College is a big commitment and burnout is easy if you don’t pace yourself. That said, taking a semester off is a normal thing to do while pursuing your degree. Whether you need a quick break for personal reasons or exciting opportunities, like a once-in-a-lifetime trip or work experience, here’s what you need to know about your scholarship money before taking time off.
If you take a semester off, you will not be using loans to pay for your tuition. Most federal and private student loans have a six-month grace period, so whether you graduate, take a break, or drop out altogether, you will have a time buffer before your loan repayment bills come in. Taking a semester off should be enough time to give you a break without hitting that six-month grace period.
If you plan on taking more than six months off from school, you will be expected to start repaying your student loans. Additionally, you will need to re-enroll in you classes to reset your six-month grace period so that you aren’t hit with a bill as soon as you graduate.
Federal grants, such as the Pell Grant, will not be affected by you taking a semester off. In fact, the Pell Grant is available aid for up to six undergraduate years, and they don’t have to be consecutive. The FAFSA is completed each year, so if you take a semester or year off for a high-earning opportunity, this could affect how much aid you receive in future years.
Private scholarships and grants might require different things, so to be safe, ensure there are no stipulations to your prize money. Before deciding on whether to take a semester off, ensure that you are leaving in good standing. If you are leaving due to poor grades, this could affect merit-based scholarships and grants.
We know you can’t plan when challenging events hit your life, but avoid dropping out of your courses when possible. Attempting to take a school break when you are in the middle of a semester will negatively affect your grades and cost you a lot of money. This is especially true for individuals who receive FAFSA grants. If you drop out before the 60% point of the semester, you must repay part of the grants you've received.
If complex circumstances arise, talk with your professors and college advisor before you stop attending classes. There might be some wiggle room to ensure that you still pass the class while given the grace to take a break.
While it might not seem like a huge deal to take a quick break from your studies, it is best to consult your financial aid advisor and your school counselor before making anything final. Both individuals can ensure that you are set up for a successful time off without impacting your degree goals.