Leaves from the College

There are four types of leave from the College: (1) personal leave of absence; (2) medical leave of absence, both voluntary and involuntary; (3) disciplinary suspension; and (4) academic suspension. This policy covers personal leaves and medical leaves.

Personal Leave of Absence

Bowdoin recognizes that, from time to time, a student may derive educational and personal value from taking a personal leave of absence from their studies. The College also recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rapidly shift family and personal circumstances, which may result in a student needing to take time away. Students contemplating personal leaves are strongly encouraged to consider carefully their individual situations, including progress toward degree completion and whether circumstances dictate that they should temporarily interrupt their course of study at Bowdoin. 

In light of the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, students wishing to take a personal leave from Bowdoin may, with the approval of a dean, and in consultation with their academic advisor, interrupt their Bowdoin education and take a voluntary personal leave of absence to pursue other interests for one or two semesters.

The conditions governing a personal leave of absence are as follows:

  1. Students must be in good academic and social standing at the end of the semester immediately prior to the start of the leave.
  2. Leaves typically begin at the start of a regular semester and may not extend beyond two semesters. Exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis by the dean of students.
  3. A personal leave may not be used in lieu of a voluntary medical leave.
  4. Leaves of absence, extensions, or terminations of leaves must have the approval of a dean.
  5. Students on personal leave are not considered enrolled at Bowdoin and are expected to leave the College community.
  6. Students on leave may not transfer academic credit to Bowdoin for course work taken while on leave.
  7. Students should be aware that taking a leave may affect their class standing.
  8. Students should be aware that taking a leave may have financial implications related to tuition reimbursement, financial aid, and repayment status of any student loans. Returning students retain financial aid eligibility if they meet applicable deadlines.
  9. While on leave, students are unable to compete in Bowdoin College athletic programs until after the last day of exams prior to the semester in which they are scheduled to return.
  10. While on leave, students may be ineligible to apply for certain campus opportunities or leadership positions. Examples include, but are not limited to, off-campus study, Residential Life, Judicial Board, Outing Club, CXD, and McKeen Center. Students should speak with individual offices to determine eligibility.
  11. Students who have not already completed the Off-Campus Study application process will not be permitted to study elsewhere during their leave and transfer credit back to Bowdoin.
  12. Student will be required to go through the re-enrollment process in order to resume their studies at Bowdoin.
  13. Once a request for a leave of absence is approved, the decision is binding.

A personal leave of absence functions as a withdrawal from Bowdoin, during which time the student is not enrolled at the College. Students may apply for a personal leave of absence only after meeting with their dean and consulting their academic advisor.

Medical Leave of Absence

For a variety of reasons, students may find it beneficial to request a leave of absence to address a health condition. In limited circumstances, the College may deem it necessary to require a student to take a medical leave of absence. The medical leave status will continue until the student is prepared to return to the College and is re-enrolled by the Re-enrollment Committee. This policy outlines the circumstances of such leaves as well as various procedures and conditions, including re-enrollment 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 they believe that their physical and/or mental health concerns are significantly interfering with their ability to succeed at Bowdoin and/or that the demands of college life are interfering with recovery, treatment, or safety. A student who, in consultation with either the director of health services or director of counseling services, determines that they need to request a voluntary medical leave should contact their dean to discuss the terms of the leave as determined by the College. Whenever possible, students intending to go on a medical leave from the College should review associated information, meet with their dean, complete the Intent to Withdraw Form, and return it to the Office of the Dean of Students.

Involuntary Medical Leave

In unusual circumstances, the dean of students or their designee, in consultation with health services and/or counseling services 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 promptly convey that decision in writing to the student. Any student whose situation falls within the following categories may be subject to involuntary leave of absence:

  • presents a substantial risk of harm to self or others or is failing to carry out substantial self-care obligations; or
  • significantly disrupts the educational or other activities of the College community; or
  • is unable to participate meaningfully in educational activities; or
  • 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 involuntary leave determination will be based upon an individualized assessment, reflecting reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge or on the best available objective evidence. The decision will reflect consideration of a number of factors, including the student’s ability to safely participate in the College’s programs, inclusive of the student’s ability to carry out substantial self-care obligations, and will examine whether the student is otherwise qualified, with or without reasonable accommodation, to effectively participate in the College community. The assessment will determine the student’s impact on the campus community; the nature, duration, and severity of any risk posed; the probability that a potential injury will actually occur; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures will sufficiently mitigate the risk. In particularly urgent situations, the College may require the student to leave campus on an interim basis while it performs the assessment.

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 may return. Note that, in some situations, the hospital may determine that the student is eligible for discharge; however, a separate administrative decision is to be made by Bowdoin with respect to whether or not that student may 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, if the student is unwilling to take a voluntary medical leave, the involuntary medical leave process shall be followed as set forth herein.

Appeal Procedure for Involuntary Medical Leave

If a student believes that the College’s decision to place them on an involuntary medical leave and/or the conditions the College may have placed upon the student’s return from an involuntary medical leave are 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 Senior Vice President and Dean for Student Affairs. Appeals should clearly state the specific grounds for appeal and should present relevant information to support the statements including medical/clinical evidence in support of their position. In such situations, the student may be required to sign a limited release to enable the Senior Vice President and Dean for Student Affairs or their designee to consult with the student’s health care provider on the involuntary leave decision and/or conditions placed upon the student’s return. Once notified of the involuntary medical leave, the student has three (3) 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 and any conditions imposed is final. The Senior Vice President and Dean for Student Affairs or their designee will respond in writing to the student’s written appeal within three (3) 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 Senior Vice President and Dean for Student Affairs reserves the right to request an assessment by an outside medical provider of the College’s choice and at the College’s expense when it is believed that the information available to the College so warrants. In such instances, a delay in the resolution of the appeal may be necessary.

Family Notification

The College reserves the right, consistent with applicable state and federal privacy laws, 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.


Students should review the Registrar’s website for additional guidance on the implications of withdrawing from the College.

Academic Implications

Enrollment Status. While on leave, the student is not an enrolled student at Bowdoin College. The leave status will continue until the student is re-enrolled by the Re-enrollment Committee.

Taking Courses at Other Institutions.  Except in rare and extraordinary circumstances, students on personal leave may not transfer academic credit to Bowdoin for course work taken while on leave. Except in rare and extraordinary circumstances, students may not transfer academic credit while on disciplinary leave.

Students on medical leave or leave due to academic deficiencies will typically not be permitted to take courses during leave except by permission of the dean of students, who may approve a limited course load (one or two courses preapproved by the College). If a student on a medical leave seeks approval to take courses during their leave, the student must provide support, in writing, from 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.

In instances of suspensions for disciplinary or academic reasons, the student’s suspension letter will provide all pertinent details regarding course work during the suspension, including whether the student has permission to take courses, whether the student is required to take courses, and any parameters regarding when the courses may be taken, among others.

In all cases, if a student enrolls as a degree-seeking student at another institution and later wishes to return to Bowdoin, they must apply through the admission process as a transfer student.

Off-Campus Study Applications. Students on personal 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 a student has been re-enrolled to the College, they will be able to participate in course registration. Students must consult with their course instructors, advisor, and dean when choosing courses following leave.

Educational Record Reflection. The student’s transcript will not reflect their leave. In the event a 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 leave approval letter will be retained in the Office of the Dean of Students. 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 Code of Community Standards.

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 consult with the Office of Student Aid to: 1) ensure that all aid forms and required documents have been submitted prior to leaving the College; 2) review any loan repayment 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 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 Bowdoin College Academic Handbook.

Tuition Insurance. Tuition insurance is available, but it must be purchased prior to the start of the semester. Questions should be directed to the Bursar’s Office.

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

Students on leave may not participate in the housing lottery until they are re-enrolled to the College. In addition, College housing may not be available to the student upon their return, due to space limitations. Once the student has been re-enrolled, they 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.

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.

Presence on Campus

While a student is on personal leave, medical leave, or suspension for disciplinary or academic reasons, they are not permitted to visit campus without prior written permission of the dean of students or their designee. Permission will generally be granted for certain preapproved 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 course work 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 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 course work prior to matriculating at Bowdoin. Bowdoin College will consider granting credit for pre-matriculation course work, providing the following criteria have been met: (1) the course work must have been completed on a college campus at an accredited four-year college/university in courses taught by college faculty, (2) the course work 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 course work 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 intend to 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 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 and irrevocably terminates the student’s official relationship with the College. If a student were to desire 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. Given the permanency of resignation, students are encouraged to discuss their plans thoroughly with advisors, parents, and a dean. In instances where students have been away from the College for multiple semesters, including where students are not on a formal leave or where a leave period has expired, they may be administratively resigned. Furthermore, a student who enrolls in another institution as a degree-seeking student will be administratively resigned.

A decision to resign should be submitted in writing using the Intent to Withdraw Form, which may be requested from the student’s dean. Students should also review associated information.

Upon resignation, tuition and fee refunds are made in accordance with the College’s refunds policy.

The Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook is current as of August 1, 2019. The Student Handbook may be updated more frequently after this date and is the authoritative source for information governing student life at Bowdoin.

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 Students or here. 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 Withdrew) being recorded on the students’ transcripts.