Should You Take A Break from Grad School?

Written by Grad School Center Team We are a passionate team of experienced educators and advisors at, dedicated to guiding students through their graduate education journey. Our experts, with advanced degrees across various disciplines, offer personalized advice, up-to-date program information, and practical insights into application processes.

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Updated: January 20, 2024, Reading time: 8 minutes

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Most students who decide to proceed with graduate school aim to specialize and become well-versed in their field. Others use these credentials to stand out among competitive job applicants in the industry and climb the corporate ladder.

However, while grad school promotes a lot of benefits that make it a worthy journey in the long run, one can’t help but decide to take a break from it. Before listening to your gut, though, it’s best to inspect whether it’s really a worthy decision to make.

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Perhaps one common trigger that influences a student to pause grad school is when they start questioning whether they are a good fit for a master’s or doctorate program. It’s not a surprise how challenging and sometimes overwhelming these can be, causing students to feel uncertain and fearful. The key is to fully assess all factors before coming to a decision.

Reasons Why Graduate Students Decide to Pause on Grad School

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No matter what your decision can be, it’s important to set a disclaimer that pausing grad school for the time being won’t mean you’ve given up on it. Here are why some grad students can’t avoid taking a break from grad school:

Financial Reason

Unfortunately, school debt is something that’s realistically being faced by grad students today. In fact, 40% of graduate students each year take out student loans. Grad school can be expensive, and other than tuition costs, there are many other expenses to consider and budget for.

If you or your family (or even sponsor) experience financial challenges, it’s a valid reason to take a break from grad school. It may be a good idea to take a semester off if you really cannot afford college at present.

Unsure of the Chosen Major or Program

Another reason to pause temporarily is when doubts start seeping in. Suddenly, you start questioning whether you love what you’re pursuing in grad school. Considering that 75% of college students switch majors before graduating, it’s normal to wonder what you want to study and pursue for the remainder of your career.

By introducing you to new experiences and assisting you in discovering more about yourself, taking a break may truly assist you in responding to this issue.

Work or Business Opportunities

It is feasible to work or launch a business while enrolled in graduate school. In fact, you can be one of the lucky ones if such opportunities come your way. However, it might get stressful to manage it alongside your studies.

Some occupations or company ideas are worth pursuing and investing all of your time and energy in, leaving no time for grad school. Sometimes, even when you’re efficient with time management, some things fall off the crack. If so, you might be able to gain the time you need to launch a concept by taking a semester off.

Declining Interest

Truthfully speaking, some graduate programs are too challenging to handle for students. Naturally, it’s normal to experience burnout, which may then lead to losing motivation or interest while in grad school. If you find that you are consistently having trouble focusing or really forgetting what you have learned in your classes, it might be time for a break.

Health Struggles

This reason is a no-brainer. Once your health is already being compromised, it makes no sense to pursue grad school for the time being.

After all, a healthy body is the foundation of everything else. For this reason, taking time off from school may be beneficial if you are experiencing a medical emergency or are coping with a health issue that is interfering with your studies or preventing you from going to school.

Other Obligations and Commitments

Lastly, you have a life outside grad school. At any given time, something can happen in your personal life and other facets. They can get in the way of your grad school goals and commitment. It’s best to take a pause and sort them out first before focusing once again on your studies. Being sidetracked or distracted will only lead to adverse outcomes in the near future. 

Why You Shouldn’t Pause on Your Graduate Studies

While some reasons are valid when you weigh whether to take a break from grad school, there are also variables that explain why you shouldn’t pause on it at all. Here are some:

Hinder Continuous Self-Improvement and Growth

There are countless motivations for choosing to pursue a graduate degree. While an increase in pay can be one concrete motivation, sometimes it’s all about improving yourself. Gaining new abilities and expanding your knowledge in a field might make you feel more self-assured and satisfied.

However, when you hold off on your graduate degree, you also lose the opportunity to improve and grow your skills. Some educational experiences that can solely be found in grad school will not be available elsewhere. 

Delay Employability

It’s a common goal to seek employment after finishing grad school. However, pausing it may change your goals.  Employers will recognize your dedication and hard work when they realize that you have invested the time and energy necessary to finish a higher education program or get a graduate degree.

Postponing your program may cause you to fall short of your professional aspirations. The more qualifications and evidence of your abilities you have on your resume, the more likely you are to stand out as a candidate.

Losing Motivation

One strong reason why some graduate students never dare take a break from grad school is the fear of losing motivation. There could be some circumstances and happenings that will force you to pause school.

However, it’s crucial to think of it first before deciding to really pause grad school. In the meantime, if you take a long break from studying, you might find it difficult to regain the enthusiasm for your course when you return.

Grad School Journey: Pursue or Pause?

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If you’re weighing your options to decide whether to continue grad school or take a break from it, learn these tips:

Talk to your advisor or mentor.

It’s always healthy to seek support from your advisor or mentor. Whatever challenges or hindrances you’re facing with grad school, it helps to get a third-person point of view. In addition to assisting you in discovering your college interests, your adviser can help you choose the quickest path to earning your degree and avoid wasting unnecessary time or money. 

Communicate your challenges to your advisor and open yourself to their suggestions, even if they mean changing your goals. Consider another major that aligns with your current coursework that you haven’t considered.

You can make that switch with the assistance of your advisor. In addition, ask your advisor about financial aid options like work-study programs in order to finance your grad school. Discuss how to apply and qualify with your advisor if there are any.

Always go back to your purpose and “why.”

It’s beneficial to always go back to your reasons for choosing to pursue graduate studies. Your motivations for attending graduate school may actually alter as time goes on, particularly if you keep considering the potential benefits of your degree for your desired career path.

Your needs and interests might shift at any time, and the route you are currently on might not be the best fit for you. 

This is a common occurrence for other graduate students as well. It’s a great help to discover your purpose and “why.” This allows you to keep your motivation when you feel like giving up or taking a break.


Experiencing burnout is a serious cause of losing motivation to attend grad school. As graduate students, you are aware of how hard work may sometimes take a toll on your mental health. With the demands of graduate school, this might result in burnout or feelings of tiredness.

Remind yourself to take a rest. It’s okay to take a break if you’re feeling too stressed out and overwhelmed already. You can be the one to decide how much break you need. It shows that you are committed to your achievement as a full person when you acknowledge that you need time away. 

Transfer schools.

You could think about transferring your credits to another school if you’ve looked at all of your alternatives in your present one. See if there are other financial aid options available there that you can’t find in your current school or program. The transfer may also expedite your program, especially if your previous credits are acknowledged and credited.

Maximize financial aid resources.

Many students take a break from grad school because of financial reasons. Get in touch with your financial aid office to talk about the appeals procedure if, after you submit your financial assistance application, it gets disapproved. Explore other financial aid options and check out external resources for funding grad school.

Your school’s student affairs staff can direct you to resources for financial assistance or adjustments. Staying in school might be made simpler by something as basic as assistance with transportation.

Additional Information:

We’re certain of one thing—your search for more information on picking the best graduate degree or school landed you here. Let our experts help guide your through the decision making process with thoughtful content written by experts.