Leaves from the College

A temporary withdrawal—referred to as a “leave”—from Bowdoin can occur in one of four ways: (1) personal leave of absence; (2) medical leave of absence (voluntary or involuntary); (3) disciplinary suspension; and (4) academic suspension. Students may choose to take a temporary leave for personal or medical reasons. In other cases, students may be required to withdraw temporarily due to a failure to maintain minimum academic standards or a disciplinary issue that warrants separation from the College. As a general matter, parents/guardians will be notified of a student’s change of status resulting from a leave of absence, regardless of the reason.

In all cases (except personal leaves), following a leave of absence from the College, a student will be required to seek re-enrollment to Bowdoin before they are permitted to return to coursework and engage in the life of the College. Please see the Re-Enrollment Policy for more information.

1. 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 (PLOA) from their studies. Students contemplating personal leaves are strongly encouraged to consider 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. Except in unusual circumstances, a personal leave of absence may not exceed two (total) semesters. A personal leave of absence functions as a withdrawal from the College, during which time the student is not enrolled.

Students interested in taking a personal leave from the College must carefully review this policy, review additional information provided by Office of the Registrar, meet with their dean, and complete the online Intent to Withdraw Form.

In general, students seeking a PLOA must be in good academic and social standing at the end of the semester immediately prior to the start of the leave. PLOAs most typically begin prior to 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. A student who wishes to extend their existing PLOA or who wishes to revoke their PLOA before it begins must receive approval from a dean.

In general, where the circumstances warranting a leave relate to a student’s medical condition, a student should take a medical leave, not a personal leave of absence.

2. Medical Leave of Absence

For a variety of reasons, students may find it beneficial to request a leave of absence to address a medical condition. In limited circumstances, the College may deem it necessary to require a student to take a medical leave of absence (MLOA). The medical leave status will continue until the student applies for and is granted re-enrollment as determined 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. A MLOA may only be taken to address or attend to a student’s own health. Students needing to take time away to care for or attend to the health of a family member should seek to take a personal leave of absence. While students typically remain on leave for one full term, not including the term in which the leave occurred, the length of a leave will vary based on individual circumstances.

A. 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, or other qualified medical and/or treatment provider, wishes to request a voluntary medical leave should contact their dean to begin the process.

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.

B. Involuntary Medical Leave

In unusual circumstances, the dean of students or their designee, in consultation with health services and/or counseling and wellness services professionals, may determine that a student needs to be placed on an involuntary medical leave. Any such determination shall be made only after an individualized assessment of the student’s circumstances and will be promptly conveyed 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.

A determination of an involuntary leave will be based upon an individualized assessment by a healthcare provider, 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 College programs and activities as a member of the College community.

The assessment may also include the possible impact of the student on the campus community; the nature, duration, and severity of any risk posed; the probability that a potential harm (to self or to others) will occur; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures could sufficiently mitigate any such risk. In particularly urgent situations, the College may require the student to leave campus on an interim basis while the required assessment is conducted. The assessment will be made, at a minimum, by the director of health services and/or the director of counseling services, or their designee(s). Whenever possible, the student’s external healthcare provider will also be consulted. For purposes of this assessment, the student’s external healthcare provider may not be a family member of the student.

If a student believes that the College’s decision to place them on an involuntary medical leave 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. Once notified of the involuntary medical leave, the student has five (5) business days to submit their appeal.

The appeal must be made in writing to the Dean for Student Affairs or their designee. 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 Student Affairs or their designee to consult with the student’s health care provider about the student’s condition, the involuntary leave decision and/or conditions placed upon the student’s return. The Dean for Student Affairs or their designee will respond in writing to the student’s written appeal within five (5) business days. The response will be based upon a thorough review of the relevant facts and information and include a final determination as to whether or not the involuntary medical leave is appropriate and necessary. The 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.

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.

3. Disciplinary Suspension

For some serious violations of College policy, including academic dishonesty, a student may be separated from the College for a specified period of time with minimum conditions to be eligible for consideration for re-enrollment. Suspension is a change of status.  

Suspended students, unless otherwise authorized by the Dean of Students, must leave the campus and may not occupy or visit College facilities or properties. In addition, suspended students are prohibited from participation in Bowdoin-sponsored activities or representing the College in any manner or forum during their suspension. Suspended students may not transfer academic credit to Bowdoin for coursework taken during a suspension, unless permission is granted by the Dean of Students. Except in cases of immediate suspension, a term of suspension will typically begin on the last day of the academic term for the semester in which it is given. 

Please see Sanctions for more information.

4. Academic Suspension

A student who earns a cumulative GPA of 1.000-1.499 or semester GPA of 1.000 or lower may be suspended for academic deficiencies. Please see Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook for more information.

Suspended students, unless otherwise authorized by the Dean of Students, must leave the campus and may not occupy or visit College facilities or properties. In addition, suspended students are prohibited from participation in Bowdoin-sponsored activities or representing the College in any manner or forum during their suspension. Students on Academic Suspension may be required by the Recording Committee to take coursework while away Except in cases of immediate suspension, a term of suspension will typically begin on the last day of the academic term for the semester in which it is given. 

5. Implications of Leave from the College

Bowdoin advises students to be familiar with the impact that a leave from the College may have on the student’s status:

A. 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, are likely to not be supported by student aid, and only by petition to the Recording Committee.

B. Transferring Course Credit to Bowdoin from Other Institutions

Students on personal leaves may not transfer academic credit for classes taken while on leave. Students on medical leave, disciplinary suspension, or academic suspension may not transfer credits back to Bowdoin except by prior approval from the department, the Office of the Registrar, and the Office of Dean of Students. Requests for credit approval must be made and approved, in writing, to the Office of Dean of Students prior to the student’s leave beginning.

Requests for transferring course credit for more than two courses, regardless of the duration of the leave, are seldom granted and require prior approval of the Recording Committee.

In all cases, if a student enrolls as a degree-seeking student at another institution, that student will be administratively resigned from Bowdoin. If the student later wishes to return to Bowdoin, they must apply through the admission process as a transfer student.

C. Course Registration

Students on medical leaves, disciplinary suspension, and academic suspension will not be permitted to participate in course registration until they have been approved for re-enrollment. Once a student has been re-enrolled at the College, they will be able to participate in course registration. Students should consult with their course instructors, advisor, and dean when choosing courses following leave. Students should be aware that taking a leave may affect their class standing (i.e., the student’s association with a particular class year). Students on leave will be able to participate in course registration for the semester in which they are expected to return during a special re-enrolled students registration period. Course registration instructions will be sent to their Bowdoin email. 

D. Educational Record Reflection

The student’s transcript will not reflect the nature of a student’s leave. However, 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). The student’s transcript will also reflect a gap in attendance. For more information about FERPA and a student’s rights under the law, consult Student Records Policy in the Code of Community Standards.

E. 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. 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.

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

G. Student Health Insurance

If the student is currently enrolled in the Bowdoin Student Health 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.

H. Housing

On a case-by-case basis, the College, in consultation with the student and 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 re-enrolled, they can discuss availability and options with the Office of Residential Life. Students on medical leave, disciplinary suspension, and academic suspension 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.

6. Conditions Governing Leaves from the College

Presence on Campus
While a student is on medical, disciplinary, or academic leaves from the College, 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.

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.

Students may not compete in or on behalf of Bowdoin College athletic programs until after the last day of exams prior to the semester in which they are scheduled to return. Athletes on MLOA must be cleared by the College’s Athletic Training Department prior to resuming participation.

On-Campus Jobs, Activities, and Opportunities
Students who are not enrolled at the College are not permitted to hold campus jobs, including conducting research for faculty, serving as lab or course learning assistants, or participating in campus social or educational activities.

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.

Additional Conditions
Additional conditions governing a student’s leave may be outlined in the student’s leave letter.

7. Family Notifications

The College reserves the right, consistent with applicable state and federal privacy laws, to notify a parent or guardian of their student’s change in status if circumstances warrant and if it is believed to be in the best interest of the student and the College community.

This information is also contained in the The Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook which is current as of August 2023. The Code of Community Standards may be updated more frequently after this date and is the authoritative source for information governing student life at Bowdoin.