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Voluntary Leaves of Absence for Undergraduate Students

Summary

Undergraduates are admitted to Stanford University with the expectation that they complete their degree programs in a reasonable amount of time but a Leave of Absence can allow a student to take a break from enrollment either before or after a quarter begins. Leaves of absence may not exceed a cumulative total of two years. There may also be conditions associated with a Leave which are outlined in greater detail below.

Policy Statement

Undergraduates are admitted to Stanford University with the expectation that they complete their degree programs in a reasonable amount of time, usually within four years. Leaves of absence for undergraduates may not exceed a cumulative total of two years (eight quarters including summer quarters).

Students on leave of absence are not registered at Stanford and, therefore, do not have the rights and privileges of registered students. They cannot fulfill any official department or university requirements during the leave period. Students on leave may complete coursework for which an 'Incomplete' grade was awarded in a prior term (unless doing so places an undue burden on the part of an instructor, department, staff, or other university resource) and are expected to comply with the maximum one-year time limit for resolving incompletes; a leave of absence does not stop the clock on the time limit for resolving incompletes.

When a student is granted or placed on a leave of absence before the start of the quarter or during the first three (3) weeks of the quarter, any courses in which the student was enrolled will be dropped (i.e., deleted) from the student’s transcript. When a student is granted or placed on a leave of absence after Week 3 of the quarter, courses in which the student was enrolled remain on the student's transcript and appear with the notation symbol 'W' (withdraw). 

Undergraduate students or coterminal students who receive all 'W's as the result of a Leave of Absence (either voluntary or involuntary) are subject to their respective Academic Progress policies.

Voluntary Leave of Absence

New frosh and transfers are required to register in autumn quarter and may not take a leave of absence prior to their first quarter. However, new undergraduate students may request a deferment from the Office of Undergraduate Admission before the first day of autumn quarter. Under rare and exceptional circumstances, new frosh and transfers may take a leave of absence during their first quarter with the permission of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (or his or her designee). When circumstances arise which make it advisable or necessary for new frosh and transfers to take a leave of absence during any of their first three quarters, the student is required to wait until autumn quarter of the following academic year to return.

Students may request a voluntary leave of absence for up to one year, or four quarters. All leave of absence requests are subject to approval by the Office of the University Registrar.

Undergraduate students who take an approved leave of absence while in good standing may enroll in the university for the subsequent quarter with the privileges of a continuing student. In either situation, the university may condition its approval of a leave of absence on the student meeting requirements the university deems appropriate in the individual case for the student to be eligible to return (such as, in the case of a leave for medical reasons, proof of treatment and/or an interview with a provider at Vaden Health Center or Counseling and Psychological Services or its designee). 

A leave of absence may be extended for up to one additional year, or four quarters, provided the student files an extension request and receives approval from the Office of the University Registrar before the end of the initial one-year leave. Leaves requested for a longer period than one year, or four quarters, are approved only in exceptional circumstances (e.g. mandatory military service).

For a full tuition refund, leave of absence requests must be received by the Office of the University Registrar no later than the first day of classes for the applicable quarter.  

Military Leaves of Absence

Any undergraduate student who has required military service (international and domestic, including National Guard and reservists) may be approved for a leave of absence to exceed one academic year (4 quarters) if necessary to fulfill a service requirement. For these students, any leave of absence quarters related to required military service will not be deducted from the student’s total allowable quarters of leave (two calendar years, up to eight quarters). Students may return to their degree program(s) once the required military service has been completed. Under rare and exceptional circumstances, new frosh and transfers may take a leave of absence during their first quarter, following initial attendance, and return within the same calendar year with the permission of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education or their designee.

Implementation Information

Students interested in requesting a leave will find more information on the Student Services website and Academic Advising's website.

Exception Process

Exceptions to the university's Leave of Absence policy may be requested through the Student & Academic Services Student Exceptions Committee. Full details can be found at https://studentservices.stanford.edu/my-academics/access-resources-help/request-exception-academic-policy.

New frosh and transfers who wish to discuss a Leave of Absence must meet with the Associate Dean  from the office of Academic Advising, under the office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE).

Contact Information

Degree Progress, Office of the University Registrar