Leaves of Absence

Degree candidates who must interrupt studies for a compelling reason may be granted a Leave of Absence for a stated period, usually not to exceed one year. During the period of leave a student may not use Universities facilities. Approved leaves are entered on a student's permanent academic record. The period of a Leave of Absence is not counted as part of the time allowed for the completion of degree requirements.

Students who intend to take a Leave of Absence must submit a Request for Leave of Absence form to Student Affairs.

Medical Leaves of Absence

Medical Leaves and Medical Withdrawals

When students are faced with health issues that have a negative impact on study habits, course attendance, or class preparation, they are urged to consult with their advisors to discuss taking a medical leave of absence from the university. Students who are hospitalized during term time or who miss class for more than two weeks due to health issues are advised to take a medical withdrawal from the term in progress. A student may request a Medical Leave or Withdrawal from the Office of Student Affairs. Doctors at University Health Services (UHS) as well as counselors at the Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) can also help students evaluate whether a medical leave is advisable. Students must provide medical documentation to support their requests for medical leaves or medical withdrawals. As part of the re-enrollment process, students will also be required to supply current medical documentation, and to be evaluated by the relevant branch of the University’s Health Services.

In exceptional cases, when there is sufficient information to suggest that as a result of physical or psychological illness, a student is engaging in or is likely to engage in behavior that could lead to injury to self or other, the Dean of Students, in consultation with UHS, CPS, and the Office of Public Safety, may place a student on an involuntary leave of absence for reasons of personal or community safety.

Students who withdraw from their studies after the eleventh week of the semester or for medical reasons are not allowed to return for at least four months (a minimum of one semester), to allow time to address the situation that led to the withdrawal.

A Medical Leave of Absence is contingent upon the submission of documentation from a health care professional. The student must provide documentation from a health care professional confirming that the student is unable to engage in graduate study; such documentation may include a statement as to when the student may be expected to resume studies. Medical leaves will not be granted retroactively.

Readmission Requirements

The school must allow the student to re-enroll in the next class or classes in the same program, with the same enrollment status, number of points, and academic standing as when he or she was last in attendance at Columbia. The student may also request a later date of admission or, if unusual circumstances require it, the institution may admit the student at a later date. If the school determines that the student is not prepared to resume the program where he or she left off, the school must make reasonable efforts at no extra cost to the student to enable the student to resume and complete the program. Such reasonable efforts include, but are not limited to, providing a refresher course and allowing the student to retake a pretest, as long as they do not place an undue hardship on the school. If reasonable efforts are unsuccessful or the school determines that there are no reasonable efforts that the school can take, the school is not required to readmit the student.

If the program to which the student was admitted is no longer offered, the student must be admitted to the program that is most similar, unless the student requests or agrees to admission to a different program.


Students must apply for re-enrollment through the Office of Student Affairs within three years of the end of their last completed semester at SPS. Students granted re-enrollment must return to Columbia the next semester and complete that term to maintain their academic status at SPS. Students who desire to return after withdrawal are required at the time of re-enrollment to submit a Re-Enrollment Checklist including a personal statement concerning how they have addressed the circumstances that caused them to withdraw. Students must submit this petition to the Office of Student Affairs by the date specified on the form relevant to the term in which they wish to return. All students who take a leave or withdraw for medical reasons must have their physician or other health care provider attest that their health now permits them to resume their studies. Students returning from a medical withdrawal or medical leave will be required to be evaluated by the relevant branch of University Health Services to complete the re-enrollment process.


Completed Re-Enrollment Petitions are due by:

May 1 for summer term courses
August 15 for fall term courses
December 15 for spring term courses

If you are returning from a medical leave or medical withdrawal, please refer to your letter for the exact deadline, which will always be earlier. Normally students who have withdrawn are not allowed to resume their studies with summer session enrollment.

Students who have not petitioned for re-enrollment during the three-year time frame will lose their academic status at SPS and will need to reapply formally to the School of Professional Studies through the Office of Admissions.

Medical Certification of Readiness for Resumption of Studies

In order to return after a medical leave students may be required to provide Student Affairs with written approval of a health care professional who treated the student during the leave, confirming that the student is capable of returning to graduate study and proposing any recommended qualifications (e.g., part-time study).

Student Affairs may also require an assessment interview to be conducted by a member of the Counseling and Psychological Service staff and/or a member of the Primary Care Medical Services staff depending on the health condition which necessitated the Leave.

Refund of Tuition and Fees

All students who withdraw or take a Leave of Absence during a semester in which they are registered are charged a $75 withdrawal fee. Tuition is refunded on a prorated basis. No fees are refunded after the second week of the semester. The Registrar's office publishes a schedule of refunds for tuition and fees based on the week in the semester during which the withdrawal or leave is approved.

Leave for Military Duty

Any student who is a member of the National Guard or other reserve component of the armed forces of the United States or of a state organized militia and is called or ordered to active duty will be granted a military leave of absence for the period of active duty and for one year thereafter. Upon return from military leave of absence, the student will be restored to the educational status attained prior to being called or ordered to such duty without loss of academic credits earned, scholarships or grants awarded, or tuition or other fees paid prior to the commencement of active duty. The University will credit any tuition or fees paid for the period of the military leave of absence to the next enrollment period or will refund the tuition and fees paid to the student, at the student’s option. Students in need of a military leave of absence should contact the Dean of Students for their school.

Student Financial Planning

Students who receive financial aid, and who are taking a leave of absence, should immediately notify Student Financial Planning to discuss if/how the leave affects their aid.

International Students

Students on a J1 or F1 visa who intend to take a Leave of Absence must contact the International Students and Scholars Office as soon as possible.