Should I temporarily drop out of university?
Semester on leave: advantages and disadvantages
Vacation semesters have absolutely nothing to do with vacation, as we imagine with an umbrella, beach and cocktail in hand. Rather, there is a need for convincing reasons that state that you are temporarily unable to pursue your studies properly and therefore have to be given a temporary leave of absence from your student duties. Your study regulations usually state who can take a leave of absence from your studies, when and for how long. The entitlement is set out in the higher education laws of the federal states.
Who can take a leave of absence from their studies?
As a rule, the following reasons for a leave of absence are recognized:
- Pregnancy, maternity leave, parental leave,
- Looking after a minor child,
- Care for relatives in need of care or
- Military or alternative or voluntary service.
Other reasons must be checked on a case-by-case basis and may vary depending on the university. Wanting to chill out and hang out is a less recognized reason for a leave of absence. Even a financially lucrative job rarely convinces universities to keep a place warm for someone.
Basically, of course, it makes sense to apply for leave if one of the reasons mentioned applies and you really do not feel able to continue your studies properly. There's nothing wrong with that either. However, taking a leave of absence from your studies also has far-reaching financial effects that you should be aware of before you decide to do so. The simplest solution is not always the best. I'll tell you what I mean by that.
What are the disadvantages of a semester on leave?
BAföG in the leave semester
During the period of your leave of absence, you may lose your privileges as a student. A place at your university will be kept free for you, but that's about it for many.
During this time you are neither entitled to BAföG (does not apply to AuslandsbaföG) nor are you allowed to work as a student trainee. If you don't happen to have a job during your vacation semester, then you probably have no choice but to apply for Hartz IV.
If you are in a relationship and share an apartment with them, your partner's income will be factored into the job center's needs calculation. This can lead to the fact that you do not get anything and have to be "endured" by your better half, even though you received BAföG without any problems. In contrast to Hartz IV, BAföG does not take into account the income or assets of your partner unless you are married. So think carefully about whether you can afford a semester on leave.
Hartz IV in the semester of leave
At some universities it is possible to attend courses and take exams despite a leave of absence from your studies. If this applies to you and your university, then you should know that your entitlement to ALG2 expires. Hartz 4 is only available if you are actually not studying.
If you don't believe me, you are welcome to read through the judgment of the Federal Social Court from March 22nd, 2012. Accordingly, in order to be entitled to basic security, the leave of absence from studies must be practical and not just theoretical.
So if you know someone who received ALG II despite exams in the vacation semester, then this person was simply lucky and their clerk at the job center had no idea.
So if you are only interested in taking some pressure off your studies and studying more slowly, you should check whether a semester on leave is really the best solution. I will explain a few alternatives to this below in the text.
Semester of leave, length of study and exams
Just as some universities allow exams during the leave of absence, there are also universities that categorically exclude this.
If you are studying at one of these, a semester on leave automatically means a delay in completing your degree, as you are not allowed to attend courses or take exams there during the leave of absence. This also applies to repeat exams and achievements that you take at another university during this time (e.g. abroad). This means that you will not only be temporarily worse off financially during your leave of absence, but that you will only be able to work properly and earn money later.
In addition, it should be clear to you that you can only keep your standard period of study despite a leave of absence if you return to your studies with 100% immediately after the semester of leave and complete all courses properly. That may sound banal now, but it is not always so self-evident when you are aware of the reasons for which someone took a leave of absence in the first place. Not in every case you are fully resilient again after an illness and a child does not simply disappear again after the baby break. I emphasize this so strongly at this point, because with one or more semesters of leave you might block the possibility of receiving BAföG beyond the standard period of study.
But where there is darkness, there is always light somewhere. This article is not intended to scare you or to talk you out of the semester on leave. But on the contrary! Therefore now also the advantages of a leave of absence from your studies.
What are the advantages of a semester on leave?
The answer to this question depends a lot on where you study. At some universities, the only advantage is that you simply don't have to worry about your studies for a while. You hardly have to pay any semester fees, you don't have to sit in lectures or take any exams. In addition, it is often the only option to stay within the standard period of study, as the subject semesters are not counted further during the leave of absence, which is good, for example, if you plan to apply for a scholarship afterwards or your university stipulates a maximum permitted duration of study if it is exceeded you are forced to de-register.
But there are also universities that allow students to take (repeat) exams during their leave of absence. At some you can even take courses despite a leave of absence. Basically one is only released from the duty to do it.
This is of course very helpful if, for example, you are behind schedule with your exams for whatever reason and postpone more and more repeat exams. Or if you are enrolled in a degree program / university where you are presented with finished timetables and have no freedom of choice, so this is the only way to reduce the number of hours.
What alternatives are there to the semester on leave?
The extent to which there are alternatives for you depends, of course, on your individual situation. For example, if you actually want to reduce your study hours in favor of a part-time job, then it might be enough to take fewer courses per semester and, if necessary, to exceed the standard period of study.
Part-time studies might also be conceivable. This automatically extends your standard period of study and reduces the workload per semester. Here in Berlin, every course can be studied part-time by law. Part-time students are not entitled to BAföG, but can apply for Hartz 4.
Or maybe you just need a change of scenery. Thinking outside the box to rearrange yourself. Then a semester abroad could be something for you. Yes, of course, this is completely different from taking a leave of absence from your studies, because you are not exempt from studying during the semester abroad. On the contrary, you also have to do it to yourself in a foreign language. But who knows, maybe this is exactly what you need now? In any case, it helped me a lot when the day-to-day obligations between study, job and whatever else there was over my head.
What you should do before you decide for or against a leave of absence from your studies
If you are toying with the idea of taking a break from studying, think carefully about what you need the break for. What is your goal? This is the only way to find the best solution for you. No matter how I did it, all of this can be completely wrong for you, because your starting point is probably very different from mine.
In any case, go to the student advisory service at your university and get advice on the consequences of the examination and study regulations. The social counseling of the Studentenwerk is also recommended. You can also bring in another point of view. They helped me a lot during my first pregnancy. Perhaps you also know students who have already taken leave of absence and who can tell you about their experiences.
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