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Things to know before taking a leave of absence

By August 15, 2018April 6th, 2022No Comments

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.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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