Medical Leave and Reinstatement Process

A medical leave is granted to a student whose health prevents successful study and is normally granted for a minimum of one full calendar year, but may not extend longer than two years. To be granted a medical leave of absence, a student must first visit Dean Melanie Huff to discuss the situation. It is mandatory that students on a medical leave be actively engaged in a course of treatment that leads to recovery. Documentation of treatment will be essential prior to readmission.   

The following information applies to leaves taken for any health issues. Please pay particular attention to the deadlines for requesting readmission. We strongly suggest you continue to check your Columbia email while you are on leave as this is the official means of communication used by the University. Please contact contact Dean Huff with any questions.


To take a medical leave of absence, complete the following checklist:

  1. Meet with Dean Huff as soon as possible to discuss the leave. A formal request must be made in writing and an LOA request form submitted.
  2. Submit supporting documentation from a physician or therapist, normally in consultation with University Health Services. The documentation cannot be more than two years old and must be signed by a licensed healthcare provider whose specialty is appropriate to the associated condition that includes the following:
    • Specific diagnosis of the condition that prevents the student from remaining enrolled
    • Treatment plan and duration of treatment
  3. Notify immediately Tarin Almanzar, our Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid. She will review your finances and the refund rates as they apply to you.
  4. Make plans to vacate housing within 48 hours of the beginning of the leave if you are a resident of Columbia Housing.
  5. If you are covered by the Columbia Plan, contact the insurance office at 212-854-7210 to complete the process to ensure full coverage.  If you have waived Columbia insurance, you must contact your own insurance provider for details on coverage.
  6. Columbia University will send you an official notification that your withdrawal has been processed and will inform you whether or not you will be receiving a refund.

Academic Standing

Students who are granted authorized Incompletes in the last semester before their Medical Leave will be expected to complete the work before their return to campus. If the work is not completed within a year, the grade will convert to an F. Due dates of incomplete work should be determined in consultation with the relevant professors.

Financial Aid

It is vital that students direct all financial aid questions to the Journalism Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. A student who is out of school for more than a semester may be required to begin loan repayments. Therefore, it is important to schedule an exit interview with Journalism Financial Aid to discuss the options for a particular loan before leaving. A student who defaults on a loan will be unable to receive any further aid until appropriate payments are made. A student who owes money to Columbia will not be able to register for classes; it is the student's responsibility to be aware of any debts that could prevent registration.

Campus Involvement

It is expected that students will remove themselves from the Columbia community and not spend time on campus during a medical leave. Participating in university events and remaining part of the physical campus community often prevents students from gaining the benefits that ordinarily accompany a leave of absence. To reinforce this expectation, the student ID and swipe access are deactivated during the leave.


Following is the procedure for requesting reinstatement from medical leave. You must complete all parts of the following reinstatement procedures by May 1 for a fall semester return and October 1 for a January return.

All financial obligations to the University must be cleared before reinstatement.

No student will be reinstated who has not met the following requirements:

  1. Submit a letter to Dean Huff requesting reinstatement by the above deadline. The letter should review the circumstances that led to the leave, describe in detail any activities pursued while away, explain why you now feel able to resume studies successfully, and outline a plan for continued support. You should also indicate whether or not you plan to apply for housing.
  2. Submit a letter from the medical professional(s) with whom you have been working by the above deadline to Dean Huff. The letter should describe the treatment, progress made, and an evaluation of your readiness to return to full-time study at Columbia. The letter must also address the continued care plan recommended for your return.
  3. Arrange to meet with an appropriate clinician at Health Services to review your treatment plan for while you are enrolled. If you have questions about the appropriate Health Services representative, please reach out to Dean Huff.

Refund Rate for Leaves and Withdrawals

For more information, read the policy on Refund Rates for Leaves and Withdrawals.


If you have any questions regarding your medical leave or reinstatement please email Dean Melanie Huff or call her at 212-854-3861.