Academics - Other Academic Regulations

Leave of Absence

Students may, with the approval of a dean and in consultation with their academic advisor, interrupt their Bowdoin education and take a leave of absence to pursue nonacademic interests for one or two semesters. The conditions governing a leave of absence are as follows:

  • Students must be in good academic and social standing at the end of the semester immediately prior to the start of the leave.
  • Leaves typically begin at the start of a regular semester and may not extend beyond two terms. Exceptions may be granted by the dean of student affairs.
  • Leave extensions, terminations, or cancellations must have the approval of a dean.
  • Students on leave are not considered enrolled at Bowdoin and are expected to leave the College community. Exceptions may be granted by the dean of student affairs.
  • Students on leave may not transfer academic credit to Bowdoin for coursework taken while on leave.
  • Students should be aware that taking a leave may affect their class standing.

Students on leave of absence will be able to participate in course registration for the semester in which they are expected to return. Course registration instructions will be sent to the student’s Bowdoin e-mail address. Students will be able to participate in the selection of housing via a proxy process and are free to visit campus without the dean’s permission. While on leave, students are unable to compete in Bowdoin College athletic programs until after the last day of exams prior to the semester that they are scheduled to return. Students are permitted to submit applications for Off-Campus Study and for resident assistant (RA), proctor, or house resident positions, and normal deadlines apply. Students are expected to return at the conclusion of their leave. Readmission is unnecessary, and individuals retain financial aid eligibility if they adhere to College deadlines.

If a student intends to withdraw from the College, they should complete the Intent to Withdraw form, reference the Withdrawal Checklist and any other associated paperwork, and return it to the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs.

Medical/Personal Leave of Absence

In unusual circumstances, the dean of student affairs or their designee may, upon careful consideration of the welfare of the individual student and the College community, place a student on leave of absence from the College. This policy outlines the circumstances of such leaves as well as various procedures and conditions, including readmission criteria and processes and implications for the student in terms of academic, financial, insurance, and housing matters.

Voluntary Medical Leave: A student is encouraged to request a voluntary medical leave in the event that the student believes that physical and/or mental health concerns are significantly interfering with the ability to succeed at Bowdoin and/or that the demands of college life are interfering with recovery or safety. A student who, in consultation with either the director of the Health Center or director of the Counseling Service, determines that the student needs to request a voluntary medical leave should contact their dean to discuss the terms of the leave as decided by the College. If possible, students intending to go on a medical leave from the College should complete the Intent to Withdraw form, reference the Withdrawal Checklist and any other associated paperwork, and return it to the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs.

Involuntary Medical Leave: In unusual circumstances, the dean of students or their designee, in consultation with Health Center and/or counseling professionals, may determine that a student needs to be placed on involuntary medical leave. In the event such a determination is made, the College will immediately convey that determination in writing to the student. The determination will be based upon an individualized and objective assessment of the student’s ability to safely participate in the College’s programs and will examine whether the student presents a direct threat of substantial harm to that student or other members of the College community. The assessment will determine the nature, duration, and severity of the risk; the probability that the potentially threatening injury will actually occur; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures will sufficiently mitigate the risk. In addition, a student who is not attending class or making satisfactory academic progress may be placed on an involuntary medical or personal leave at the dean’s discretion.

Return from Hospitalization: A student who is hospitalized as a result of a physical or mental health issue may wish to take a medical leave from Bowdoin to recover. If so, the student should follow the voluntary medical leave process set forth herein. In the event the student no longer requires a hospital setting and does not wish to take a medical leave, that student must be evaluated by Bowdoin for readiness to return to campus before the student can return. Note that, in some situations, the hospital may determine that the student can be discharged; however, a separate administrative decision is to be made by Bowdoin with respect to whether or not that student can return to campus. It may be determined, upon such an individualized evaluation, that the student has recovered such that the student no longer requires a hospital setting but may still need more support than the student can receive in a residential college setting. In such situations, a required withdrawal from Bowdoin for medical reasons may be considered to allow for a more extended period of recuperation. In that situation, the involuntary medical leave process shall be followed as set forth herein.

Family Notification: The College reserves the right to notify a family of their student’s status if circumstances warrant and if it is believed to be in the best interest of the student and the College community without limitations to state and federal privacy laws.

Appeal Procedure for Involuntary Medical Leave: If a student believes that a decision for an involuntary medical leave made by the College is unreasonable or that the procedures and/ or information relied upon in making the decision were wrong or unfair, the student may appeal the decision. The appeal must be made in writing to the dean of student affairs. Appeals should clearly state the specific unreasonable, wrong, and/or unfair facts and should present relevant information to support the statements. Once notified of the involuntary medical leave, the student has five (5) business days to submit their appeal. The student may not remain on campus during the appeal period. If no timely appeal is submitted, the decision about the involuntary medical leave is final. The dean or their designee will respond in writing to the student’s written appeal within five (5) business days. The response will provide a conclusion as to whether or not the involuntary medical leave is appropriate upon a thorough review of the relevant facts and information. The dean may request an assessment by an outside medical provider at the student’s expense, unless the student demonstrates an inability to afford such an assessment, in which case an alternative payment arrangement shall be made upon mutual discussion by the College and the student.

Readmission Criteria and Procedures: A student who has been placed on medical or personal leave, whether voluntary or involuntary, must complete the following readmission procedures before the student is allowed to return to Bowdoin College:

The student must send a letter to the Readmission Committee, to the attention of the dean of students, requesting formal readmission to the College. The student must send to the Readmission Committee a report from the student’s physician and/or mental health provider; the report will include discussion of the student’s current health status, course of treatment undergone during the leave, as well as any specific recommendations for the student and the College with respect to the student’s successful return to Bowdoin. The report will address the following: (a) the student’s readiness to return to the academic and co-curricular demands of college life; (b) the student’s readiness to live on campus; (c) the student’s ongoing treatment needs; (d) the student’s readiness to return to competitive sports, if the student is a collegiate athlete; and (e) any other suggestions that the health care provider deems appropriate.

The student’s physician and/or mental health provider must be a licensed physician if the evaluation is regarding medical concerns and must be a licensed mental health provider if evaluating mental health concerns. Further, all providers must be unrelated to the student and must have a specialty and credentials appropriate for the condition(s) of concern. The student is responsible for any cost associated with the physician or mental health provider’s evaluation.

The Readmission Committee will review the information provided by the student and evaluate the appropriateness of the student’s return. The committee may request further information from the student’s medical or mental health providers. In order to provide for such requests, the student will be asked to sign and return a release form so that those individuals at the College who are involved in evaluating the student’s return can have access to the student’s outside health care providers and have the ability to openly discuss relevant aspects of the student’s condition. In addition, the director of the Health Center and/or the director of the Counseling Service may also choose to meet with the student as part of the evaluation.

Once the Readmission Committee has reached a decision, the student will be notified by their dean. The decision of the committee is final.

In the event that the student is permitted to return to Bowdoin, the student will speak with their dean before returning in order to discuss the terms of the student’s readmission including, if appropriate, a discussion of a continuing treatment plan for the student. If such a plan is established, and if the student does not follow the established plan, the College will have the right to revoke its decision to readmit the student and will have the right to require the student to resume their medical leave immediately.

Additional Considerations: Academic Implications

Students should refer to the Withdrawal Checklist, available from the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs, to receive further guidance on the implications of withdrawing from the College.

Enrollment Status: While on medical leave, a student is not an enrolled student at Bowdoin College. The medical leave status will continue until the student is prepared to return to the College and is readmitted by the Readmission Committee.

Taking Courses at Other Institutions: The College discourages students on medical leave from transferring course credit to Bowdoin. The Office of the Dean of Student Affairs may allow a limited course load (one or two courses pre-approved by the College) with the support, in writing, of the student’s health care provider. All requests for such course approval must be made in writing to the dean of students. Requests for transferring course credit for more than two courses are seldom granted and require prior approval of the Recording Committee.

Off-Campus Study Applications: Students on medical leave are permitted to submit applications for Off-Campus Study, but must comply with the deadlines for those programs. Questions should be directed to the Office of International Programs and Off-Campus Study.

Course Registration: Once the student on medical leave has been readmitted to the College, the student will be able to participate in course registration. Course registration instructions will be sent to the student’s Bowdoin e-mail address. It is strongly advised that the student consult with their course instructors, advisor, and dean when choosing courses following a medical leave. Students should be aware that taking a leave may affect their class standing.

Educational Record Reflection: The student’s transcript will not reflect their medical leave. In the event a medical leave occurs after the second week of the semester, courses for that semester will be listed on the transcript with grades of W (Withdrew). A copy of the student’s medical leave approval letter will be placed in the student’s file in the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs. The handling of the student’s educational record is governed by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). For more information about FERPA and a student’s rights under the law, consult the Student Handbook online.

Financial Implications

Financial Aid Eligibility: Any student not in attendance for one or more terms, for voluntary or involuntary reasons, should be aware that their withdrawal from the College may affect any financial aid they are receiving and/or any federal loans borrowed while enrolled. The student is advised to 1) ensure that all aid forms and required documents have been submitted prior to leaving the College, 2) review any loan obligations that may come due during the leave, and 3) understand the deadlines and form requirements for aid application for return to the College.

Tuition and Fee Refunds: Tuition and fee refunds for medical leaves taken during the course of a semester are made in accordance with the College’s Refunds Policy. For more information, consult the Refunds section.

Tuition Insurance: Tuition insurance is available, but it must be purchased prior to the start of the semester. Questions should be directed to the College bursar.

Insurance Implications

Student Health Insurance: If the student is currently enrolled in the Bowdoin Student Accident and Sickness Insurance Plan, coverage will continue as specified by the policy. If the student waived Bowdoin’s plan, the student should consult their comparable plan for any exclusions or limitations. Questions should be directed to the student health insurance coordinator.

Housing Implications

On a case-by-case basis, the College, in consultation with the student’s health care providers, may determine that the returning student should not live on campus but is capable of attending classes. In addition, College housing may not be available to the student upon their return, due to space limitations. Once the student has been readmitted, the student can discuss availability and options with the Office of Residential Life. In the event that College housing is not available, the student may choose to live in housing in the local area. The Office of Residential Life maintains information on local area rental listings. Questions should be directed to the Office of Residential Life.

Presence on Campus: While a student is on medical leave, whether voluntary or involuntary, the student will not be permitted to visit campus without prior written permission of the dean of student affairs. Permission will be granted for certain pre-approved educational or health treatment purposes only.

Transfer of Credit from Other Institutions

The Bowdoin degree certifies that a student has completed a course of study that meets standards established by the faculty. It is normally expected that all of a student’s coursework after matriculation will be completed either at Bowdoin or in an approved semester- or year- long off-campus study program. (More information about such programs can be found in the section on Off-Campus Study.)

Apart from taking courses at Bowdoin or in approved off-campus study programs, the College recognizes that there may be rare occasions when it would serve a student’s educational interests to take courses elsewhere for credit toward the Bowdoin degree. In such cases, the work done elsewhere should represent a standard of achievement comparable to what is expected at Bowdoin in a field of study characteristic of the liberal arts.

A student may transfer a cumulative total of no more than four credits from study in summer school programs from four-year accredited colleges/universities. The College does not regularly grant credit for work completed through two-year institutions, domestic for-profit institutions, correspondence courses, bridge programs, or abbreviated winter terms (“Jan Plans”) or their equivalent at other times of the year, or programs such as HBX CORe. The College does not grant credit for professional or vocational study at other institutions. Beginning with courses taken in the Summer 2014 term forward, students may apply for transfer credit approval for online or hybrid courses. Credit is not granted for courses taken elsewhere during the academic year except in special circumstances and with the prior approval of the Recording Committee.

Students must apply to the Office of the Registrar for permission to transfer credit in advance of enrollment at another institution. The Application for Transfer of Credit requires the approval of the appropriate Bowdoin department chair; in order to make this determination the department chair will need to see a course description and/or syllabus for each course. In certain cases, students may be given conditional approval and be required to submit supporting documents, including the course syllabus and all papers and exams, after the course has been completed. The College may decline to grant credit if the course or the student’s work in the course does not satisfy Bowdoin academic standards. Credit is not awarded for courses in which the student has earned a grade below C- or for courses not graded with regular letter grades. Students are responsible for ensuring these regulations are met.

No credit will be awarded until an official transcript showing the number of credits or credit- hours and the grade(s) earned has been received from the other institution. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the official transcript is sent directly to the Office of the Registrar, and the transcript must arrive in a sealed envelope. Normally the transcript must be received and permission to transfer credit secured within one year following the term in which the course was taken. Credit may not be transferred if a longer time period has elapsed.

Transcripts of credit earned at other institutions that have been presented to Bowdoin College for admission or transfer of credit become part of the student’s permanent record, but are not issued, reissued, or copied for distribution. Course titles and grades for courses that were transferred from other institutions are not recorded on the Bowdoin transcript; only the institutional name and the credit are listed.

Students should be aware that credits earned elsewhere may not transfer on a one-to-one basis; some courses may be accorded less than a full Bowdoin credit. Students are advised to consult with the Office of the Registrar in advance to learn the basis on which transfer credit will be determined. For comparison purposes, students should know that one Bowdoin course is generally understood to be equal to four semester-hours or six quarter-hours.

Pre-Matriculation Credit: Students may have the opportunity to enroll in college-level coursework prior to matriculating at Bowdoin. Bowdoin College will consider granting credit for pre-matriculation coursework, providing the following criteria have been met: (1) the coursework must have been completed on a college campus at an accredited four-year college/ university in courses taught by college faculty, (2) the coursework must have been completed in a class with matriculated college students, (3) the courses may not have been used to satisfy any high-school graduation requirements, and (4) the coursework must represent a standard of achievement comparable to what is expected at Bowdoin in a field of study characteristic of the liberal arts. Bowdoin also recognizes Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and other international exams and may grant credit toward graduation requirements for them. Students should refer to the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate rules in effect at the time of their matriculation. Students may receive a maximum of four pre-matriculation credits toward the Bowdoin degree from approved exams or other approved college/university courses.


Students submit to the Office of the Registrar the Notice of Intent to Graduate in the fall of the academic year in which they will graduate. This required form is considered the official application for graduation. Submission of this form begins the final degree audit process and ensures that students receive all notices related to Commencement. Students will generally receive written notice by May 1 that they have been given preliminary clearance to graduate. Final clearance is determined after all academic work has been completed and final grades for the spring semester have been recorded.

Students may take part in only one Commencement, and they are normally expected to complete all degree requirements before they participate in graduation exercises. Students with two or fewer credits remaining and who can expect to complete all requirements by the end of the following August may be allowed to participate in Commencement but will not receive a diploma. In such cases, the degree will actually be conferred at the May Commencement following the completion of all requirements, and the diploma will be mailed to the student at that time. Speakers at Commencement and other students playing visible leadership roles in the ceremony must have completed all requirements for graduation.


Students may resign from Bowdoin at any time. Resignation permanently terminates the student’s official relationship with the College. If a student were to wish at some future date to return to Bowdoin, the student would need to reapply to the College through the regular admissions process as a transfer student. Applicants for readmission are reviewed on a case-by- case basis and should contact the transfer coordinator in the Office of Admissions for further information. Given the permanency of resignation, students are encouraged to discuss their plans thoroughly with advisors, families, and a dean. In instances where students have been away from the College for multiple semesters, they may be administratively resigned.

A decision to resign should be submitted in writing using the Intent to Withdraw form. Students should also reference the Withdrawal Checklist and any other associated paperwork. Forms are available in the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs.

Students should consult the expenses section for information about tuition and room and board refunds.

The Recording Committee and Student Petitions

The Recording Committee is a standing committee of the College whose purpose is to address matters pertaining to the academic standing of individual students and to consider exceptions to the policies and procedures governing academic life. The committee meets regularly to consider individual student petitions and meets at the end of each semester to review the records of students who are subject to probation, suspension, or dismissal. Decisions of the committee are final.

Students who are seeking exceptions to academic regulations or curricular requirements   must petition the Recording Committee. Petition forms may be obtained from the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs. All petitions require the signature of a dean, and, depending on the nature of the request, some may require supporting documentation from a faculty member, doctor, or counselor. Students are notified of the outcome of their petitions by the secretary of the Recording Committee. Students should note that any courses dropped with Recording Committee permission will result in a W (for withdrawn) being recorded on the students’ transcripts.

The Readmission Committee

The Readmission Committee is chaired by the dean of students and comprises the senior, associate, and assistant deans of student affairs; director of student aid; director of residential life; director of the counseling service; director of the health center; director of the Baldwin Program for Academic Development; and a representative from the Office of Admissions. The Committee meets twice a year, in June and December, to consider the petitions of students who are seeking to return from academic suspension, disciplinary suspension, and/or medical leave. Letters requesting readmission and supporting materials should be directed to the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs. Students on academic suspension, disciplinary suspension, and/or medical leave are not normally eligible to register for classes or make housing arrangements until they have been readmitted. Students seeking readmission are notified of the outcome of their petitions by the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs.