Types of Leaves
Departing Campus and Frequently Asked Questions
The Return Process
The College recognizes the educational and personal growth that many students experience during time away from campus. In some cases, faculty members, advisors, or deans may suggest that students withdraw from formal studies to gain fresh perspectives on their intellectual commitments, career plans, or educational priorities. In other cases, family circumstances, declining motivation, or other factors commonly encountered by students may prompt them to remain away from the College for more than the usual College vacation periods. The College, therefore, encourages students to consider their situations, to clarify their objectives, and to decide for themselves whether they should temporarily pause their studies at the College and take a voluntary leave.
Students who wish to explore the advantages and disadvantages of a voluntary leave are encouraged to confer with their Class Dean and departmental advisors. Some students will also find it beneficial to discuss their situations and tentative plans with the Registrar, the Study Abroad Advisor, the foreign language departments, the Career Center and the Dean of Financial Aid. To request a leave, please communicate directly with your Class Dean.
Prior to the seventh week of any semester, students may choose to withdraw voluntarily without their final grades being recorded. However, unless they are granted exemptions for medical reasons or grave personal emergencies by the Committee on Academic Standing or the Office of Student Affairs, students who withdraw after the seventh week of a semester will withdraw with penalty and have final grades for that semester recorded on their academic records. Refunds of tuition, deposits and fees are treated according to the College policy. When leaves have been approved by the class deans and faculty advisors, the deans will specify any return requirements in writing and will indicate what academic work, if any, must be completed prior to return.
For some students, significant health challenges may prove to be an obstacle for a period of time. The College fully supports students who decide to take time away from school to focus on health and recovery. Students who wish to explore the advantages and disadvantages of medical leave are encouraged to confer with their health providers, their Class Dean and/or a Student Care staff, and departmental advisors. Some students will also find it beneficial to discuss their situations and tentative plans with the Registrar and the Dean of Financial Aid.
Students may elect to take a medical leave up until the last day of classes each semester. Medical documentation is required to support requests for medical leave and again prior to return to evaluate readiness to return to studies. To request a medical leave, you'll need to have your health provider email your Class Dean to confirm that they recommend a medical leave and plan to submit the medical leave form. You should submit the form to Student Care staff (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Students who are dismissed from the College for reasons of unsatisfactory academic performance are not eligible for return until they have been away from the College for two semesters. During this period of academic dismissal, the student is expected to demonstrate readiness to return by completing course deficiencies at another accredited college or university each with grades of C or higher (a C– is not satisfactory). The courses must be approved (in advance) by the Registrar and the class dean before the student enrolls. The student will be granted credit towards his/her Amherst degree for deficiencies only. Any remaining course deficiencies, after the two-course requirement has been met, must be completed before returning. Other conditions for return shall be set forth clearly in writing and must be met by the student before he or she can be considered for return to the College.
The College recognizes that a number of factors might play into a student struggling academically. We are eager to work closely with students who are encountering academic challenges, both while they are active students and if they are placed on academic dismissal. Our primary resource to support students dealing with such academic challenges are the Class Deans.
Some departments, especially language departments, strongly encourage or require that students majoring in their department study in a foreign country. Many students decide to pursue a period of study at another institution - either abroad or domestic - to broaden their horizons. Students who go on educational leave from the College usually do so during their junior year, although sophomore year educational leaves are permitted. It is expected that students will spend their senior year at Amherst. To receive academic credit for study elsewhere, students must perform satisfactorily in a full schedule of courses approved in advance by the Registrar, and the students’ advisors. Students on educational leave from Amherst must enroll at other institutions as visiting non- degree students. (See Transfer Policy).
Students who have been suspended from their studies for an academic or disciplinary infraction may not participate in educational leave (see p. 68 of the Catalog). Academic or disciplinary warning may also prohibit a student from studying abroad until s/he is in good standing and can discuss this scenario with the Director of Education Abroad. Educational leaves usually require a considerable amount of correspondence with other colleges and universities, especially in the case of foreign study. Therefore, students who may wish to go on educational leaves should begin discussing their plans at least a full semester before they expect to be enrolled in another institution. Students considering educational leave should visit the website for more information programs approved by the college and academic policies regarding credit transfer.
All students considering educational leave must submit their Intent to Study Away with the Office of Global Education by the end of advising week in the spring semester of the year prior to study away. Selected students may participate in Independent Study projects under guidance from a teacher at Amherst College without enrollment at host institutions and may pursue their studies elsewhere in the United States or abroad.
Students who transfer away from Amherst College (defined as enrolling at another college as a degree seeking student) may be eligible to re-enroll at the college. Students who are interested in returning may petition the Office of Student Affairs for return in circumstances where they intend to return at the same class standing at which they left, with no academic credit granted for their work at the transfer school (this includes courses the student might have completed hoping to make up course deficiencies they accrued at Amherst College). Any course deficiencies incurred prior to transferring away from Amherst College must be completed at another institution as a non-degree seeking student prior to return, with the approval of the registrar and the office of student affairs. All policies that otherwise govern the return of any students returning from a leave of absence will be followed.
Students who wish to return to Amherst College and have academic credits from their transfer school applied to their Amherst transcript (either to advance their class standing or to make-up for course deficiencies) will be required to re-apply as a transfer student through the Admission Office. Students seeking this option should be cautioned that they will be given no advantage over other transfer applicants, and transfer admission to Amherst is extremely competitive.
A student who transfers to another school, for any reason, a second time will no longer be eligible to return to Amherst College, whether through the return process or the Admission Office. Students who have completed a bachelor’s degree (B.A., B.S., etc.) at another school are ineligible to return to Amherst College as degree-seeking students.
The College reserves the right to exclude at any time students whose conduct it regards as unsatisfactory, or students who experience medical or behavioral needs requiring a level of support that cannot reasonably be provided while living in residence or participating in an academic program. Such conduct includes, but is not limited to: a student engages in, or is at significant risk of engaging in, behavior that jeopardizes the safety, health, and wellbeing of the campus community; manifests an inability to attend to personal needs related to food, shelter, personal safety and general well-being, such that there is a reasonable possibility of serious physical harm; behaves in a manner that interferes substantially with the rightful daily activities of members of the College or surrounding community, with the educational and/or residential environment, or with the orderly operation of the College, including behavior that imposes a significant burden on the College’s human resources needed for continued management of such behavior; fails to pay term bill by the stated due date; fails to provide required immunization records by the stated deadline; and fails to register as required at the beginning of each term or fails to have all course grades recorded for the prior term.
In addition, a student who has been granted make-up examinations or extensions of time beyond the end of the term, in order to avoid failing those courses, may be required to take a withdrawal. In such cases, fees are not refunded or remitted in whole or in part and neither the College nor any of its officers will have any liability whatsoever for such exclusion. When withdrawals have been imposed by the class deans, the deans will specify any return requirements in writing and will indicate what academic work, if any, must be completed prior to return. All return requirements must be completed by the appropriate deadlines or the student will not be allowed to return and will need to begin the return process again for the next academic semester. Students may appeal an involuntary withdrawal to the Dean of Students or designee.
If you are a student on campus who is transitioning to a leave, you have a number of steps to take as you plan your departure.
- Identify date of departure from campus: Please plan to depart campus within 2 to 3 days of your formal decision to take a leave. Confirm this date with your Class Dean and/or Student Care staff. If you have major extenuating circumstances that make it challenging to meet this expectation, please reach out to the Director of Student Care (Andy Tew, email@example.com).
- Departing your Residential Hall
- Collaborate with your Class Dean and/or Student Care staff to notify Student Affairs Operations (firstname.lastname@example.org) about the date of your departure. Student Affairs Operations staff will verify you have departed and removed your belongings after the specified date.
- Family and friends may assist you to move off campus, though it’s important to note 2022-2023 Academic year COVID safety protocols.
- You’ll need to remove all personal belongings from your room. Communicate directly with Housing Operations (email@example.com) to discuss storage with Boomerang.
- Take out all garbage and recycling
- Remove all perishable food
- Unplug all electrical devices
- Check all drawers, closets, lofts, under furniture, etc for personal belongings
- Close all window shades
- Turn off room lights
- Close and lock doors and windows
- You may request a Red Cart to help with your move-out process. Please let Housing Operations know in advance if you’ll need a cart.
- Remember to return college-owned items. Return any books, AV equipment, or materials on loan from Amherst College. Library books, lab equipment, practice room keys all must be returned to avoid late fees or replacement costs.
- After departing your hall, return your room key to the key drop box in Keefe Campus Center by the Post Office, to the Housing Operations office at 38 Woodside Avenue, or mail it in a padded envelope to Amherst College Box 2279, 16 Barrett Hill Drive Amherst, MA 01002.
- Notify pertinent staff, faculty and students of your departure: If you have regular in-person engagement with campus community members (professors, advisor, employers, etc), consider notifying them that you are departing campus. If the prospect of notifying particular individuals feels difficult, consider enlisting the assistance of your Class Dean or Student Care staff to help with communication.
- Immigration and visa issues: If you are not a United States citizen, contact the Director of Immigration and Visa Services Hanna Bliss (firstname.lastname@example.org, 413-542-5971) to go over the status and requirements pertaining to your leave from the college.
- Financial Aid: If you receive financial aid, please contact the Financial Aid Office (413‐542‐2296) to discuss your status and review all future deadlines. Be aware that a leave of absence does not exempt you from having to repay loans.
- Tuition Insurance: If you are taking a medical leave, check with Student Accounts (email@example.com, 413-542-2811) to determine if you have tuition insurance (all students are automatically opted in to this coverage, but you should double check to learn if you opted out at the beginning of the term). This insurance helps cover the cost of owed tuition in the case of a leave for medical reasons.
- Account Balance and Refund Policy: Check Workday for any outstanding balance(s) on your account. You must contact Student Accounts (firstname.lastname@example.org, 413-542-2811) to request any tuition refund or make payment arrangements to bring your account up-to-date, in accordance with the Amherst College Refund Policy.
Storage and Belongings
If you have belongings on campus, you will need to arrange for those to be removed during the duration of your leave. If you are on campus, please pack up all belongings and remove them from your residence hall room. If you are unable to pack your belongings yourself, please note that Boomerang Storage offers this service.
The College offers subsidized storage support for low-income and international students, and can further extend that support to students unexpectedly taking a leave from the College off-cycle. To request a storage subsidy code for use with Boomerang Storage, complete the Storage Subsidy Code (SSC) Request Form. Please note that the College has fully discontinued all on-campus storage offerings and that Boomerang Storage is our trusted shipping and off-campus partner. You may reach out to Housing & Operations at email@example.com with questions or to follow up on your request.
Storage Subsidy Codes cover Boomerang’s one-time registration fee and up to 4 boxes, totes, or luggage (size 4.5 cubic feet or smaller) for one or two terms (Spring/Summer/Fall). Boomerang’s standard boxes meet these criteria. Boxes/totes/luggage numbering more than 4 items, any furniture, and other items are not included in the subsidy. These can be stored at the typical Boomerang rate by the student. If you are unable to pack your belongings yourself, please note that Boomerang Storage offers this service at an additional fee at your expense. For additional information and dates, review the Housing & Operations webpage regarding off-site storage.
If Boomerang will be entering your room to pack or pick up items, be sure to communicate with OSA Operations and any roommates/suitemates about the day and time this will occur so that everyone is on the same page.
- If you are on the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) and you take a leave of absence from the College, you will be able to maintain your health insurance through the remainder of your covered period. Coverage periods are as follows:
- Annual Coverage: August 15, 2023 through August 14, 2024.
- Fall Semester Only Coverage: August 15, 2023 through January 4, 2024.
- Spring Semester Only Coverage: January 5, 2024 through August 14, 2024.
- If your leave of absence start date is after the start of classes, but before September 15, 2023, your health insurance coverage will be terminated and the fee will be reversed as part of an automated process. If you are in this situation and wish to keep your coverage while on leave, please contact the Student Accounts Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) so that your coverage can be reinstated and the premium reassessed to your bill. To be eligible for continued coverage, you must have been enrolled in SHIP and enrolled for at least one academic period.
- If your leave of absence start date is after September 15, 2023, and you are currently enrolled in SHIP, your coverage will automatically continue through the remainder of your covered period.
- If your leave of absence start date is after the start of classes and you have Health Scholarship coverage for SHIP through Financial Aid, you will retain that scholarship and retain your health insurance through the covered period.
- Students on medical leave may be eligible to purchase additional coverage out of pocket after the end of their coverage period.
- To be eligible, students must have been enrolled in SHIP and enrolled for the full academic year prior to the leave.
- Students are eligible to purchase up to one additional equivalent coverage period as a continuation.
- For example, if you take a medical leave and had been enrolled for at least one academic period, you may be eligible to purchase an additional full year of coverage out of pocket. If you take a medical leave but were enrolled in a single period of coverage (for Fall or Spring only), you may be eligible to purchase one additional period of coverage.
- Students on voluntary leave, academic dismissal, and involuntary withdrawal are not eligible to purchase additional periods of coverage out of pocket.
Frequently Asked Questions
While on leave, am I permitted to come visit the Amherst College Campus?
Traditionally, while on leave, students may visit campus as a guest and utilize facilities available to the public. However the general expectation is that students will be away from campus during leave.
- Students on leave are not permitted to enter residence halls or spend the night with peers on campus who are currently active students.
- Students on leave may not participate in campus activities reserved for active students such as registered student organization events, extracurriculars, intramural athletics, lectures, music groups, etc.
- Upon return, students are expected to return to campus on the prescribed return dates for all active students for the semester.
What will happen to my graduation date if I take a leave?
Your expected graduation date will be pushed back for the same number of semesters you are on leave. For example, if you take a leave for one semester, your expected graduation date will be one semester later than the graduation date given to you when you matriculated at Amherst. (Eg, if you were going to graduate in spring of 2023, your new graduation date would be fall of 2023.) The college hosts a formal graduation dinner at the end of every fall semester for all the students who are finishing their degrees at that time. Graduating students are invited to bring guests and celebrate their achievement. Students receive a diploma, cane, and also have the option to walk at the spring graduation ceremony as well.
Is there a penalty for going on leave?
There is no financial penalty for going on leave and there is no statute of limitations on how long a student can be away. Some of our students have taken multiple years away to focus on other life goals and we welcome them back when the time is right.
I feel worried about what professors, staff, or peers will think if I take a leave. How common is it?
At any time, we have many students on various types of leaves - it's much more common than most students realize. People take time away from school for personal reasons, for medical reasons, to focus on improving their academic skillset, or simply to pursue other life goals for a time. The college believes that time away can be a very important element of some students' educations and we strive to reduce any stigma associated with "hitting the pause button." In our experience, college community members are overwhelmingly supportive of students who go on leave. You are part of the Amherst community whether you are on campus or on leave - everyone has a different path and that is normal!
I have concerns about "treading water" while I'm away. What have other students found helpful?
Students who go through the leave and return process have many different experiences of it and no two leaves are the same. With that said, in working to support students who have gone through this process, here are a few common narratives we've heard:
- Creating daily structure is very helpful. Set a time you will wake up every day if possible. Plan regular meals and times to focus on work, recreation, social time, however that looks for you. Establish a routine.
- Engage in a job, an internship, or other kind of project. This not only gives you something to focus on but allows you to learn things you wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to learn while being a college student! Students often worry that they are "missing out" on learning while on leave, but there are many types of learning that can only be achieved in settings like jobs, internships, volunteer positions, and similar opportunities.
- Take a class. Even if you don't have to make up any course deficiencies as part of your return, it can be helpful to remain engaged in academic pursuits to some degree.
- Set realistic goals for yourself. What do you want to learn about yourself or the world during your time away from school? What skills might you like to acquire? What kind of healing work or recuperation is vital for you? Create accountability for yourself by letting family or friends know what you are working on and what they can do to support you in those goals.
- Allow yourself not to know all the answers. As challenging as it can be to let go of the idea that we always have to know how things will end up, life is a winding path. It is often our unexpected detours - the things we perceive as setbacks - that deliver the most impactful insight and growth.
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