By Kimly Do '14
They say when you do something you love all the time, you forget why you love it. You might even question if you really love it. And even if you know you love it, you might question if you want to pursue whatever it is you're passionate about for the rest of your life. These are pretty awesome questions to have as far as an early existential crisis goes - but they're still difficult questions to answer.
One way to answer it is to leave, try something else, go traveling, go working, do something other than be in school. Sometimes you need to figure a few other things out before you decide to trudge forth and change the world. For some Olin students, it's called taking a Leave Of Absence (LOA). An LOA is a one semester break from a student's enrollment at Olin with an indication that they will be returning.
When students are admitted to Olin, every single student is promised 8 semesters of scholarship. However how that is distributed is up to the particular student. When he/she takes an LOA- the student is not using one of those semesters.
A lot of students that take LOAs generally take them junior year, instead of studying abroad. You can take 180 days off within a 12 month period, or one semester off, as many times as you want. If after one semester, or 180 days, you want to continue taking time off, you need to voluntarily withdraw from Olin. But don't freak out - it's basically the same thing and you can re-enroll. I'll discuss this in more detail later.
Regardless, an entire semester to do whatever and go wherever your dreams take you. It's literally The Skittlegrits. When you're done running around the world discovering magic, you're guaranteed the ability to return and continue your education.
Hi. I'm Kimly. A standing Junior studying mechanical engineering at Olin, I'm taking a semester off in San Francisco this semester to work for a company called OtherLab (I'll talk more about this in subsequent posts!). Therefore, I will have one semester left after my classmates graduate in May 2014 to complete all my degree requirements. So... I'll technically receive my diploma in May 2015, but will be allowed to walk with my class a year from now.
Taking an LOA: How?
There's a form you fill out that you can find here. Get a few signatures and hand it in. You're good to go.
The deadline is always the Monday before registration, so April 1 was the last day for requesting a Fall LOA. If you're interested in doing an LOA in January 2014, start thinking about it now!
Technically: This is the only thing you need to do.
Then you can sit back and watch as your classmates stress over class registration while you smile to yourself quietly.
It is not the only thing you should do.
By far. I thought my brain to ashes and talked to an incredible number of people before deciding to take a semester off. You can go about it in a thousand different ways, here's what I decided to do.
Ask why are you taking a semester off?
I wanted to firmly root myself in new soil- so I chose a city I fell in love with last summer- San Francisco. I was having a hard time deciding whether or not I wanted to go to Grad School or if I wanted to work after Olin. I wanted to change the world, but I wasn't sure in which ways- whether it was product design or some greater subtler industrial change behind the scenes. I wanted to develop relationships with people that were different from the Olin type of inspiring.
What will you be doing?
This isn't a question you have to answer- you might just wing it for a little bit of time and take things as they go. But it will help if you already have an idea of what you want to be doing. I cold- emailed about 35 companies in the area that were doing things I appreciated, and also contacted a whole bunch of people I knew in the area to see what they were doing- and if there was space for me. Once I secured a job- I was positive I was leaving Olin for the Spring.
Sneak Peek: My job let's me make cardboard roller skates! sort of....
But there are a lot of LOAer's that use this time to travel and see the world or pursue a different type of passion. One student, Rob Sobecki ('13) took an extended LOA to train for and then summit Mount Everest.
It's entirely your choice!
They're real- you still have to fill out that form ^^, get a few signatures and submit it by the Monday before registration to be considered under a true LOA.
Deadlines: but I'm so bad at them
It's okay- I'm probably much worse than you. I submitted my form 20 minutes before dorms closed for winter break (that's right- after expo). What does this mean? It means that you can take your time deciding if you want to take an LOA- which is really important. It also means that if you miss the deadline- you're not taking an LOA anymore, you are withdrawing.
The difference between Withdrawing and taking an LOA...
...Is really just the option you circle and timing. You still fill out the same form. If you miss the deadline for submitting an LOA, you need to voluntarily withdraw. And as long as you're in good academic standing, you can re-enroll to continue your education the semester before you plan to come back. This really means that officially as a student, our status is voluntary withdrawal instead of leave of absence. But that's really it. I re-enrolled a few weeks ago and am set to go for September.
Talk to People. Listen to what they have to say.
Do what you think is right.
Logistics are easy to deal with if you want to take an LOA. So really- the only thing you have to worry about is whether or not it's right for you. Talk to your advisor. Talk with your parents (but don't let them decide for you) and talk with your friends, your mentors, your teachers. If you're excited about something- go for it.
Taste the world from outside the beautiful bubble Olin sometimes traps you in. Don't worry- you can always come back and continue where you left off. Good luck!