It was the end of fall 2017, and I had just completed my third semester at Prairie View A&M University. I knew I wanted to transfer schools, but I didn’t know where exactly I wanted to transfer to. There were a lot of questions that needed answers I simply couldn’t provide at the time. Then it came to me — in order to get the answers, I needed to sit out to develop the questions.
There are countless advantages to taking a semester off from college. It can be beneficial mentally, physically, spiritually, or in my case, all of the above. Without question, taking a semester off can encourage and foster personal growth and self-discovery.
“I knew I needed time off to regroup,” said journalism senior Kennedy Williams, who sat out what would have been the second semester of her sophomore year after transferring from NYU to UT. “I needed (the time) to move into my new school stronger, with a clear mind and with more clarity on what exactly I wanted to do.”
Searching for answers, I went on to spend my spring 2018 semester as an official college dropout.
The first thing that comes with sitting out of college is an abundance of free time, and it must be managed both responsibly and productively.
“I think students can benefit (from a semester off) if they make good use of their time,” said associate psychology professor Juan Dominguez. “Plan your time off ahead of time. If not, you’ll spend half of the time trying to figure out what you want to do instead of spending all the time doing whatever it is that may be.”
To my surprise, I spent the majority of my time introspecting rather than researching possible future colleges.
Each day during my semester off, I would sit down alone and focus solely on how I was feeling and what was going on around me. In doing this, I discovered I wasn’t necessarily happy with where I was in my life. I felt I hadn’t accomplished enough and wasn’t where I needed to be spiritually. Without sitting that semester out, I would have never acknowledged those feelings and sought change.
“Sitting out gave me some more hope,” said management information systems junior Daniel Waite, who’s currently taking a semester off from Arizona State University. “I’m not done pulling myself out of some stuff, but now, I can weigh my options, and I have something to look forward to.”
Aside from the opportunity for introspection, taking a semester off can also be stress relieving. As college students, we’re asked to take on heavy workloads and are burdened with a variety of responsibilities.
“We bring students into a college setting and tell (them they) have less than four years to find a career and this is what you’ll be doing the rest of your life,” Dominguez said. “It’s the equivalent of me telling someone to build a building with no prior knowledge.”
As college students, we face this tough reality every day, and it can be mentally exhausting. Sitting out for a semester allows us to take a break from the strict deadlines and everyday lectures, giving us an opportunity to further evaluate our aspirations.
“You’re taught in high school that if you want to be successful, you have to go to college, but really, there are other options,” Waite said. “Taking a break helped me weigh all of the options because college is not the only option, even though they make you think that.”
Weigh all your options — nothing’s off the table.
West Jr. is a journalism sophomore from New Orleans, Louisiana.