Ten things you should know about taking time off

November 11, 2015 by Sally Waters, Contributing Writer and Elowyn Pfeiffer, Contributing Writer

It’s that time of the semester. Everyone’s at his or her wit’s end. We all feel it. More deadlines, more burnt-out ambitions and more conversations that end with, “We should grab a meal when I have some more free time.” Psych Services is overbooked. You Are Not Alone drew a larger crowd than any Goodrich party. And we all might be thinking, “What am I doing here?”

Maybe you have an answer to that question: I’m here because I’m excited about my classes; I’m here because I love the great athletics and academics; I’m here because I want the best future possible.

But maybe you don’t have a quick answer. Maybe you did in the beginning, but now you’re unsure. Or maybe you know exactly why you’re here – you just aren’t sure if you want to be here right now.

You don’t need to be. Here are 10 things you should know about taking time off from the College:

1. Eight percent of students do it. 

The College has one of the highest four-year graduation rates in the nation – 88 percent according to the latest U.S. News report – but it has an even higher six-year graduation rate: 95 to 96 percent. That means around eight percent of students take up to two years off from the College.

2. You don’t need to have a reason. 

Officially, the College has three options for taking time off: personal leave, medical leave and psych-medical leave. Personal leave just requires you to meet with a dean and say, “I don’t want to be here right now.” You can leave anytime in the semester, but if you leave after the eighth week, you incur course deficiencies to make up before returning. Medical and psych-medical leave require a health professional to sign off on the leave, but you do not incur any course deficiencies.

3. You can be financially reimbursed.

If you leave for any reason in the first eight weeks of the semester, you can be reimbursed some of your tuition and board. The reimbursement decreases by 10 percent each additional week into the semester. Additionally, if your family opted for the GradGuard Insurance program, upon leaving for any medical reasons you will be completely reimbursed for the semester.

4. Coming back off-cycle can be sort of weird.

The College is often organized around the presumption that it only takes four years. For this reason, it can be really strange to return off-cycle. “What year are you?” “Um, junior? No, sophomore? No, second-semester sophomore.” Furthermore, if you return off-cycle, finding information on the housing lottery, class events, major declaration deadlines, thesis information and senior week events will all require your own leg-work.

5. You don’t need to spend your time off at home.

Many people don’t have a strong financial or social support system at home. This doesn’t keep them from taking time off. Many students decide to spend their time off around Williamstown, working at a local business. Others travel, working for pay or trade. Others might just live on their own for a while.

6. You can make an adventure out of it.

Maybe you never had the chance to study abroad because you can’t get credit for your major. Maybe the program you’d like to do abroad isn’t accepted by the College. Or maybe you just want to follow your own plan. There are a lot of ways to cut down on costs of travel by applying for grants, working for trade or utilizing the College’s connections. You can come back to the College refreshed with exploration.

7. The reapplication process is relatively easy.

For personal leave reapplication, you email the Dean’s Office with a summary of your leave. The medical leave reapplication, while still very manageable, is a slightly more invasive questionnaire and does require a note from a health professional stating your health has improved. The Dean’s Office holds veto power over medical leave reapplications, but this power is rarely utilized.

8. There’s a network of students you can ask about taking time off.

Mental Health Committee recently created a network of alumni and current students who are willing to advise anyone who is considering taking time off. Talk to a dean or email the unix scw2 today about matching up with an advisor.

9. You can take up to three years off.

Yeah. Imagine all the things you could do in three years.

10. Williams will still be here when you’re ready.

You might be scared to leave your friends, your teams, your clubs. When you come back, there might be a whole new cohort of students, and you’ll have a different class year. But while the people change, the College is always the College, full of opportunity and interesting students and faculty. And when you return, you’ll have changed as well – you’ll be ready to take advantage of the opportunities available.

Taking time off is a big decision, and it’s important to know the facts. But if you’re unsure about whether you want to be here, you should be aware it’s an option. Hundreds of students have made this same decision in the past, and we’re here to help. Williams shouldn’t be an experience you “get through.” Williams should be an experience that helps you thrive.

MHC is holding a meeting for Taking Time Off in Paresky 207 at 7 p.m. tonight. 

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