Essential Policies for the Columbia Community



A Voluntary Leave of Absence is a type of Withdrawal. A Voluntary Leave of Absence or any other form of Withdrawal indicates that a student has been permitted an exception from the continuous registration requirement of the University.

This policy provides students with general information regarding Voluntary Leave of Absence. Each school within the University articulates Voluntary Leave of Absence policies for its students. For more specific information regarding the circumstances and processes for Voluntary Leave of Absence, as well as conditions relevant to returning from Leave, students should refer to their school bulletins or speak with their Dean of Students or other staff person as designated in the school's bulletin (DOS). Students are responsible for understanding the implications of a Leave of Absence for housing, financial aid, health insurance, and progress toward the degree.

In general, a Voluntary Leave Absence will be requested prior to the beginning of a semester. Policies differ from school to school, for students who request to withdraw from a term-in-progress.

This policy will not be used in lieu of disciplinary actions to address violations of Columbia University rules, regulations, or policies. A student who has engaged in behavior that may violate rules, regulations, or policies of the University community may be subject to the Dean's Discipline Process of his/her particular school. A student may be required to participate in the disciplinary process for his/her school coincident with the request for a Voluntary Leave of Absence. A student permitted to take a Voluntary Leave of Absence while on academic and/or disciplinary status will return on that same status.

International students are advised that taking a Voluntary Leave of Absence may affect their student visa status and should consult with the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) on the Morningside Campus and the Office of International Affairs on the CUMC campus.

Below three separate types of Voluntary Leave of Absence are described.

1. Medical Leave of Absence or Medical Withdrawals

A student who must interrupt study temporarily because of physical or psychological illness may request a Medical Leave or Withdrawal from their DOS. The medical or mental health professional who has been providing treatment to the student will, with the student's written consent, confirm in writing that a Medical Leave is warranted due to the student's health problem. Supporting medical documentation will be dated within 30 days of the request for a Medical Leave. The DOS or designee may request a consultative review of the medical or mental health documentation by a Columbia health professional: on the Morningside campus, a member of the staff of Primary Care Medical Services and/or Counseling and Psychological Services; on the Columbia University Medical Center campus, an appropriately trained professional identified by the DOS. This consultation may include conversation between the treating health care provider and the designated University health professional. The DOS may also request that the student engage in an exit interview with the University health professional prior to taking the Leave. If such consultation is deemed necessary, it will not be completed without written consent from the student.

Medical Leave may be approved during a student's degree candidacy contingent upon the student's specific school policy and except during times when a Withdrawal from study would be more appropriate.

Students may request to have their Columbia University health insurance continued while on Leave (additional fees may apply).

2. Other Leaves of Absence

The DOS of a student's school may recommend a Voluntary Leave of Absence for other compelling reasons for students who find it necessary to interrupt study temporarily. At the discretion of the DOS, supporting documentation may be requested from the student to substantiate such a request.

General Policies and Conditions for All Leaves

  1. A Leave of Absence is not a form of registration. Therefore, no tuition will be charged for semesters for which a Leave of Absence has been approved provided that the request is received prior to the start of the semester. According to the policy of the student's individual school, Leaves may or may not be entered on the student's transcript. Leaves are noted in the student's permanent educational records maintained at the school. Whether the period of Leave is counted as part of the time allowed for completion of degree requirements will be at the discretion of a student's individual school.
  2. Since a Leave of Absence is not a registration, a student on Leave may not use University facilities, including libraries, housing, the fitness center, health services, the student center, nor receive financial aid. Occupied University housing must be vacated promptly by students on Leave.
  3. A Leave of Absence must be approved before the term for which it is requested; it cannot be granted retroactively. Students who wish to withdraw from a term-in-progress should refer to their individual school's policies.
  4. The process for returning from a Leave of Absence varies from school to school. Students returning from a Leave should therefore refer to the policies of their individual school regarding this process, including reviewing application deadlines for reenrollment and financial aid. Availability of and priority for University housing for students returning from Leaves of Absences varies from school to school. Students should contact the office of their DOS for more information.

Medical Certification of Readiness for Resumption of Studies

Students granted Medical Leaves of Absence may be asked to demonstrate that the condition which precluded enrollment during the Leave has resolved sufficiently to allow resumption of studies. Specifically, the student's DOS or the University may require any or all of the following, depending on the circumstances that necessitated the leave:

a) Medical or psychological records from the physicians and/or mental health professionals who cared for the student while on Leave and/or a "Statement of Readiness to Return" from these health care professional(s). Students will be asked to sign written consent for the release of this information.

b) An assessment interview. On the Morningside campus, the DOS may request this 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. On the CUMC campus the assessment interview may be conducted with an appropriately trained professional identified by the DOS. If an assessment interview is deemed necessary, it will not be completed without written consent from the student. 


Columbia University will maintain the confidentiality of all information regarding Voluntary Leaves in accordance with federal, state and local law, and to the greatest extent consistent with the goal of processing such Leaves. All records concerning Voluntary Leaves of Absence are confidential and the official copy of such records shall be retained by the School in which the student was enrolled at the time of the Leave. Access to these records is limited by appropriate federal, state and local law.

Columbia University reserves the right to notify a parent or guardian if deemed appropriate under the circumstances and as permitted by applicable federal, state and local law.