Leaves of Absence

Voluntary Leaves of Absence (Granted by Petition)

Involuntary Leaves of Absence

While on Leave of Absence

Use of College Services and Facilities

Course Work Done Out of Residence

Returning to College

Voluntary Leaves of Absence (Granted by Petition)

Students who wish to interrupt their studies at any time before graduation must petition the Administrative Board for a leave of absence. To petition the Board, the student and his or her Allston Burr Assistant Dean or Resident Dean of Freshmen work together to determine what pertinent information to present to the Board with the petition, and then the Assistant Dean or Resident Dean brings the petition to the Board on the student’s behalf. With respect to a voluntary leave of absence for medical reasons, the Dean of the College may consult with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from the student’s current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student). Following an individualized assessment, for students on a medical leave of absence, the College may set out specific expectations for them to meet before they may return to the College with the goal of ensuring their readiness to return. It is often useful for students to have a conversation with their Allston Burr Assistant Dean or Resident Dean of Freshmen about how to approach these expectations.

Students whose previous academic and disciplinary record is satisfactory and who have petitioned by the seventh Monday of the term will normally be granted a “leave of absence.” Students who petition after the seventh Monday of the term will normally be granted a “leave of absence—late in the term.” Students who are not in good standing may be granted a “leave of absence—on probation.” Students who petition for a leave of absence after the tenth Monday of the term ordinarily will not be allowed to register in the next academic term. No petitions for a leave of absence for any term will ordinarily be considered after the first day of Reading Period for that term.

Students going on leave are reminded that all degree candidates, whether currently registered or not, are expected to maintain a satisfactory standard of conduct.

Involuntary Leaves of Absence

Under certain circumstances, a student may be placed on an involuntary leave of absence.  An involuntary leave of absence is not a disciplinary sanction.  However, an incident that gives rise to a leave of absence, whether voluntary or involuntary, may subsequently be the basis for disciplinary action. A student who wishes to take a voluntary leave of absence rather than being placed on involuntary leave of absence will ordinarily be allowed to do so. Transcripts do not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary leaves of absence. As is the case for voluntary leaves, official College letters of recommendation will note any unresolved disciplinary matter that is pending (see Administrative Board Actions and Letters of Recommendation). 

An involuntary leave of absence may be required for the following reasons:

  1. Medical circumstances: (a) The student’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of any person, or has seriously disrupted others in the student’s residential community or academic environment; and (b) either the student’s threatening, self-destructive, or disruptive behavior is determined to be the result of a medical condition or the student has refused to cooperate with efforts by Harvard University Health Services to determine or evaluate the cause of the behavior. The decision to place a student on an involuntary leave of absence for health related reasons is made in consultation with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from the student’s current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student), after an individualized assessment of all of the pertinent factors, such as: the nature of the student’s conduct; the nature, duration and severity of the risk; the likelihood of potential injury; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices or procedures will mitigate the risk. However, reasonable modifications do not include changes that would fundamentally alter the academic program or unduly burden the College’s resources or staffing capabilities or, with respect to the required level of care or monitoring, that would exceed the standard of care that a university health service or the staff of a residential college can be expected to provide. 
  2. Alleged criminal behavior: The student has been arrested on allegations of serious criminal behavior or has been charged with such behavior by law enforcement authorities.
  3. Risk to the community. The student allegedly violated a disciplinary rule of the College, and his or her presence on campus poses a significant risk to the safety of others or to the educational environment of the community.
  4. Indebtedness. The student’s term bill is unpaid and the student has not made arrangements acceptable to the College to address the issue.
  5. Failure to provide medical documentation of required immunizations.
  6. Unfulfilled academic requirements. The student has not met an academic requirement and has not taken steps acceptable to the College to meet the requirement.
  7. Failure to register and enroll. The student has not registered and enrolled in courses as required at the beginning of each term.
  8. Courses not completed: The student has been granted make-up examinations, or extensions of time beyond the end of the term, in two or more courses.

Prior to placing a student on involuntary leave of absence, the Dean of Harvard College will consult with the student’s Allston Burr Assistant Dean or Resident Dean of Freshmen and, as appropriate, with other officers of the University (for example, with the office of the Director of Harvard University Health Services in the case of leave for medical reasons) or with the Administrative Board.

The student will be notified in writing of the decision to place him or her on involuntary leave of absence. The student may ask the Dean or the Dean’s delegate, in writing or in person, to reconsider the decision. If the decision remains unchanged, the student may petition the Administrative Board through the student’s Allston Burr Assistant Dean or Resident Dean of Freshmen.

Students on involuntary leave are reminded that all degree candidates, whether currently registered or not, are expected to maintain a satisfactory standard of conduct.

While On Leave of Absence 

Students who are granted a leave of absence during the academic year are charged tuition, room rent, the Student Services Fee, and board to the end of the period in which they leave, as indicated on the chart Students’ Financial Obligations in the Event of a Leave of Absence or Requirement to Withdraw and in Housing Policies and Deadlines. Students who have been placed on involuntary leave of absence are subject to the same rules regarding financial aid and financial obligations (room, board, tuition, etc.) that apply to undergraduates granted a voluntary leave of absence. 

Students who have signed a room contract to live in College housing and subsequently decide to take a leave of absence must notify the Office of Student Life, University Hall, Ground Floor, in writing of their intention not to take up residence. The purpose of this policy is to enable Houses to make unoccupied rooms available to other students as early as possible (for deadlines, see Housing Policies and Deadlines).

All undergraduates going on leave before the end of a term must submit the proper paperwork to their House Office or the Freshman Dean’s Office. Cancellation of board charges is contingent upon the submission of the form; failure to do so will result in a continued assessment of board charges until the end of the term in which the leave occurs. A student granted a leave is expected to vacate University property as soon as possible and no later than five business days after the date of the Administrative Board vote granting the leave. The room key must also be turned in to the House Office or building manager’s office. Students who are on leave may not store any belongings at the University.

Students receiving scholarship or other financial aid should consult the Griffin Financial Aid Office concerning the financial implications of going on leave. Prior to leaving Cambridge those who have borrowed money or received financial aid from Harvard must also have an exit interview at the Griffin Financial Aid Office, 86 Brattle Street. Students who receive veteran’s educational benefits should report to Smith Campus Center 953. Foreign students should consult the International Office concerning their status.

The date a student goes on leave will affect the student's health insurance through Harvard. For details, review the Leave of Absence policy on the HUHSP website, or contact the Student Health Insurance Office, Member Services, at 617-495-2008 or mservices@huhs.harvard.edu.

Students leaving after completion of the fall term should consult the section Year-Long-Courses—Divisible and Indivisible and their Allston Burr Assistant Dean or Resident Dean of Freshmen concerning dividing or withdrawing from any year-long courses in which they were enrolled.

Students should update their addresses at my.harvard.

Students who have competed on an intercollegiate team or intend to compete on one for the first time upon their return should arrange for an "exit interview" with the Associate Director of Athletics in charge of eligibility before leaving Cambridge.

Use of College Services and Facilities
Libraries and other facilities may normally be used only by students who are currently registered. Students on leave or required to withdraw may not participate in extracurricular activities. Exceptions to this rule must be specifically approved in advance by the Administrative Board. The student on involuntary leave may not participate in student activities until officially allowed to register. If so instructed by the Dean of the College or the Administrative Board, a student on leave must remain away from the University campus.

Students are encouraged to consult the Office of Career Services, which may be able to assist them in making plans for their time away from the College. Students who have been granted a leave of absence or have been required to withdraw or placed on involuntary leave may at any time consult their Allston Burr Assistant Dean or Resident Dean of Freshmen.

Students in good standing who are on a voluntary leave of absence may be permitted to apply for Harvard funding, including but not limited to summer grants, provided that they have obtained the Administrative Board's prior approval. In making this determination, the Administrative Board will consider the relevant circumstances, including, for example, the circumstances that led to the student's leave of absence.

Course Work Done Out of Residence

Students in good standing (see Actions of the Administrative Board) who are granted a leave of absence and who wish to enroll in courses given by another institution for Harvard degree credit should consult Procedures for Earning Degree Credit for Study Abroad. To be granted degree credit for course work done out of residence, a student must apply to the Office of International Education before study begins. Any student who has received a bachelor’s degree from another institution is not eligible to enroll or re-enroll in Harvard College as an undergraduate.

Returning to College

Students in good standing who have been granted a leave of absence may ordinarily return for any term they wish by notifying the Allston Burr Assistant Dean (or Resident Dean of Freshmen, for students who were granted a leave during their first term) twelve weeks in advance of that term. Ordinarily, freshmen taking a leave of absence at any point during their first term will not be allowed to register before the fall term of the next academic year.

A student who has been granted a “leave of absence—late in the term” or a “leave of absence—on probation” must petition the Administrative Board for permission to register and must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to their leave have been satisfactorily addressed and that they are ready to resume their studies. The decision whether to allow a student to return is made by the Administrative Board. Students placed on involuntary leaves of absence must petition the Administrative Board for permission to return and must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to their leave have been satisfactorily addressed and that they are ready to resume their studies.  The decision whether to allow a student to return is made by the Administrative Board. 

If the leave, whether voluntary or involuntary, was for medical reasons, then the student must petition the Administrative Board for permission to register and must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to their leave have been satisfactorily addressed and that they are ready to resume their studies. In addition, so that the College may conduct an individualized assessment of their circumstances, students on medical leave ordinarily will be required to consult with Harvard University Health Services (and to grant permission to Harvard University Health Services to obtain their treatment records and communicate with their treatment providers) so that a professional assessment about the student’s stability and readiness to return can be shared with the College, including the student's participation and progress with appropriate health care providers during their time away.  Evidence of stability must include a written statement describing how the student’s time away has been spent and often includes a substantial period of regular employment at a non-academic job and a suitable letter of recommendation from the employer or employment supervisor. Please also note that if the College learns of serious concerns about the health or well-being of a student who is away from the College but not on a leave of absence, or is on a leave of absence that is not a medical leave of absence, then the College similarly may require the student to consult with Harvard University Health Services (and to grant permission to Harvard University Health Services to obtain their treatment records and communicate with their treatment providers) so that a professional assessment about the student’s stability and readiness to return can be shared with the College. In all such cases, the decision whether to allow a student to return involves an individualized assessment made by the Administrative Board, which may condition the student's return on an agreement to engage in ongoing medical treatment, if such treatment has been recommended by Harvard University Health Services.  

Any disciplinary matter must be resolved before a student on leave of absence will be allowed to return and, if the student has been required to withdraw while on leave of absence, then any conditions for return after a required withdrawal (see Readmission after Requirement to Withdraw) also must be satisfied for the student to be readmitted.

The Administrative Board ordinarily will not approve the return of a student for the fall term whose experience in the Harvard Summer School in the previous summer has been unsuccessful or unsatisfactory.

All students intending to return to the College must obtain a Returning Student Housing Application from the Office of Student Life, University Hall, Ground Floor. These applications are due quite early in the preceding term in order to permit the College to provide housing for as many students as possible (see Housing Policies and Deadlines and the Academic Calendar for application deadlines and other information).

Students who do not file the Returning Student Housing Application by the appropriate deadline will be housed on a space-available basis only. Students denied housing on this basis can reestablish eligibility for guaranteed housing by living off-campus for two terms while enrolled and by filing a Returning Student Housing Application before the appropriate deadline. Students whose leaves have extended beyond two years are not guaranteed on-campus housing upon their return to the College but will be housed on a space-available basis (see Those Who Will Ordinarily Be Housed and Those Who Will be Housed On a Space-Available Basis Only).

A student who has filed a Returning Student Housing Application for one term but subsequently decides to return for the following term instead must submit a new application for that following term or request of the Office of Student Life, in writing, that the initial application be reactivated.

Students returning from a leave who wish to apply for financial aid must notify the College Griffin Financial Aid Office at 617-495-1581 and file the necessary application forms (see: the Griffin Financial Aid Office website) by mid-April for the following fall term, and by October 1 for the following spring term. Late applicants cannot be assured that their aid will be available in time for registration payment deadlines.

Students who have been granted a leave and who have borrowed money through Harvard must submit an annual loan deferment form to the Student Loan Office upon their return to Harvard. Deferment forms may be obtained through either the Student Loan Office or the Griffin Financial Aid Office and must be completed and certified by the Registrar immediately following Check-in and Course Registration. Failure to file a deferment form upon return will cause payments to be due on loans and could affect future borrowing eligibility.

A student will not be allowed to register in the University again until all previous term-bill and telephone charges have been paid and no loan is in default.

Students who have been away from the College for five or more years must petition the Administrative Board for permission to register. Those planning to return to the College after a period of five or more years will ordinarily not be eligible for scholarship aid from institutional sources. Petitions for readmission after an interval of five or more years must include evidence of financial resources necessary to meet all College expenses.