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What to Know If You’re Considering Leaving College for Your Mental Health

This semester, I made the difficult decision to temporarily leave college to focus on my mental health. While it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, it was definitely the right one for me. Taking medical leave from college has allowed me to prioritize treatment, gain the skills I need to make the most out of my education when I do return to school, and gradually reclaim the love of learning that was sapped from me by mental health issues and burnout.

How did I come to this decision? Simply put, my mental health got to the point where I could no longer function effectively in a university environment. After achieving a 4.0 GPA for the past three semesters, I missed classes and forgot assignments and meetings regularly. More than that, I suddenly dreaded doing all of the things I once loved: going to class and work, seeing friends and engaging with my spirituality. For the last two or three weeks that I was in school, I cried almost every day. I knew I needed help.

Even so, I had a lot of questions and reservations about taking a medical leave of absence, and it took me a long time to get past them. Would graduate schools and employers look down on a semester of “W” grades on my transcript? What if my university wouldn’t readmit me when I was ready to return? What would I do (besides treatment, of course) to keep myself busy? What would my professors, friends, supervisors and colleagues think?

I was able to talk to my adviser and get some of those questions worked out, like the ones about graduate school and when and whether I’d be able to come back to my college. Some of my questions, though, remain unanswered: for example, I can’t know for sure what the people around me think about my choice.

All of that said, I encourage anyone who’s considering taking a leave of absence from school because of their mental health not to let all the questions stop you from exploring it. I acknowledge there are sometimes reasons why a medical leave is just not possible, and in the end the only person who can determine whether this decision is right for you is you. That said, there’s no harm in looking at your options, and I promise the process of taking a medical leave is often easier than you might think. I, for one, am eternally grateful that I made the decision to leave school for treatment, and I’m confident I’ll be ready to tackle the books again soon.

Photo by Valerie Elash on Unsplash

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