High school seniors elect to postpone taking the traditional path to college for a variety of reasons. Some simply decide they aren’t mentally or academically ready. Others experience life events, such as starting a family early or health issues of a loved one, which impede school opportunities. Regardless of the reasons, postponing college has drawbacks.

Loss of Discipline

Some students decide to take a gap year between high school and college to work or take a breather from school. Extended breaks between high school and college may lead to a loss of academic discipline or rustiness in the classroom, according to the organization Options Solutions Educational Consultants. Students may get caught up in more sedentary lifestyles without work or other productive activities to fill the time. Or, they may simply lose the structure and discipline necessary to succeed in college classes, and it could take a while to get back in the groove.

Peer Variation

Options Solutions also notes that if you don’t take the traditional college path, you may also fall behind same-aged friends who do go right to college. This means you won’t have the option to start school with friends, and in a few years, your high school buddies may have degrees and be a step ahead of you in their career paths. You could certainly stay in touch, but the closeness of these relationships may dissolve as peers move on with their lives.

Work-life Balance

For typical students, going to college at age 18 or 19 offers the advantage of getting a degree before many adult responsibilities kick in. Some college students don’t have to work much, or at all, because their parents support them through school on a traditional route. Others use financial aid so that they can focus on studies. If you return to school later in life, family responsibilities, a mortgage, car payments and other financial obligations may require that you work and balance your school with other commitments. This can impact your ability to get a traditional, well-rounded college experience and to focus on studies.

Missed Income

The sooner you get a college degree, the sooner you can take advantage of typical increased earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median 2012 income for associate degree holders was $785 per week. With a bachelor’s degree, median income was $1,066 per week. With a high school diploma, the median income was only $652 per week. Essentially, each year you delay is a year of lost earning potential based on lower educational qualifications.