offer

Sticking with college when it’s not right for you can waste time and money, damage your academic record and create needless student debt.

On the other hand, taking a break from college when you think you should can help you. You’ll preserve your good GPA and academic performance and remain eligible for financial aid.

Plus, if you do it the right way, you’ll leave the door open for possible re-enrollment if you decide to go back to college down the road.

Below are some common situations when taking a break from college can be your best way to find a path forward.

1. Facing a financial hardship

Facing a financial hardship that leaves you without the funds to pay for college is a legitimate reason to pause your education.

For instance, perhaps a parent who is covering college costs lost their job or is otherwise unable to help you financially. Maybe you have a financial emergency of your own (like an expensive car repair or a medical bill) that eats up your college budget.

When something comes up that derails your financial plans for college, it can be worthwhile to step back from school. Take the time you need to work, earn and save money. That way, you can get back on your feet and continue your education.

You’ll also avoid some of the negative consequences of remaining in college, such as poor academic performance or racking up unaffordable student debt.

2. Dealing with a personal or family crisis

A family or personal crisis can directly affect your ability to function and perform well in college.

As a college student, you might experience a death, disability or illness in the family that leads you to consider taking a break. Or your own health or wellness issues could arise while you’re enrolled.

In these situations, you might need to consider taking a year off during college to grieve, help your family recover or otherwise get back on your feet in your personal life before continuing your education.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to professors and college administrators during this time. They usually are willing to help you out in these special circumstances and minimize the negative impact on your academic record.

3. Grades are slipping

Another reason to consider taking a break from college is if your academic performance is poor and your grades are low. If you’re struggling to keep up with schoolwork or stay motivated in class, that’s a red flag.

Poor academic performance does more than hurt your GPA; it also can put your financial aid eligibility at risk. If you get bad grades or fail multiple classes, you could fail to make “satisfactory academic progress” — and lose access to financial aid.

Taking a break from college can help you understand and address the issues that are holding you back in your studies. You can spend some time outside the classroom to resolve any obstacles to academic success without damaging your record or GPA.

4. Not sure college is right for you

Maybe you’re among the many young adults who enroll in college because it feels like the next step — some students, for example, feel pressured by their parents to continue their education. Or maybe you know you want a degree, but don’t yet have a clear plan for what to study or how college might fit into your future goals.

If you aren’t sure whether college is right for you, taking a semester off to work, travel or just catch your breath can give you time to figure out what you want without wasting money on tuition.

5. Unsure of your major

“One reason a student might benefit from withdrawing from school is if they decide they do not like the major they’re pursuing,” said Brian Morris, communications coordinator for textbook exchange website Direct Textbook.

Switching majors midstream is costly anyway, but continuing to take unnecessary credit hours only adds to debt,” said Morris, adding that students should take a break, explore and even work in different career fields before returning.

“By doing so, they can save on college expenses and potentially earn money to put toward a degree they really want,” Morris said. “Plus, they can determine whether they truly want to pursue that degree.”

6. Got a great job offer

Let’s say you receive a great full-time job offer before you finish your degree.

For many people, college is a path to the career they want. But if you can land your ideal job and income without a degree, it’s worth considering — even if it means dropping out of school mid-semester.

Just make sure you understand how completing a degree could affect you down the line. Your current employer might not care about an incomplete degree, but that doesn’t mean the next one won’t.

What’s more, you might be able to finish your degree while working and “perhaps even work out an arrangement in which [your] employer helps pay for [your] school,” according to Morris.

Steps to take when taking a break from school

1. Understand how dropping out affects student aid
2. Meet with a financial aid officer
3. Talk to a college advisor
4. Find ways to continue earning credits
5. File a withdrawal or leave of absence
6. Know your student loan repayment options

Learning how to take a year off during college the right way can make a world of difference in terms of how easy it is (or isn’t) to return to school.

Follow these steps and make sure you understand all the implications of dropping out of college and how to set yourself up for success — whether you go back to school or not.

1. Understand how dropping out affects student aid

If you end up dropping out of college mid-semester, you might lose your scholarship or, worse, be required to repay financial aid, including grants.

2. Meet with a financial aid officer

You should meet and speak with your financial aid office. A financial aid officer can review the specifics of your situation and tell you whether you will need to repay financial aid.

They also can help you understand how a withdrawal could affect your financial aid eligibility and explain how to re-enroll in the future.

3. Talk to a college advisor

You also might want to meet with an academic advisor to discuss your plans and options. They can help you create a path to reach your goals, whether it’s a job that might not require a degree or an eventual return to college.

4. Find ways to continue earning credits

“There are ways to stay on track while taking that break,” said Adrian Ridner, CEO and co-founder of Study.com.

“Get creative and explore alternative credit options like online courses or competency-based exams,” Ridner explained. “Just be sure to check with your college about whether the credits will be eligible to transfer.”

5. File a withdrawal or leave of absence

You should make your withdrawal from school official with the registrar’s office. Make sure you ask for and fill out all required forms, so your enrollment status is up to date.

6. Know your student loan repayment options

In most cases, student loans are due six months after enrollment ends. If you’re dropping out with student loans, do some research about student loan repayment options that can help.

Options like income-driven repayment, deferment or forbearance can help with unaffordable student loan bills.

Although taking a break from college can be scary, that doesn’t mean it’s not the right move. If life is overwhelming or you’re confused about where you’re headed, taking a break from school can give you the space to work through your challenges.

Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.

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2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

  1. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
     
  2. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 7/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.


3 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
  2. View Auto Reward Debit Reward Terms and Conditions at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/AutoDebitReward.
  3. Aggregate loan limits apply.
  4. Lowest APRs shown are available for the most creditworthy applicants and include an interest-only repayment discount and Auto Debit Reward. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including undergraduate and graduate loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.375% as of July 1, 2020. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Our lowest APR is only available to customers with the best credit and other factors. Your APR will be determined after you apply. It will be based on your credit history, which repayment option you choose and other factors, including your cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates.
  5. Get a variable interest rate from 2.37% APR to 6.14% APR (3-Month LIBOR + 2.00% to 3-Month LIBOR + 5.77%) for either a 10-year or 20-year repayment term. Or lock in a fixed interest rate from 3.99% APR to 7.49% APR for a 10-year repayment term or from 4.24% APR to 7.74% APR for a 20-year repayment term. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.375% as of July 1, 2020. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Rates include 0.25% Auto Pay Discount
     
  2. Explanation of Rates “With Autopay” (APD)
    Rates shown include 0.25% APR discount when client agrees to make monthly principal and interest payments by automatic electronic payment. Use of autopay is not required to receive an Earnest loan.

    Available Terms
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    Primary Only – 10, 12, 15 years

    In school deferred payment is not available in AL, AZ, CA, FL, MA, MD, MI, ND, NY, PA, and WA).


5 Important Disclosures for Ascent.

Ascent Disclosures

Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.

  1. Competitive variable rates calculated monthly at the time of loan approval based on a margin plus the 1-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percent. The current LIBOR is 0.667%, which may adjust monthly. Your interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes. Rates are effective as of 06/01/2020 and reflect an Automatic Payment Discount. Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. (See Automatic Payment Discount Terms & Conditions.)
    1. Undergraduate Loans: Variable rate loans have an Annual Percentage (APR) range between 2.73% – 13.01%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 3.84% – 14.50% based on your credit worthiness and your selected program. Rates reflect an Automatic Payment Discount of 0.25% (for Credit-Based Loans) on the lowest offered rate and a 2.00% discount on the highest offered rate (See Undergraduate Loan repayment examples.)
    2. Graduate Loans: Loans have an APR range between 4.11% and 10.78% based on your credit worthiness and your selected program. Rates reflect an Automatic Payment Discount of 0.25%. (See Graduate Loan repayment examples.)
  2. Payments may be deferred. Subject to lender discretion, forbearance and/or deferment options may be available for borrowers who are encountering financial distress.
  3. Making interest only or partial interest payments while in school will not reduce the principal balance of the loan. There are three (3) flexible in-school repayment options that include fully deferred, interest only and $25 minimum repayment. (See Undergraduate Loan repayment examples.)
  4. Flexible repayment plans may be offered up to a fifteen (15) year repayment term for a variable rate loan and ten (10) year repayment term for a fixed rate loan. Students must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. Minimum loan amount is $2,000.
  5. Interest rate reduction of 0.25% for enrollment in automatic debit applies only when the borrower and/or cosigner signs up for automatic payments and the regularly scheduled, current amount due (including full, flat, or interest only payments, as applicable) is successfully deducted from the designated bank account each month. Interest rate reduction(s) will not apply during periods when no payment is due, including periods of In-School, Deferment, Grace or Forbearance. If you have two (2) returned payments for Nonsufficient Funds, we may cancel your automatic debit enrollment and you will lose the 0.25% interest rate reduction. You will then need to re-qualify and re-enroll in automatic debit payments to receive the 0.25% interest rate reduction.
  6. All applicants (individual and cosigner) are required to complete a brief online financial literacy course as part of the application process to be eligible for funding.
  7. Eligibility, loan amount and other loan terms are dependent on several factors, which may include: loan product, other financial aid, creditworthiness, school, program, graduation date, major, cost of attendance and other factors. Aggregate loan limits may apply. The cost of attendance is determined and certified by the educational institution.
  8. The legal age for entering into contracts is eighteen (18) years of age in every state except Alabama where it is nineteen (19) years old, Nebraska where it is nineteen (19) years old (only for wards of the state), and Mississippi and Puerto Rico where it is twenty-one (21) years old.
  9. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details. In order to be eligible for the 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward, borrower must meet the following criteria after graduation:
    • The student borrower has graduated from the degree program that the loan was used to fund.
    • The student borrower may change majors and/or transfer to a different school, but must obtain the same level of degree (e.g. – undergraduate or graduate)
    • The graduation date is more than 90 days and less than five (5) years after the date of the loan’s first disbursement.
    • Any loan that the student has borrowed under the Ascent loan is not more than 30-days delinquent or in a default status as of the graduation date and until any Graduation Reward is paid.
  10. Students can apply to release their cosigner and continue with the loan in only their name after making the first 24 consecutive regularly scheduled full principal and interest payments on-time and meeting the other eligibility criteria to qualify for the loan without a cosigner.

* Application times vary depending on the applicant’s ability to supply the necessary information for submission.


6 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).

  1.  Rates are as of July 1, 2019 and include auto-pay discount. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.