Leaves of Absence

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. Petition forms are available from, and must be submitted to, the Resident Dean.

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 Thanksgiving holiday in the fall term or after April 15 in the spring 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.

A student who is granted a leave of absence during the academic year is charged tuition, room rent, the Student Services Fee, and board to the end of the period in which he or she leaves, as indicated on the chart Students’ Financial Obligations in the Event of a Leave of Absence or Requirement to Withdraw and in Housing Policy.

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 Residential Life, University Hall, First Floor North, 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 Policy).

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 leaving after completion of the fall term should consult the section Full Courses—Divisible and Indivisible and their Resident Dean concerning dividing or withdrawing from any full or “hf” courses in which they were enrolled.

Students should file a change of address form at Holyoke Center 953, and students with telephones and email accounts are reminded to make appropriate arrangements to settle those accounts before leaving. 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.

Students receiving scholarship or other financial aid should consult the 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 Financial Aid Office, 86 Brattle Street. Students who receive veteran’s educational benefits should report to Holyoke Center 953. Foreign students should consult the International Office concerning their status.

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

Use of College Services and Facilities

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 may at any time consult their Resident Dean.

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

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.

Course Work Done Out of Residence

Students in good standing (see Administrative Board of Harvard College) 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 Programs before study begins. Any student who has received a bachelor’s degree from another institution is not eligible to enroll or reenroll in Harvard College as an undergraduate.

Returning to College

A student in good standing who has been granted a leave of absence may ordinarily return for any term he or she wishes by notifying the Allston Burr Resident Dean (or Resident Dean of Freshmen, for students who were granted a leave during their first term) eight 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 provide the Board with evidence that he or she is ready to resume college studies. Such evidence 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. A student who has been granted a leave of absence for medical reasons may be required to consult with a member of Harvard University Health Services and to allow a clinical assessment to be shared with the Administrative Board as part of his or her petition to be allowed to register. 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 Residential Life, University Hall, Ground Floor North. 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 Policy 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 Housing Guidelines).

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 Residential Life, in writing, that the initial application be reactivated.

Students returning from a leave who wish to apply for financial aid must notify College Financial Aid Office at 617-495-1581 and file the necessary application forms (see www.fao.fas.harvard.edu) 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 Financial Aid Office and must be completed and certified by the Registrar immediately following 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.

Involuntary Leaves of Absence

The Dean of Harvard College may place a student on involuntary leave of absence for the following reasons:

  1. Medical circumstances: (a) The student poses a direct threat to the health or safety of the student or others or has seriously disrupted others in the student’s residential community or academic environment; and (b) the student’s behavior or threatening state is determined to be the result of a medical condition, or the student refuses to cooperate with efforts deemed necessary by Harvard University Health Services to evaluate the cause of the student’s behavior or threatening state. In some circumstances, the level of care and accommodation may exceed the resources or appropriate staffing capabilities of a residential college or may be beyond the standard of care that a college health service can be expected to provide or monitor, in which case continued enrollment may constitute a serious disruption of the residential community or the academic environment, justifying an involuntary leave of absence.

  2. Alleged criminal behavior: The student has been arrested on allegations of serious criminal behavior, or has been formally charged by law enforcement authorities with such behavior.

  3. Risk to the community: The student has allegedly violated a disciplinary rule of the College and the Dean concludes that the student poses a significant risk to the safety or educational environment of the community.

  4. Indebtedness: The student owes the University money for term bill or telephone charges.

  5. Failure to submit proof of immunizations: The student has not provided medical documentation as proof of required immunizations.

  6. 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.

  7. Unfulfilled requirements: The student has failed to meet a specified academic requirement (expository writing or language) on schedule, and has not enrolled in courses needed to satisfy those requirements.

  8. Failure to register: The student has not registered as required at the beginning of each term.

Prior to placing a student on involuntary leave of absence, the Dean of Harvard College will consult with the student’s Resident Dean 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 Resident Dean.

Placement on involuntary leave of absence is not disciplinary, and 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 and other external reports will not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary leave of absence. However, an incident that gives rise to an involuntary leave of absence may subsequently result in disciplinary action. As is the case for voluntary leaves, official College letters of recommendation will note any unresolved disciplinary matter that is pending (see Administrative Board of Harvard College).

A student who has been placed on involuntary leave of absence is subject to the same rules regarding financial aid and financial obligations (room, board, tuition, etc.) that apply to an undergraduate granted a voluntary leave of absence. The student may not participate in student activities until officially allowed to register. Any student on a leave of absence must remain away from Harvard if so instructed by the Dean or the Administrative Board.

A student who has been placed on involuntary leave of absence and who subsequently petitions to return to the College will be required to demonstrate to the Administrative Board that the circumstances that led to the placement on leave of absence have been satisfactorily addressed. Any disciplinary matter must be resolved before a student on leave of absence will be allowed to return, and if a student is required to withdraw while on leave of absence, the conditions for return after a requirement to withdraw (see Administrative Board of Harvard College) will have to be satisfied in order for the student to be readmitted. If the leave was for medical reasons, evidence for the student’s readiness to return will include consultation with Harvard University Health Services so that the Health Services may advise the Board whether the medical condition that resulted in the behavior or threatening state is under control through treatment or no longer exists. Evidence may also include a substantial period of employment at a non-academic job and a suitable letter of recommendation from the employer or employment supervisor.

The decision whether to allow a student to return to the College rests with the Administrative Board.