Personal Leave and Reinstatement Process

Students who need to take a leave for a physical or psychological illness should refer to the Medical Leave policy for information and instructions.

General Information

Students who must interrupt their studies for a compelling reason may be granted a Leave of Absence for a stated period of no more than a year. Approved leaves are entered on a student's permanent academic record. The period of a Leave of Absence is not counted as part of the time allowed for the completion of degree requirements.

To be granted a personal Leave of Absence, a student must first visit Dean Melanie Huff to discuss the situation. Those who are approved (supporting documentation may be requested from the student to substantiate such a request). Leaves are not approved during the first eight weeks of a semester except under documented emergency circumstances. Leaves of absence after classes have started are not granted based on whether the programs are offered in-person or online. Students may take no more than one leave while enrolled.

International students are advised that taking a personal leave of absence may affect their student visa status and should consult with the International Students and Scholars Office.

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


To request a personal 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. 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.
  3. Make plans to vacate housing within 48 hours of the beginning of the leave if you are a resident of Columbia Housing.
  4. Please contact Health Services at 212-854-7210 to discuss health insurance options outside of Columbia for the duration of your leave. 

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. 

To return, please notify Dean Huff by March 1 for a summer semester return, May 1 for a fall semester return, and October 1 for a January return.  

Academic Standing

Students who are granted authorized Incompletes in the last semester before their Personal 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 personal leave. A student on leave may not use University facilities, including libraries, housing, the fitness center, health services, the student center, nor receive financial aid. University housing must be vacated promptly by students on leave.


If you have any questions regarding your personal leave or reinstatement, please email Dean Huff or call her a 212-854-3861.