Is skipping a semester a terrible idea in academia?

In summary, although going through the process of grieving is difficult, I think it is important to try to finish on time. Although it will be a year late, I think it is still possible to graduate from this college.
  • #1
Wrichik Basu
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I am currently in the sixth and final semester of my undergraduate degree in Physics. Some people here are probably aware that my father has been fighting cancer since June 2021. Unfortunately, I lost him yesterday (not to cancer, but to pneumonia). He was admitted in hospital for more than three weeks, and the daily tension and pressure was really taking a toll on us. In addition, we are really disheartened that we lost the battle, and it is a void that will never be filled up in our life.

My sixth semester classes started officially in the first week of February. I was out of city for Dad's treatment. Overall, I could attend classes for five days only because just after that, we had to admit Dad. Now that he has left us forever, my duties are still not over because in my country, we have many formalities (life insurance, bank, his office, etc.), and my mother cannot do all that.

I had a word with the Head of the Department in my college this evening, and she said that there is still time for me to come back and attend classes such that I will have the requisite attendance for the final examination. However, I really want to take this semester off. I will be delayed by a year, but the reason I intend to do this is that I really don't think I will be able to pull off all the studies and practicals within this short period of time. Even if I do study, I don't think the results will be up to the mark.

However, some people have told me that I should at least try to give the exam for two (out of four) courses because most universities look down upon dropping a semester.

What are your views? Should I really try to give the exam this year, or wait one year?
 
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  • #2
First of all, I am very sorry for your loss.

Does it cost you anything in terms of finances or marks or something else to take the exams and fail? This is the relevant question I think needs to be answered.
 
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  • #3
So sorry for your loss, Wrichik. That is rough.
 
  • #4
I think you should try to finish on time if possible. For one thing it will give something concrete to work on when the sadness comes ! Being really busy is often a very useful state for me.
You should try to get every bit of help from your institution in terms of timing and maybe you could postpone some things but still graduate?
Obviously I cannot know your situation, but you will do fine either way you decide. Best of luck.
 
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  • #5
I wish you and your family the best. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Wrichik Basu said:
because most universities look down upon dropping a semester.
Are you planning on grad school? When did you apply? Will you be going to a grad school in your home country or abroad? What I would advise you to do depends strongly on those questions.
 
  • #6
I had a situation, although not as drastic as yours. I had got laid off from my job, and I was facing homelessness. So I had to take up odd jobs until I found employment. Anyways, I was doing well in my classes (All A's except a B). I stopped going to lecture. Eventually a professor reached out to me see if I was well. Told him what happened, and he talked out it over with the other teachers. I got incomplete for 4 classes, and was allowed to take the finals within a year. I took them 2 months after the class ended.

Maybe this an option in your country?
 
  • #7
So sorry for your loss.

For what it's worth, I can't see any program or potential employer faulting you for taking a semester off under those circumstances.

In my experience when people recommend against taking time off from academia the reasoning is usually that it can be challenging to get back into it. If you take a year off and work for example, it can be hard to return to living without a paycheck. If you take a year off to travel, it can be hard to go back to the routine of classes. People can do this successfully though. And sometimes it's better to take the time off then to force yourself through something you're not ready for.
 
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  • #8
Sorry to hear about the loss of your father. Condolences to your family.

I experienced a similar situation when my father passed from terminal disease days before my final exams as an undergraduate. My family had planned to visit him immediately after I completed exams. In a daze I notified professors and completed final exams and projects, earning my B.S. degree. Good luck to you.
 
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  • #9
Wrichik Basu said:
Now that he has left us forever, my duties are still not over because in my country, we have many formalities (life insurance, bank, his office, etc.), and my mother cannot do all that.
Wrichik, in addition to all of the other thoughts offered so far, I would recommend contacting some counseling as part of your grieving and recovery. Your mental and physical health are very important in this difficult time. Please feel free to PM me if I can help from a medical perspective. -Mike-
 
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  • #10
I am terribly sorry about your loss.

This is just my opinion. There is no shame in taking time off to recover. It can be hard to maintain the skills you've learned in school. But in the end, your personal health and life is more important than anything. Those skills can be relearned, and any employer or supervisor worth getting involved with would understand your situation and not hold time off against you.
 
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  • #11
Thanks, everyone, for the replies and guidance.
Orodruin said:
Does it cost you anything in terms of finances or marks or something else to take the exams and fail? This is the relevant question I think needs to be answered.
Even if I skip this semester, I will have to pay the college fees twice, otherwise my name would be struck off the rolls. However, failing is really looked down upon by Indian colleges. If I fail, that would be noted in the gradesheet, and I have heard some seniors being rejected based on that. Weird, but true.
Twigg said:
Are you planning on grad school? When did you apply? Will you be going to a grad school in your home country or abroad? What I would advise you to do depends strongly on those questions.
Yes, I will definitely be doing grad school. But I haven't applied anywhere yet. I simply didn't get the time to check out the different options (home country and abroad). We have been so busy lately with Dad's health (and, to some extent, Mom's too) that I could only somehow finish the fifth semester. I haven't been able to prepare or sit for any competitive exam in my country. Taking the semester off will probably give me time to prepare for all that.
Choppy said:
In my experience when people recommend against taking time off from academia the reasoning is usually that it can be challenging to get back into it. If you take a year off and work for example, it can be hard to return to living without a paycheck. If you take a year off to travel, it can be hard to go back to the routine of classes. People can do this successfully though. And sometimes it's better to take the time off then to force yourself through something you're not ready for.
Mondayman said:
It can be hard to maintain the skills you've learned in school.
I am not going to stay aloof from studies. Instead, I was thinking about writing to different professors across the country (who are working in my fields of interests) if they could take me in for an internship. In addition, I will be doing some online courses too, and also try to complete the sixth semester studies. There are also a lot of interesting research papers that I have piled up since the end of last year, and I would really appreciate some time to go through them thoroughly.

And I haven't thought anything about working presently because the pay will be really very less given my educational background.
MidgetDwarf said:
Maybe this an option in your country?
As far as my knowledge goes, no, but I will still have a word with the HOD.
berkeman said:
Please feel free to PM me if I can help from a medical perspective. -Mike-
🙏
 
  • #12
Wrichik Basu said:
But I haven't applied anywhere yet.
This is a blessing in disguise! I would encourage you to seriously consider taking the semester off. As Choppy and others said, I can't imagine any admissions committee giving you a hard time for taking time off under these circumstances. If you have good grades and meet all their criteria except for the fact that you took a semester off when your dad died, they'd have to be an entire committee of sociopaths to reject you. However, if you ended up staying in classes for the semester and failing your exams, I could see more risk of them being unsympathetic. After all (at least in the US), I believe admissions committees still largely filter applications by numerics like GPA or otherwise before actually reading anything you wrote.

hutchphd said:
I think you should try to finish on time if possible. For one thing it will give something concrete to work on when the sadness comes ! Being really busy is often a very useful state for me.
I do agree with the general idea of keeping busy, but maybe you can find a less high-risk activity than the exams that decide whether or not you get to pursue your desired career path. Also, this is definitely something you might ask your therapist for advice on. I really strongly second @berkeman's suggestion.

One final thought, I don't know how healthcare works in India, but if you are getting your health insurance through the school you might want to make sure you will keep those benefits during your semester off. Therapy can be expensive without coverage. Maybe this is just a US thing.
 
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  • #13
Wanted to post an update.

Based on the advice I received here, and after discussing with the Head of the Department in my institute, I skipped this semester. And it turned out to be a good decision, at least for now. A person's death (in my country) puts the burden of tons of official work that has to be completed by his legal heirs within a certain period of time. Without this spare time, it would have been impossible for me to carry out all these tasks. Moreover, the time is also helping us settle down bit by bit.

The only downside is that I would probably lose my scholarship in college, but the scholarship amount is anyway a tiny portion of the total fees (as that was decided by the college authorities when Dad was alive, and they only looked at his income and not the expenses incurred from his illness, which easily surpassed his annual income by many folds). Hence, that would hopefully not affect us too much.

Presently, I am trying to get back to studies, and started to learn Machine Learning a few days back. I am also working on my Android apps, which haven't received any update since last year.

Once again, thanks, everyone, for your advice.
 
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  • #14
I hope this is a time of healing for all. Please don't forget to take some time for yourself. Thanks for the update.
 
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  • #15
This ought to be a common enough occurrence among thousands of students that your university and scholarships ought to have standards to deal with it. If they don't, they should not be so heartless. I'm sorry for your loss, and hope you can recover soon.
 
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  • #16
Algr said:
This ought to be a common enough occurrence among thousands of students that your university and scholarships ought to have standards to deal with it. If they don't, they should not be so heartless.
One of my classmate's mother passed away the year we joined college. He was awarded around 80-85% scholarship because he provided evidence that his father didn't have any income. In my case, since the process of verification was done when my father was alive, my scholarship amount was quite low. The authorities don't re-consider any case.
 

Related to Is skipping a semester a terrible idea in academia?

1. Is skipping a semester detrimental to my academic progress?

It depends on your individual circumstances. If you have a valid reason for taking a break, such as personal or health issues, it may not have a significant impact on your academic progress. However, if you are skipping a semester without a valid reason, it may delay your graduation and impact your academic standing.

2. Will skipping a semester affect my chances of getting into graduate school?

It may affect your chances if you have a gap in your academic record without a valid reason. However, if you have a strong academic record and can explain the reason for taking a break, it may not have a significant impact on your graduate school application.

3. Can I make up for the skipped semester by taking extra courses?

It is possible to make up for the skipped semester by taking extra courses, but it may not be feasible depending on your program requirements and course availability. It is important to consult with your academic advisor before making any decisions.

4. Will skipping a semester affect my financial aid?

If you are receiving financial aid, skipping a semester may affect your eligibility for future aid. It is important to check with your financial aid office to understand the impact on your specific situation.

5. Can I take a break from academia without skipping a semester?

Yes, there are options for taking a break from academia without skipping a semester. Some universities offer leave of absence programs for students who need to take a break for personal or health reasons. It is important to check with your university for their policies and procedures regarding taking a break.

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