Academic Questions

What does my transcript say if I take a leave of absence?

If you chose a leave of absence for any reason--whether personal, medical, for an internship etc. the words "leave of absence" will be noted in the "Remarks" section at the top of the reverse side of your transcript (together with any granted Advanced Placement units and any other miscellaneous notes). Again, no reason for the leave is listed: the note simply says "leave of absence" and the effective date. 

I need longer to work on my thesis. Can I take a leave to have more time for research or in the lab to gather data?

No. The Princeton senior thesis is a year-long project, and you will need to work with your adviser to define a project that can be completed during that time.

How can the McGraw Center help students who have taken time away transition back to Princeton?

The McGraw Center is a great resource, whether you've taken a gap year before Princeton, or are returning from a leave. Consider signing up for a learning strategy consultation as soon as you are back on campus: this will help you plan for a strong semester.

If I took a leave of absence before the end of the semester, can I take the same classes that I was in before i went on leave?

Yes, as long as you did not complete a class, you may repeat it when you return from leave. You should always talk with your dean or director of studies about whether repeating a course would be a good idea -- and if you are repeating a class, be sure to talk with the professor about how to handle assignments that you might have seen before.

Will a suspension show up on my transcript?

Yes a suspension is listed in the “remarks” section of the transcript.  Please contact the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students if you have other questions about how your suspension is recorded in university records.

I had a required academic withdrawal because of my grades. Since I have to repeat an unsuccessful semester, do the new grades replace the Fs?

No, your transcript reflects your actual progress at Princeton, so the unsuccessful semester is retained.  If you choose to repeat any of the courses you failed, the grade and course credit for the repeated course will show on your transcript for the semester in which it’s successfully completed.

When will I sign up for classes?

You will enroll in classes on the same schedule as other members of your new class year.  Your dean will send you information about course enrollment.

Can I audit PU classes if I am not an enrolled student?

No, un-enrolled students are not permitted to attend Princeton classes. 

I was suspended. Will my professors next year—when I return to Princeton—know that I was suspended?

No.  Your disciplinary records are strictly private, and professors not involved in the situation have no right to know that you were suspended.

Policy Questions

Where do I find the official University policies and information about taking time away?

The Undergraduate Announcement contains all policies around leaves. If you have questions about any policies in the Undergraduate Announcement, please talk with your dean.

What's the deadline for choosing to take a leave?

There are several important deadlines for students considering a leave of absence during a semester in progress. Please talk with your dean, and see the Undergraduate Announcement for full information.

Who will know that I’m taking time away? Who will know the reason?

We do everything we can to protect the privacy of Princeton students. If you take a leave of absence, your college advising team will know (dean, director of studies, director of student life), and the official letter will also be signed by an Office of the Dean of the College dean. In cases of medical leaves, an Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students (ODUS) dean is copied. The university notifies guardians about status changes, so they will be copied on the letter confirming your leave. If you are suspended, your parents and dean will be copied on the penalty letter. In all cases, we'll ask you to notify your roommates and friends that you'll be on leave; your dean can notify your professors if you'd prefer. Aside from your parents and college advisers, nobody needs to know the reason for your leave. Your dean will not tell your professors, friends, or RCA why you are taking time away.

Am I guaranteed reinstatement if I take a voluntary leave of absence?

Students who have taken a leave are eligible for reinstatement of their enrollment for a three-year period. See the Undergraduate Announcement for details about leave policies.

Am I allowed to take just one semester off?

In some circumstances, a student may be eligible for a one-term leave of absence. Talk with your dean about whether this policy applies to you.

I was suspended. Am I guaranteed reinstatement?

Students who have been suspended are eligible for reinstatement.  The dean of undergraduate students may establish specific requirements for reinstatement if the circumstances of the suspension warrant it.  Depending on their academic standing, students may be eligible for reinstatement in the semester immediately following the suspension period, or they may need to return a semester later to stay in phase with the academic calendar.

If I was suspended, who will know my disciplinary record?

Disciplinary records are highly confidential. Only Princeton University officials with a professional need to know, such as the student’s residential college staff, and the instructor in an academic integrity case, will be informed about a disciplinary outcome. A suspension is marked on the transcript, but disciplinary records are not disclosed to outside parties without the student’s written consent. Please contact the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students for more information.

Can I participate in an International Internship Program (IIP) or a Global Seminar while I'm away?

While on leave, you cannot use Princeton University activities or resources that are restricted to active students. In some cases, students returning in fall semester may be reinstated early to participate in summer programs.

I’m a varsity athlete at Princeton. How will taking a Leave of Absence affect my eligibility to play? What should I do to make sure I’m eligible when I return?

The NCAA has policies that govern these situations, so you’ll want to talk with Kelly Widener in the Athletics Compliance Office for answers that pertain to your specific case.

I got suspended for an academic or disciplinary infraction. Is this noted on my transcript?

Yes.  If you were suspended or have a required academic withdrawal, the separation will be noted in the "remarks" section at the bottom of your transcript, together with any Advanced Placement units that are granted, and any other miscellaneous notes. Please contact the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students if you have other questions about how your suspension is recorded in university records.

Health Questions

How does it work to take a leave for medical or mental health reasons?

Please take a look at the relevant sections of this website, and you may also be interested in the FAQs about health related leaves found here. Your director of student life will be a primary resource in helping you navigate a medical leave.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) recommended that I see a counselor while away. How am I supposed to pay for that? How do you continue to access resources if money is an issue?

Talk with your director of student life (DSL) and Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) about your concerns. CPS is happy to recommend treatment providers who provide lower-cost or sliding-scale options.

Will the student health plan cover my treatment while I’m away?

We ask all students enrolled in the Student Health Plan (SHP) to meet with a SHP counselor before leaving campus so that they can discuss the particular details of your situation. For specific questions about coverage, contact the SHP office.

Financial Questions

Can I get funding to take a summer class while I'm away? What if I’m required to take the class to come back because I failed classes here?

In some circumstances, loans to cover external courses may be available, but this needs to be arranged before you leave campus.  If you are thinking about taking courses while you are away, make sure to check in with your dean and the Office of Financial Aid as soon as possible, so they can help you with this process. Summer grant funding is generally not available.

When do I submit the FAFSA?

The Financial Aid office will calculate your award after you are reinstated. Please be in touch with them directly with questions about timing.

Taking a Leave

Who can you talk to if you're thinking about taking a leave?

If you are thinking of taking a leave of absence, your first stop should be your college office. The residential college deans oversee all of the processes around leaves (except for suspensions) and returns, and they are a great source of information. The dean can also connect you with other advisers to answer practical questions. Your dean will also work to connect you with financial aid, if applicable, to help you learn more about any financial questions that you have about your potential leave. Friends who have taken leaves may be other good sources of support. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to talk with Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), a chaplain, or a doctor as you're making the decision. Definitely meet with your director of student life (DSL) if you are thinking about taking a leave for health and well-being reasons. Your DSL can also connect you with clinicians and other helpful resources. Faculty members are also great sources of advice: you may be surprised to find that their educational and career paths haven't been as straightforward as you might assume.

What are the alternatives to taking time off?

If you feel like you need a break from Princeton, consider other ways to vary your college experience. Studying abroad for a summer or semester provides a change of scenery and a chance to connect with new people and places. Career Services is another excellent resource for you to connect with internship possibilities and alumni. There are ways to tweak the arc of your semester that may provide you with the fulfillment and support you need to feel reinvigorated and recharged without taking a leave. You could talk with your dean about ways of relieving academic pressure; for example, you could drop a class or seek out on or off-campus social, emotional, and/or health resources.

Is there anyone who can tell my mom that I need to take a leave? She thinks if I take a leave I will never come back.

It can be difficult to talk with your family about the decision to take time away. Your dean can strategize with you about how to talk with your parents, and it's not uncommon for deans or directors of student life to meet with families to help them understand why taking a leave might be beneficial. If you’re taking a leave for health reasons, the director of student life can facilitate a family meeting with University Health Services (UHS) or Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS).  Your dean and advisers cannot tell your family that you must take a leave, unless it is a disciplinary suspension or required academic withdrawal (these are mandatory forms of leave).

How does the withdrawal process actually work?

Making the decision to take a leave is the most difficult part. The process itself is quite simple: your dean will give you a list of offices to visit in a process of checking out. For example, you'll need to notify your department, return library books, etc. and we ask all students on financial aid to meet with a financial aid counselor. After the checklist is complete, your dean will change your status and send a formal letter confirming your leave of absence. For students who are suspended or who have a required academic withdrawal, the process of checking out with campus offices is exactly the same (for suspensions, a letter about your penalty is sent from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students (ODUS).

Is there stigma associated with taking a leave?

It’s not unusual for Princeton undergraduates to take time away, and students report that they are able to reintegrate socially and academically.  Listen to these student voices to learn more.

I’m a varsity athlete at Princeton. I need to take a Leave of Absence, but I’m worried about how my coach will react and I’m worried about letting my teammates down. What should I do? Who can I talk to?

These conversations can be challenging. We would encourage you to talk with Dean Alec Dun, who focuses on athletic-academic affairs, as well as with your college dean and director of student life.

I know I should take a Leave of Absence but my home circumstances aren’t good. What should I do?

It is a great idea to start a conversation with your college director of student life or dean. They can connect you with resources to help you navigate this decision.

I feel weird talking with my college dean about these issues about taking a leave. Is there anyone else I can talk to?

While the residential college deans oversee the formal process of taking time away and returning to Princeton, we certainly encourage you to talk with other trusted advisers. You may feel more comfortable talking with your college director of student life, a staff member from Scholars Institute Fellows Program (SIFP) the LGBT Center, Fields Center or Women's Center; a chaplain, a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), or another administrator on campus.  They can help connect you with resources and consider your options.  Your dean can then help you through the process itself.

Processes & Logistics

What happens to my financial aid when I take time away from Princeton?

Except in the case of suspension, students who need to repeat a semester they partially completed are eligible for financial aid for the repeated semester. You'll want to make sure to speak with the Office of Financial Aid to learn more about any financial questions that you have - they can be great sources of information in this process.

When can I move into my room when I come back?

Students returning in the fall may move in on the same day as the other members of their class. Students returning in the spring will have access to their rooms in time to participate in Wintersession.

How does reinstatement following time away work?

Your dean will oversee the online reinstatement process, and will send a formal letter confirming your return. If you left for medical reasons, your director of student life (DSL) will also send an email with instructions for setting up a University Health Services (UHS) or Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) consultation. If you have any questions about the reinstatement process your dean will be happy to answer them.

How does taking a leave work with the eating clubs?

Your eating club will work with you to make arrangements.  If the club officers need confirmation that you’re taking a leave (for example, to reimburse club dues for a semester when you’re away) your dean will be happy to help.

Can I still use Handshake while I’m away?

Yes, the Center for Career Development is happy to help students on leave.

I need access to the library to work on my thesis. What should I do?

Library resources are normally accessible to students on leave.  Talk with your dean if you need on-site library access.

Can I work at the university (in a lab, at the library, etc) while I'm on leave?

You cannot be employed as a student while you are on leave.  If you’ve been offered work at the University as a non-student worker, please talk with the Student Employment Office to make sure that your status as a non-enrolled student does not prevent you from accepting the job.

Can I affiliate with my original class for reunions?

Yes. If you would prefer to affiliate with your original class instead of your graduating class, you can change your class affiliation with Alumni Records (alumrecs@princeton.edu) once you have graduated.

How long is my Princeton email active?

Your email will remain active for one year after you go on leave; if you’re away for more than one year, you can talk with the dean of your residential college about extending your netID.

Can I still talk to my deans and professors if I’m away from campus?

Of course! Your residential college dean is a good place to start, and will have advice about how to approach professors while you’re away.

What about when I apply for a job after I graduate. Won’t potential employers see on my transcript that I took a leave?

Yes, your transcript will note your time away from Princeton—but you will have the opportunity to explain to potential employers, admissions committees, etc. why you took the leave, and how it benefited you.  Many employers even see “gap years” as valuable, since it means you have spent time getting a different perspective.  Talk with Career Services about specific concerns.

On Leave

What do people do when they are on leave?

There’s a huge range: students pursue non-academic interests, spent time with family, find a job or internship, take care of their health, and more.  You should do what is right for you.

Will I have any connection with the University while I'm on leave?

It’s important to stay connected! Your netID will remain active while you are away from Princeton, and email will be the primary way we communicate with you.

Is there somewhere I can find out about gap year opportunities?

Career Services is a good place to start and you may also want to use TigerNet or Handshake, or reach out to the various Princeton alumni clubs in various cities.  Alumni are a great part of the Princeton community and connecting with them can be a useful way of discovering potential paths and opportunities.  Career Services can assist you in learning more about how to start these connections.  The Gap Year Network  student organization is a great way to meet other students who have spent time away from  Princeton. Bridge Year for newly admitted students is the University’s only official gap year program.

Returning to Princeton

What are the resources for helping me transition back from leave?

There are a number of academic and social resources to help your transition back. Talk with your college staff about making these connections.

What do I say to people on campus about my leaving and coming back?

This is entirely up to you. While we encourage you to be transparent about the reasons for your time away, there are certainly situations where your privacy is more important. Your dean, director of student life, or a counselor can help you strategize about how to approach these conversations.

How can I prepare to ease my transition back to Princeton?

Good question! The most important thing is to be in touch with your residential college staff, and with friends and professors as you start to plan your return. Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) also runs a weekly “Back at Princeton” group that many returning students have found helpful.  There is also a special lunch held for returning students each semester.

Am I required to see a doctor in order to be reinstated?

If you took time away for health-related reasons, your director of student life will ask you to have a consultation at University Health Services when you return. The purpose of the consultation is to make sure that you are connected to resources that will support your successful return.

I am an international student. When do I need to apply for my visa to return from time away?

Your dean will be in touch with the Davis International Center to let them know when you are eligible to return. Please contact Davis with specific visa-related questions.