Leave of Absence

Students take time away from their studies for a wide variety of reasons including:

  • work on a political campaign
  • manage a medical concern
  • fulfill a family obligation
  • pursue career-related opportunities
  • complete military service
  • take a break

While interrupting your studies to take time away may seem intimidating, a leave is a means to the successful completion of a degree, not a barrier to graduating. Taking a leave of absence is far more common than most students believe with 5% of the class that graduated in 2013 (125 of 2,521 traditional undergraduates) having taken a leave of at least one semester. Almost all students who take a leave of absence return and complete their degrees.

If you are considering a leave, take time to think carefully about your goals for your time away and for when you return. Speaking with an academic advisor is an important first step. Depending on your circumstances you should get advice from other sources as well. Students taking time away in order to manage a medical condition should discuss the leave with their healthcare provider. Your school advising office will help you connect with other campus resources as you prepare to take a leave of absence, such as Student Financial Services, Housing, and International Student and Scholar Services.

Students typically take a leave for a full academic year. Entering first year students requesting a leave of absence, if approved, must take a leave for a full academic year.  Individual circumstances may require more or less time; the length of the leave is determined by the school. Students on leave should remain in contact with their advisor and update them about changes in plans. The return from leave process supports students in a successful re-entry to academic life at Penn. When preparing to return, students must consult their school advising office to develop a plan that includes connection with appropriate resources.

Leave of Absence Policies

  • While on leave, you cannot receive Penn transfer credit for courses taken at another institution. There may be some circumstances that permit requests to transfer credit while on leave. Specific requests must be made in writing to the Associate Dean for Education prior to doing so.
  • If you are not in good academic standing when requesting a leave, you will have the same status when you return (e.g. academic probation.)
  • When requesting a leave for medical reasons, you must submit documentation from your health care provider and you may be required to consult with Student Health Service (SHS) and/or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) as needed.
  • If you receive financial aid, you should determine the financial aid impacts of a leave by looking at the Student Financial Services website and speaking with your assigned financial aid counselor.
  • In addition you may need to contact various other offices (such as housing, dining, etc.) to prepare for your leave. More information can be found at the following site: https://srfs.upenn.edu/student-records/withdrawals-leaves
  • While on leave, your PennCard will be automatically deactivated. However, you will continue to have access to Path@Penn.
  • The form to request a SEAS LOA can be found on the forms page.
  • Discontinuance of study without permission from the University does not constitute a leave of absence.

Returning from a Leave of Absence

Students must submit a written request for a return from a leave of absence. This is done using the form available on the Undergraduate forms page.

The Return forms must be received by:

  • July 15 for enrollment in the fall semester
  • November 15 for the spring semester
  • April 15 for the summer session
  • Two weeks before the beginning of the relevant Advance Registration period, if wishing to advance register.

In addition, students may need to contact various offices to prepare for their return.

Maximum time for a Leave of Absence

The maximum time allowed for a Leave of Absence is two academic years, or four academic semesters, not including summer sessions. Students may request an extension beyond two years as needed. Students who do not contact the Office of Academic Services (OAS) prior to the two-year period to request an extension will be automatically withdrawn from the University.

Use of facilities

The use of University facilities is not permitted while on a leave of absence.