Semester Break: How to Take a Semester Off

Semester Break: How to Take a Semester Off


Together with iamstudent we have compiled everything you need to know about how to take a break semester in Austria.

Leave of Absence: Press Pause for a Semester

The cliché of lazy students partying all the time is widely spread but practically unfamiliar to most students. Together with the hustle of studying while going to classes and writing exams, vacay and leisure time are often cut down to a minimum.

Good news: If you are done with sacrificing your experiences abroad for your education, you can consider taking a break semester – an official leave of absence. During this break, you can pack your suitcase and travel the world, meet new cultures and people as well as making up for the missing relaxation before that. Well… or maybe not? Luckily, and we compiled everything you need to know at a glance (concerning Austria).

When does a semester break make sense?

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The term break semester actually “does exactly what it says on the tin”: The official interruption of your studies is valid for one semester. During this time, you are – depending on your university – either fully or partly restricted to perform academic work or attend courses.

Although you can put your study material aside during your “semester of leave of absence” (sounds fancy), your place at university and your student status will remain the same. Since the free semester does not count a normal one, it will not be added to the standard period of study. Still, it is registered as a university semester because you remain enrolled during the whole time.

Some of you might ask yourselves now, why you should bother with applying for a break semester when you might as well pause your studies without it. Of course, you can put on the sluggish skin for a few weeks during the standard period of study. However, you will soon have to face the associated (mainly) financial consequences: The unofficial study vacay is likely to backfire for students receiving a scholarship or study grant. If you like it or not, the financial support ends with the designated period of study and/or is tied to certain minimum performance (ETS, positive passing of exams). In this case, your student budget might be smaller than you would like it to be without an official break semester!

If your parents or even a foundation are financing your studies, you will quickly find yourself in need of explanations during a “self-approved leave of absence”. Actually, you are enjoying your free time at the expense of others! Hence, most scholarship holders have to expect that their money will be cut off after an unofficial interruption of their studies. According to unknown sources, this also applies to parents 😉

In addition, you have to consider that your lazy semester without cancelling your registration will count towards the standard periods of your study. Accordingly, it might extend and you risk being charged tuition fees.

Exhaustion or Wanderlust: A break semester needs reasoning!

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Those interrupting their studies, better know exactly why they are doing it. You don’t need a heartbreaking or world changing reason to apply for a break semester but still you need a legit one. Each university can define these reasons for themselves. In the statutes of your university, you will learn when you have a good chance of being officially “suspended”. Common reasons include:

It’s quite rare that universities accept financial emergencies as a reason. In case you fail to pay for tuition fees and your living although you are having a student job, your problem can also be solved through a personal loan. Websites like will help you comparing various loans.

Here comes the bad news: As tempting it might be to pause your studies in exchange for satisfying your wanderlust, only very few universities will accept this need as a valid reason for your semester of leave of absence. If you are toying with the idea of “optimizing the reality”, you should consider: The existence of your reason must be proven. For example, if you state an illness as reason for taking a break semester, you must provide a medical certificate showing that the condition will last for several months. If you want to spend a semester abroad, you usually need the admission at the host university.

How long can you be given a leave of absence?

The very name “leave of absence” indicates that the leave is valid for one semester. Only in rare cases, you can officially and legally extend it to two semesters beforehand. However, that means that the permissible limit for the entire course has been reached. Therefore, you should really be sure whether there is no other alternative than taking one or two break semesters.

By the way: You cannot take this official break for a shorter period than one semester. In case of doupt, you can always contact your student council or the ÖH. They will be happy to give you information about your options!

Shoutout to iamstudent!

The original (German) article was published by iamstudent. We have translated and adapted it slightly for this blog. Make sure to check out other articles from iamstudent.

All photo rights by International Campus GmbH.