Leaves from the College

This information is taken from the Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook.

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.

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. 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. 

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. A personal leave of absence functions as a withdrawal from the College, during which time the student is not enrolled at the College. If a student intends to take a personal leave from the College, they should review associated information, meet with their dean, and complete the online Intent to Withdraw Form.

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 coursework 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, Conduct Review Board, Outing Club, Career Exploration and Development (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. Once a request for a leave of absence is approved, the decision is binding.

Students on leave 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 email. Students returning from leave will be able to participate in the selection of housing via a proxy process. 

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, and complete the online Intent to Withdraw Form.

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.

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.

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 dean for students. 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 dean for students 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 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 and any conditions imposed are final. The dean for students 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 for students 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.

The Re-enrollment Committee

Any student on leave from the College, including students on medical leave, personal leave, academic suspension, or disciplinary suspension, must request for re-enrollment before the student is permitted to return to Bowdoin.

Students who are eligible to apply for re-enrollment will be notified via their Bowdoin email account by the Office of the Dean of Students and provided instructions for re-enrollment. The Re-enrollment Committee—which is chaired by the dean of students or a designee, and includes representatives from the Office of Admissions, the Office of the Dean of Students, and the Office of Residential Life—reviews requests for re-enrollment twice annually. Letters requesting re-enrollment and supporting materials should be directed to the Office of the Dean of Students. 

Students seeking re-enrollment are notified of the outcome of their petitions by their dean. Students should be aware that, in addition to other applicable re-enrollment criteria, due to Bowdoin’s enrollment model, no student is guaranteed to be re-enrolled to the College within the timeframe they request. 

Students on any form of leave are typically not eligible to register for classes or make housing arrangements until they have been re-enrolled. Typically, a student will be able to participate in course registration for the semester in which they are expected to return upon approval of the request for re-enrollment. Course registration instructions will be sent to their Bowdoin email. Students will be able to participate in the selection of housing after re-enrollment.

Re-enrollment Criteria and Procedures

General Re-enrollment

A student who has been placed on a leave for academic performance, disciplinary, or medical reasons—whether voluntary or involuntary—must request re-enrollment before the student is allowed to return to Bowdoin College.

The student must send a letter to the Re-enrollment Committee in a timely manner, to the attention of the dean of students, requesting formal re-enrollment to the College. That letter must comply with the terms of the student’s leave contained in the letter confirming the student’s leave (which is typically from the Office of the Dean of Students or the Office of the Registrar). Once the Re-enrollment Committee has reached a decision, the student will be notified by their dean. The decision of the committee is final.

Re-enrollment Following Medical Leave

Where a student requests re-enrollment following a medical leave, or where the terms of a student’s leave otherwise require it, the student must also send to the director of health services and/or the director of counseling services and wellness programs a report from the student’s physician and/or health care provider. The report is expected to include discussion of the student’s current health status, course of treatment undergone during the leave, and the student’s compliance with any treatment plan, 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 cocurricular 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 health care provider submitting the report must be a licensed physician if the evaluation is regarding medical conditions and must be a licensed mental health provider if evaluating mental health conditions. 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 provider’s evaluation.

The Re-enrollment 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 health care providers. In order to provide for such requests, the student will be asked to sign and return a limited release form so that those individuals at the College who are involved in evaluating the student’s return may consult with the student’s outside health care provider(s) limited to aiding the College in assessing the student’s readiness to return to campus life and if so, under what conditions. 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. The College reserves the right to request an assessment by an outside medical provider, of the College’s choice at the College’s expense, when it believes the circumstances so warrant.  

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 re-enrollment, 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

Students should review associated information to receive further 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 returns from a personal leave or is readmitted by the Re-enrollment Committee. Students should be aware that they are expected to complete their degree in eight semesters of enrollment (semesters in which they earn grades). Ninth semesters are rarely permitted and only by petition to the Recording Committee.

Taking Courses at Other Institutions

The College strictly regulates the circumstances under which students on leave may transfer credits for courses taken during their leave.

In certain circumstances, the dean of students may approve a limited course load (one or two courses preapproved by the College). Students on a medical leave will typically not be permitted to take courses during leave. 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 coursework 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 readmitted 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 Handbook.

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.

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.

Insurance Implications

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

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, they can discuss availability and options with the Office of Residential Life. 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, or suspension for disciplinary or academic reasons, they will not be 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.

Resignation

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 online Intent to Withdraw Form. Students should also reference other 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, 2021. The Student Handbook may be updated more frequently after this date and is the authoritative source for information governing student life at Bowdoin.