If you are in the midst of handling distractions or concerns in your life, a voluntary leave of absence from college could be a good option. Sometimes you just need a break to take care of other priorities in life. If not fully prepared, students might get into trouble with extra charges, or academic records when they return to campus. Before you take the leave, spend some time to get educated on policies and your rights, to make it a truly positive change in your life.
Do I really need a leave of absence?
This is the first thing you should ask yourself, considering how much money and time it can cost. Generally, people leave for 3 reasons: personal, medical and military. You probably need a leave if you feel you cannot properly balance these problems with school:
- Recovering from medical or mental health conditions
- Family emergency
- Loss of interest in your studies
- Financial struggles
Know the procedures
The policies for leave of absence vary from school to school, so it is very important to look up the information from your student handbook and meet with your academic advisor. Here are the things you must know when planning for your leave:
- When does it start and end?
It is important to keep this in mind so you can avoid being charged extra tuition fee and leaving incomplete grades on your transcript. You should also communicate with the school in a timely manner if there’s any changes in your plan because leaves do expire. In most cases, only a limited period of time is allowed for a personal leave of absence. If you fail to reinstate your status on time, you may be required to reapply for the program. So, mark your calendar and plan ahead.
- How much does it cost?
Usually if you leave during the semester, tuition fees will only be refunded partially because you have already attended classes. Your leave will also very likely have an impact on your financial aid. If you received any federal student loans, you have to return it in a grace period. If you received any other types of scholarships, perhaps from your school, contact the school’s financial aid office to confirm that they will be valid when you return to campus.
- How does it look like on my transcript?
When taking a leave after the semester starts, ask your advisor about the grades for classes in progress. It might result in “incomplete” or “withdrawal” on the transcript. A leave of absence will show up on your transcript, but it won’t show the reason of leave. So, after graduation, you can choose not to disclose your medical conditions or personal matters to employers.
- How does it affect my visa status?
Leave of absence will be reflected on I-20 forms. International students with F-1/J-1 visa who take a personal leave cannot stay in the US until they re-enroll. Those who are taking a medical leave might be able to stay in the Statements for medical treatment, if recommended by a doctor.
Know your rights
Ideally, universities will grant your leave and re-enrollment if you did everything by the book. However, there are stories where schools mishandle student’s leave and return. If your school rejects your request without a reasonable explanation, you can submit a petition and appeal.
In order to end discrimination on campus, student rights are protected by laws like Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and Title IX. If your school denies your leave and return based on your medical and mental disabilities, gender, or any other factors, you may be a victim of discrimination. You can seek advice from our lawyers and file a complaint.
Taking a leave of absence is meant to make you feel healthier, happier and less stressed. When you plan for a leave, learn about it and make an informed decision. Although sometimes issues do happen, attorneys at DC Student Defense will walk you through the process and defend your rights.
These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.