Taking time off rekindles scholastic motivation

Illustration by Jared Javier / Xpress

Sometimes school gets the best of you. Sometimes the work load is too much, or the frat parties are too fun, or you’d rather sleep through your morning class and get brunch instead, and then it just feels awkward to go back because the semester’s already five weeks in and everyone probably knows each other by now and suddenly you’ve become “that guy” who only shows up for midterm, which you are totally, obviously going to bomb.

I’m here to tell you that’s okay.

Don’t get me wrong. Someday, you’re going to look back wistfully on the skipped classes and the wasted money. Someday, you’re going to wish you stuck it out and finished what you started. But some people just need a break.

To my mother’s dismay, the first few semesters of my college experience were more a of social experiment than a straight shot to summa cum laude cords. I took an academic leave after a particularly botched semester and, honestly, I was disappointed in myself for dicking around and failing to meet everyone else’s expectations. But the truth is, dropping out was my best move. I needed time to grow.

An increasing number of high school graduates are opting to take time off before college to work or travel. If you didn’t get that downtime, research says you might be missing out.

Illustration by Jared Javier / Xpress

Illustration by Jared Javier / Xpress

Harvard reports students who take a gap year dig into university studies with more vigor. They actually encourage students to defer enrollment in their letter of admission, as the time away commonly reinforces a student’s choice of major or redirects them down a new path. Data from the American Gap Association, a nonprofit organization researching the benefits of gap years, shows these students almost always outperform individuals who do not take any time off.

It isn’t too late to take that break. Maybe, like me, you landed in lecture halls before you were ready. Dwindling motivation might be a sign that you haven’t found your niche yet and you need to get out and live a little. You might need some time to fly the coop and explore the big bad world before you find that one thing you’re really passionate about. Because you are passionate about something. And if you give yourself the chance to experience all of those things that you need to experience, you’re going to find it.

Did you know SF State will let you take up to two years off without dropping you? You can skip one full semester without notifying anyone, and if you plan to be gone longer than that you just need to fill out a leave of absence form and explain how time away from campus will improve your performance at school.

I’m not a runner, but I’ve often heard education referred to as a marathon. I imagine that implies you need to find your own pace. And if it feels like you need to catch your breath, it’s not a bad idea to step away from campus and find some clarity before you either lose interest altogether or find yourself down a career path that isn’t the right fit for you.