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 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 their Bowdoin e-mail unless an alternative e-mail address has been provided. 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 RA, proctor, or house proctor 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.
To initiate a request for a leave of absence, students must complete a Leave of Absence Request Form. These are available in the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs and online. Approvals for a leave and the conditions associated with the leave will be provided in writing to the student by the dean.
In unusual circumstances, the Dean of Student Affairs or his or her 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 he or she 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 Health Services or Director of Counseling Services, determines that he or she needs to request a voluntary medical leave should contact his/her dean to discuss the terms of the leave as decided by the College
Involuntary Medical Leave
In unusual circumstances, the Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs or his or her designee, in consultation with Health Services 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 him/herself 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 s/he no longer requires a hospital setting but may still need more support than s/he 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.
The College reserves the right to notify a parent or guardian 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 his or her 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 his or her 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 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 Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs, 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 Health Services and/or the Director of Counseling Services and Wellness Programs 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 his/her 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 his/her 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 his or her medical leave immediately.
Enrollment Status. While on medical leave, the 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 Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs. 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 Off Campus Study Office.
Course Registration. Once the student on medical leave has been readmitted to the College, he or she will be able to participate in course registration. It is strongly advised that the student consult with his or her course instructors, advisor, and dean when choosing courses following medical leave.
Educational Record Reflection. The student’s transcript will not reflect his or her medical leave. In the event a medical leave occurs after the start 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 Dean of Student Affairs Office. 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 Student Privacy Rights Policies in the Student Handbook.
Financial Aid Eligibility. Students on medical leave retain financial aid eligibility as long as all College deadlines are met prior to readmission. Questions should be directed to the Office of Student Aid.
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 of the College Catalogue.
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.
Student Health Insurance. If the student is currently enrolled in the Bowdoin Student Accident and Sickness Insurance Plan, his or her coverage will continue as specified by the policy. If the student waived Bowdoin’s Plan, he or she should consult his or her comparable plan for any exclusions or limitations. Questions should be directed to the Student Health Insurance Coordinator.
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 his or her return, due to space limitations. Once the student has been readmitted, he or she can discuss availability and options with the Residential Life Office. Students on medical leave are ineligible to participate in the spring housing lottery. 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, he or she will not be permitted to visit campus without prior written permission of the Dean of Student Affairs or his/her designee. Permission will be granted for certain pre-approved educational or health treatment purposes only.
The Readmission Committee
The Readmission Committee is chaired by the Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs and is comprised of the Senior Associate and Assistant Deans of Student Affairs; Director of Student Aid; Director of Residential Life; Director of Counseling Services and Wellness Programs; Director of the Health Services; and a representative from the Admissions Office. The Committee meets 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.