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Contemplating a Leave of Absence?

Financial Aid

If you receive financial aid, then you should consult with the Financial Aid Office staff before making any "leave" decisions so that you understand the aid implications of taking time away.

I-20, DACA, or Undocumented students

International, DACA or Undocumented students should be sure to consult with Jennifer Marks-Gold (Director of the International Student Center) before making any "leave" decisions.

  • Impact of Taking a Leave of Absence on F-1 Practical Training Eligibility: International students returning from a Leave of Absence enter the U.S. on a new, initial I-20.  For this reason, they must complete another full academic year in F-1 status before they are eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).  If you plan to apply for OPT, you must be enrolled as a full-time student for at least 2 semesters prior to your anticipated OPT start date.

Health Insurance

You should consult with your health insurance provider(s) to understand any leave implications for your health insurance coverage. Be sure to read the info on Services and Activities Available to Students on a Voluntary Leave (see below section on this webpage). If you take a leave of absence in a Fall semester, you are not eligible to enroll in the college's Student Health Insurance Plan for that Fall semester - as only currently enrolled students are eligible to enroll in the plan.


If possible, you should talk with your assigned dean and/or Associate Dean of Academic Success Liz Derickson about your interest in taking a leave of absence.

If possible, you should also consult with your academic advisors about a potential leave of absence. This is especially important for juniors and seniors.

Be sure to review the Returning website info, so that you understand the process of seeking return after a leave of absence.

Decided to take a leave of absence?

Leaving during the current semester 

Once you have made a decision to voluntarily withdraw from a current semester from the college for the duration of the semester, you must notify Dean Liz Derickson. Send Dean Derickson a timely email message with the following content:

  • a statement of your intent to take a leave or withdraw - e.g. "I plan to withdraw from the current semester and take a voluntary leave of absence."
  • the semester in which you hope to return, if any and if known - e.g. Spring 2021
  • the name of the dean with whom you consulted on your leave plans, if any
  • the reason for your leave - e.g. health, personal, other. You can keep it very brief
  • your planned departure date from campus, if you are living in college housing and you are leaving during a semester

Or, if you prefer to complete a paper form instead of submitting an email request, please complete the Leave of Absence form [PDF] in lieu of emailing Dean Derickson. Then, please provide the form to Dean Derickson or the dean with whom you have been working.

Dean Derickson will review your leave request, notify the relevant offices (Registrar, Student Accounts, etc) if your request is approved, and advise you on other necessary steps. You will receive a copy of any leave request approval emails. That notification email does not include the reason for your leave; it just states that you will take a leave. That notification prompts your withdrawal from courses and the cancellation of your housing assignment, if any. Typically, students who withdraw during the semester are expected to move out of college housing by the end of the weekend following their leave decision.

If you do not receive a reply to your intent-to-leave email message within 2 business days, then please contact Dean Derickson again via email. If you do not have email access, then you should call Dean Derickson at 610-328-8475 and leave a message.

Leaving for the upcoming semester 

You must complete the required Leave/Return Form, available in the student e-forms section of mySwarthmore.

  • Timeline: please complete by November 15 for a Spring semester leave, if possible
  • Timeline: please complete by April 15 for a Fall semester leave, if possible
  • Leave decisions are possible after these deadlines. Please talk with your assigned dean or Dean Derickson about the details. It is not too late to request a leave of absence for Fall 2020.

If you are withdrawing permanently from the college, please leave the "return semester" info blank on the e-form, select "Other" (transferring out) as your leave reason and email Dean Liz Derickson to confirm that you are withdrawing permanently from the college. Withdrawing permanently from the college results in your Swarthmore email account being terminated in 4 business days. In advance of completing the e-form, be sure to save any info that you need from your Swarthmore email account.

Off-Campus Study

If you are studying abroad through the Swarthmore Off-Campus Study Office, please know that is not considered a "leave of absence." If you are studying abroad through the Swarthmore Off-Campus Study Office and are considering withdrawing from your study abroad program, be sure to consult with the Off-Campus Study Office staff.

Normally, students who are returning from leave must be successfully re-admitted to the college and then complete at least one semester at the college before being approved for a subsequent semester abroad. However, the expectation of completing at least one semester at the college following readmission before a semester of study abroad is being waived in 2020-21.

Access to College Services & Activities

Students who take a voluntary leave of absence from the college may seek remote assistance with academic or career planning and will maintain access to their Swarthmore email account. If a student misuses any college services, then the student may lose access to all services or privileges. Students on a leave of absence do not retain library borrowing privileges, are not eligible to be on student payroll, are not eligible to register for or audit courses, and may not participate in student activities or organizations. Students who are on leave in Fall 2020 will not have access to campus facilities and services.


If you are exploring transferring to another school, please see the Registrar's Office website for helpful advice on transferring. If you have arrived at a final decision that you will transfer to another school, then please complete the Leave/Return Form in mySwarthmore (see details above). On the Leave/Return Form, please leave the "Planned Semester of Return" box blank and please note in the "Reason" section "Other" - noting that you are transferring to another school. 

December Finisher

If you will complete your degree requirements in a Fall semester and graduate the following May/June, please consult with the Registrar, read the Registrar's info on December Finisher and Degree Requirements (including the related links on Graduation Policies and Commencement), and complete the required paper form.

For more details, please see the Student Handbook, and the College Catalog sections on expenses & faculty regulations 8.5.