Leave of Absence Policy

Mount Holyoke’s Leave of Absence Policy covers four types of leave: academic, medical, personal and mandatory. Students who are considering applying for an academic, medical or personal leave of absence should keep in mind the following:

  • Students must be in residence at Mount Holyoke for at least four semesters out of their sophomore, junior and senior years to meet graduation requirements and they must earn at least 64 Mount Holyoke credits during these semesters.The 64 Mount Holyoke credits can include Five College credits taken during the academic year through the interchange (not while on leave).
  • Financial aid recipients should visit the Office of Student Financial Services for information on financial aid and student accounts prior to applying for a leave of absence in order to understand how taking a leave might affect aid eligibility in future years, if there is any tuition account balance due, or if any student loans will enter repayment.
  • Students taking a leave during their first seven weeks of the semester should speak with the Office of Student Financial Services about receiving a partial refund for tuition and room and board, based on the following schedule: 
    • Week 1 = 90%
    • Week 2–3 = 75%
    • Week 4–5 = 50%
    • Week 6–7 = 25%
  • International students attending the College on an F1 visa or other visa status must consult with the immigration specialist at the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives before applying for leave, as a student’s immigration status will be affected by any leave. 
  • Typically an approved leave of absence is no less than one semester and no more than four semesters. 
  • Students should discuss a potential leave with their faculty advisor, academic dean, family members or other contacts, such as health or counseling staff.  
  • A student may be required by the College to take a mandated leave of absence.
  • When a leave is effective as of the first day of classes or later, withdrawn courses will remain on the transcript with a W notation.
  • A student on leave is not entitled to participate in any College program or activity, including student employment. Students may be restricted from visiting campus at the sole discretion of the College.
  • Students must be in good financial standing in order to return from a leave of absence. All past due balances must be paid and student loans must be in good standing. Contact Student Financial Services with any questions.

Leave Types

  1. Academic Leave
    Academic leave includes study abroad, all exchange programs, and full-time study at other U.S. colleges and universities.
  2. Personal Leave
    Personal leave is for students who plan to be away for a variety of personal reasons that may include but are not limited to employment, travel and/or financial concerns. Students on personal leave may earn up to 16 credits per semester of academic credit at an accredited institution within the United States, with approval from the registrar. 
  3. Medical Leave
    Medical leave is intended for students who are temporarily unable to continue their studies due to their own health issues. During medical leave, students may earn up to 16 credits per semester of academic credit at an accredited institution within the United States, with approval from the registrar. 
  4. Mandatory Leave
    Mandatory leave is required time away from the College that is related to difficulty meeting Mount Holyoke’s academic or behavioral standards. Students on mandatory leave may earn up to 16 credits per semester of academic credit at an accredited institution within the United States, with approval from the registrar.

Academic Leave Policies

Academic leave includes study abroad, all exchange programs, and full-time study at other U.S. colleges and universities. The McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives coordinates all applications for study abroad. Contact the McCulloch Center for further information. The Office of Student Success and Advising coordinates all applications for full-time study in the United States. Contact the Office of Student Success and Advising to apply.

Programs of Study in the United States

A student may apply for an academic leave to participate in one of the following programs. Deadlines and instructions vary.

To qualify for an academic leave a student must meet the following requirements: 

  • Hold a minimum grade point average of 2.7. 
  • Clear all outstanding registration holds (e.g., financial, health, etc.). 
  • Declare a major if applying to study away for all or part of the junior or senior year. Students applying to study away in their sophomore year are not required to declare a major in advance.
  • Present a full-time plan of study at an accredited institution that will enhance the student’s academic program at Mount Holyoke and be suitable to the College’s curriculum.
  • Obtain approval for the plan of study from the student’s faculty advisor, along with approval from the dean of studies in the Office of Student Success and Advising or the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, as appropriate.

Personal Leave Policies

A personal leave of absence is a voluntary leave from the College to attend to personal matters such as employment, travel, family and financial concerns. Students interested in taking a leave to address their own physical or psychological health concern should refer to the section on medical leave of absence below in this document. 

Students interested in taking a personal leave of absence must complete the following steps: 

  1. Set up an appointment to speak with their academic dean in person or via phone about the timing of the leave, the reasons for requesting the leave, plans for time away and for returning to the College, the impact on their academic program, and how the leave will figure into an overall graduation plan. Students who are away from campus can request a leave of absence by arranging a phone or virtual appointment. 
  2. Complete the Personal Leave form, following the initial meeting, which requires an academic dean’s signature and includes the anticipated date of return.
  3. Submit the Personal Leave form to the Office of Student Success and Advising. Once the leave has been processed, students will receive a written confirmation from the College in their College email account, stating the terms and conditions of the leave. Students are responsible for reading all materials that are sent to them via their Mount Holyoke email address concerning their leave and for complying with the terms and conditions of the leave. 
  4. Students are not eligible for personal leaves when they have taken more than four sequential semesters away from the College. If leave is denied, the student remains responsible for all academic requirements.

Important Additional Information on Personal Leave

Students should note the following additional information relating to personal leave:

  • A personal leave of absence can typically be no less than one semester and no longer than four consecutive semesters. The College withdraws students after four consecutive semesters away unless they have requested and received an extension of their leave from the Office of Student Success and Advising. Students are encouraged to request a planned personal leave of absence by the dates listed below, although the College recognizes that situations may arise requiring a request after the suggested deadlines: 
  • May 15 for upcoming fall semester or full academic year.
  • November 15 for upcoming spring semester.
  • Note: Personal leaves taken after the 50th day of the semester will carry forward to the following academic semester. 
  • When a personal leave is authorized on an immediate basis during a semester, students are withdrawn from the courses in which they are enrolled and receive W’s in place of credits and grades. 
  • The College will provide up to three days to remove belongings and vacate the residence halls when a personal leave is approved on an immediate basis. If additional time is needed, the student should speak with the director of Residential Life. Extending time in the residence halls may affect the amount of any refund, if applicable, or result in a late-stay charge. The College has a list of vendors who provide storage and shipping services.
  • International students should be aware that their immigration status may be affected by taking a personal leave and should therefore consult with the immigration specialist in the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives before applying for a personal leave.
  • During the student’s approved personal leave, the Office of Student Success and Advising will send an official email outlining the steps needed for a return to campus. The email will be sent to the student’s Mount Holyoke College email address. Students on leave must follow the steps outlined in the email for a successful return to campus.
  • During a leave, a student may decide to take courses at an accredited institution. See the Regisrar's website for information about this option and consult with the registrar’s office. 

Returning From a Personal Leave of Absence

Students will be expected to return to campus after the requested leave ends. An email will be sent to returning students outlining the steps to take for financial aid, housing and course registration. A student will be billed for the semester of expected return unless an extension of the leave is requested by submitting another Personal Leave form.

Medical Leave Policies

A medical leave of absence is a leave from the College to attend to the student’s own physical or psychological health concerns. Students must consult Health Services or the Counseling Service, as applicable under the circumstances, for all medical concerns resulting in a request for medical leave, including those arising from a chronic health condition or disability. Academic deans must refer all requests for medical leaves to Health Services or the Counseling Service, as appropriate under the circumstances. 

Health Services or the Counseling Service will review the request for leave and notify the Office of Student Success and Advising of approved leaves. The notification to the academic deans will include the basic parameters of the leave, such as the effective date. Health Services and the Counseling Service will keep the details of the student’s medical condition confidential to the extent possible in compliance with relevant law. Students may be asked and/or choose to provide a written release of information permitting the disclosure of medical information to other offices at the College so that those offices can provide the student with the appropriate resources. 

Important Additional Information on Medical Leave

The length of a medical leave will be determined by the nature or severity of the health concern. A student should allow sufficient time to regain the health and functioning required to manage a full-time academic load in a residential environment. However, a medical leave of absence can be no less than one semester and ordinarily no longer than four consecutive semesters. The College withdraws students after four consecutive semesters away. A student who is withdrawn from the College can apply for readmission. 

Note: A request to withdraw from all classes or request for a leave of absence after the 50th day of classes in a given semester results in a leave of absence for the current semester as well as the following semester, absent extraordinary circumstances, as determined by the College at its sole discretion. 

  • Students should plan to meet with the appropriate academic dean to discuss their progress toward a degree, given their absence. Students can arrange this meeting by calling the Office of Student Success and Advising at 413-538-3610 and requesting an appointment. 
  • When a medical leave is authorized by the College on an immediate basis, students are withdrawn from the courses in which they are enrolled and given W’s in place of grades. 
  • International students should consult with the immigration specialist or the director of international student advising in the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives before going on medical leave to discuss the impact the leave may have on their immigration status.
  • During a leave, a student may decide to take courses at an accredited institution. See the registrar's policy on transfer credit for information on this option and consult with the registrar’s office. 
  • When a medical leave is approved, the student will be allowed up to three days to remove belongings and vacate the residence halls. If additional time is needed, the student should speak with the director of Residential Life to request extended time to move out. Extending time in the residence halls may affect the amount of any refund due, if applicable, or result in a late stay charge. The College has a list of vendors who provide storage and shipping services.

Returning from a Medical Leave of Absence

Students who seek to return from a medical leave of absence must receive a written assessment of medical readiness from Health Services or the Counseling Service. Health Services or the Counseling Service, as applicable, will then notify the Office of Student Success and Advising of the student’s request to return. Students must complete the following steps for clearance and approval before they will be able to register for Mount Holyoke classes, request housing, complete an application for financial aid or return to the College: 

  1. The treating physician or clinician must complete a Readiness to Return from Medical Leave of Absence form, located on the Counseling Service website, for leaves initiated through the Counseling Service, and the Health Services website for leaves initiated through Health Services. This form must be submitted before the student makes an appointment to discuss clearance to return from leave.
  2. The student should set up an appointment over the phone or in person to speak with the director or designee of either the Counseling Service or Health Services, as applicable, to discuss the student’s return.
  3. If notified by the director of the Counseling Service or of Health Services that the student is medically ready to return to campus, the student will be referred to the Office of Student Success and Advising to complete the process to return to campus.  

Students are encouraged to request a return from a leave of absence by October 30 to return the following spring semester and March 30 to return the following fall semester. Please note that a request after these dates may limit options for course registration, on-campus housing and/or financial assistance. The College encourages students to follow the steps outlined in the Return from Leave form. 

Please note that additional holds or flags on a student’s record, whether disciplinary, academic or financial, may prohibit a return to campus. Students must clear those holds with the appropriate offices before returning to campus.

Students must be in good financial standing in order to return from a leave of absence. All past due balances must be paid and student loans must be in good standing. Contact Student Financial Services with any questions.

Appealing Return from Medical Leave Decisions

Students may appeal a denial of a return from a medical leave of absence to the dean of students. The dean of students may opt to convene an evaluation committee to review a student’s appeal request. The team may include any combination of the dean of students, dean of studies and representatives from Health Services, the Counseling Service and/or AccessAbility Services, among others. If called to participate in a review, the directors or designees of Health Services and the Counseling Service will comply with applicable law governing the confidentiality of student medical information. The student may be requested to complete a written release of information permitting the disclosure of confidential records, including medical records, in order to evaluate the appeal. Upon completing the appeal’s review, the student will receive written notification from the Division of Student Life regarding its outcome.

Mandated Leave Policies

The College may require a student to take a leave of absence in response to significant concerns about academic progress or behavior.

Important Additional Information on Mandated Leave

Students should note the following additional information relating to mandated leave:

  • Students on a mandated leave must request advance permission from the dean of students to visit campus or participate in any College-related or College-sponsored activity off campus.
  • Students on a mandated leave for academic or behavioral reasons will, upon return, lose eligibility for merit or other non-need-based scholarships awarded by the College.

Mandated Leave During the Semester

The dean of students, dean of studies, director of the Counseling Service and/or the director of Health Services may convene a confidential evaluation committee as part of the process to require a student to withdraw during the semester when the student:

  • Presents a substantial risk of harm to self or others.
  • Fails to carry out substantial self-care obligations.
  • Significantly disrupts the educational or other activities of the College community. 
  • Is unable to participate meaningfully in educational activities. 
  • Requires a level of care from the College community that exceeds the resources and staffing that the College can reasonably be expected to provide for the student’s well-being.

The evaluation committee may request that a representative from the Office of Student Success and Advising, Division of Student Life or other areas of the College present information about the student’s experience. Other administrators may be added to the evaluation committee if expertise is needed that is not already represented, including but not limited to legal counsel for the College, a faculty advisor, etc.

The evaluation committee may ask the student, and their family, if appropriate, to participate in the review by inviting them to make a brief written or oral statement.

The evaluation committee may access the student’s educational records and may request that the student release their medical record as required for an appropriate review. If involved in a review, the directors of Health Services and the Counseling Service will comply with applicable law governing the confidentiality of student medical information.

The evaluation committee is responsible for informing a student and their parents or guardians of the result of the committee’s deliberation.

The evaluation committee’s decision following consideration of all relevant information will be the final decision of the College. The evaluation committee will communicate its decision to the student and the appropriate administrative offices.

Behavioral Suspension

Students may be suspended if they do not adhere to the College’s standards of social conduct or if the College otherwise determines, at its sole discretion, that a behavioral suspension is in the best interest of the College and/or the community. The length of a behavioral suspension will be determined on a case-by-case basis. The College may utilize a temporary and/or emergency removal process, pending completion of a threat assessment or disciplinary proceeding. 

A student who has been suspended will generally be placed on disciplinary probation upon their return, if appropriate, and this is at the College’s sole discretion. The dean of students, in consultation with other College administrators, is typically responsible for reviewing whether violations of policy or a single behavioral issue is sufficiently serious to warrant a suspension. Additionally, the Honor Code Council may recommend suspension as an outcome of a hearing and the College may issue a suspension as an outcome of a grievance. 

Students must comply with any restrictions and fulfill any conditions required by the College during the period of suspension in order to demonstrate readiness to return.

When a student is suspended for behavior with a disciplinary charge pending, the College may complete the disciplinary process while the student is on leave or after the student returns from leave. 

Behavioral Withdrawal

Students may be withdrawn from the College if they do not adhere to the College’s standards of conduct or if they are determined to represent a significant threat of substantial harm to anyone in the Mount Holyoke community, including the student themselves. The dean of students, in consultation with other College administrators, is typically responsible for reviewing whether violations of policy or other conduct is sufficiently serious to warrant a withdrawal. The College may also withdraw a student as an outcome of a grievance. The Honor Code Council can recommend that a student be withdrawn for behavioral reasons. 

Generally, a student who has been required to withdraw may apply for readmission to the dean of students after one semester has passed, depending on the circumstances. A student who returns to the College after a behavioral withdrawal will be placed on disciplinary probation upon their return.

Students must comply with any restrictions and fulfill any conditions required by the College during the period of withdrawal to demonstrate readiness to return.

When a student is suspended for behavior with a disciplinary charge pending, the College may complete the disciplinary process while the student is on leave or after the student returns from leave. 

Appeals to Mandated Behavioral Leaves

Students may appeal a mandatory behavioral leave to the dean of students. An appeal must be in written form and submitted within three business days from the date of notice of suspension or withdrawal, unless the student can establish good cause for the appeal period to be extended. The dean of students will evaluate the appeal and provide the student with written notification concerning the appeal’s outcome. In cases of mandatory suspension or withdrawal involving a disciplinary process, students should consult the appeal process outlined under Appeals in the College Disciplinary Process section of the Student Handbook.

Requesting a Return from a Mandatory Behavioral Leave

Students should request a return from leave before the following dates:

  • October 30 to return to the College the following spring semester.
  • March 30 to return to the College the following fall semester.

Requests to return from a behavioral leave of absence should be sent to the dean of students. Using these dates as a guide will assist with providing sufficient time to obtain approval and review possible changes to financial aid, academic progress, housing, etc. Please note that requests made after these dates may not be approved for a return in the following semester. Requests made after these dates will also limit options for courses and may limit the opportunity to live in on-campus housing. The College encourages students to follow the steps outlined in the checklist that accompanies the Return from Leave form.

The dean of students (or designee) will review the Return from Leave form and determine whether the return is approved. Students may be required to submit additional information to assist with the evaluation of the request to return and may be requested to complete a written release of information permitting the disclosure of confidential records, including medical records. 

Please note that additional holds or flags on a student’s record, such as a disciplinary or financial hold, may prohibit a return to campus. Students must clear those holds with the appropriate offices before returning to campus.

Mandatory Academic Leave

Academic Suspension or Required Withdrawal

Students may be suspended or required to withdraw from the College in accordance with Academic Administrative Board (AAB) criteria for these actions, per its academic regulatios. The AAB comprises the dean of studies, the registrar, each academic dean, and three faculty members, one from each academic division: humanities, science and mathematics, and social sciences. The board meets at the end of each semester to review all student records and determine the appropriate course of action to support each student’s progress toward completing a Mount Holyoke degree. 

The AAB may suspend a student for one or two semesters or require a student to withdraw, based on the academic record in the semester under review, or the student’s cumulative academic performance. Students who are suspended or withdrawn by the AAB must follow AAB guidelines to return to the College. These guidelines may include required coursework away from the College to demonstrate readiness to return to the academic rigor of Mount Holyoke.

Academic Suspension

Students suspended by the AAB may be eligible for reinstatement after the mandated period of leave. A student who has been suspended for a semester or a year will be on academic probation for one semester after their return. During the suspension, the transcript will have the notation “Suspended for (period) for academic deficiencies.” This notation will be removed from the student’s official transcript when the student returns to the College or one year from the date the leave begins, whichever is sooner. However, the College will maintain an internal record with the notation of the suspension period.   

Academic Required Withdrawal

A student who has been required to withdraw may apply to the AAB for readmission, but the student may not return to the College before one academic year has passed. The student’s official transcript will have the notation “Required to withdraw for academic deficiencies on (date). Eligible for readmission to apply after one academic year.” This notation will be removed if the student returns to the College. However, the College will maintain an internal record with the notation of the withdrawal period. Students who are required to withdraw and seek to re-enroll in the College must complete the steps to apply for readmission.

Questions about the readmission process should be directed to the dean of studies.

Appealing Academic Leaves

Students may appeal AAB decisions of suspension or required withdrawal to the dean of studies. It is recommended that students work with their academic dean in drafting a statement that describes new and compelling information that would affect the decision. Appeals must be in writing.

Access to Campus Resources While on Leave

When a student is on leave, the College will alert the appropriate offices across campus. This notification will prompt a change to certain College privileges, which may include, without limitation, campus employment, borrowing from the library, access to Kendall, health and counseling services and campus dining. The approval of a leave will also prompt Student Financial Services to perform required calculations according to the College’s refund policy. Students should contact Student Financial Services directly regarding refund requests.