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Sometimes students find it necessary to postpone their studies for a while. Some reasons to take a leave may include: time needed for a special project, the need to re-kindle motivation and enthusiasm in academic study, financial difficulties, time needed to renew self-confidence and health, or career experience in an internship or job. A Leave of Absence is requested if/when you must leave the University and plan to return at a later time. A leave is granted upon request for up to two years. A request for extension of the leave past two years must be requested in writing prior to the end of the last semester on leave.

Leaves of absence typically last for at least six months and are not generally granted for more than two years. A leave of absence granted during the semester goes into effect based on the day the student submits the University Withdrawl Form to the ILR Registrar.

A Leave of Absence requested before the final drop deadline of the semester carries two implications:

  • that the student on Leave may request return in the next semester
  • that there will be no record of classes and grades for the semester

After the final drop deadline, the notation "W" will be entered for the courses in which a student is registered.

It is generally expected that students taking a leave of absence after the final drop deadline (defined as the 57th day of the semester) will not return to classes until a full semester has elapsed.  Students wishing to return before a full semester has elapsed should contact the ILR Office of Student Services for information on the petition process.

Students must notify the college registrar in writing when they plan to return from their leave, typically within two years, but exceptions may be granted given individual circumstances. 

Types of Leaves

Personal (Voluntary) Leave

May be taken for an up-coming semester or prior to the drop deadline of the current semester without grade penalty. Personal (Voluntary) leave should be requested in writing submitting the University Withdrawl Form. Individual circumstances will determine what kind of leave a student may take (personal or Health related). Students will receive written confirmation of their leave from the ILR Registrar.

Students may return from a personal leave whenever they wish (typically within two years). Exceptions may be granted given individual circumstances. This must be requested in writing by the student.

Required Leave

May be issued if a student is placed on a required Academic Leave of Absence by the ILR Academic Standards and Scholarships Committee (ASSC), usually for one or two semesters. (See Academic Standing).

Required leave may be issued by the University Judicial Administrator for violation of codes of conduct, laws, etc.

Health Leave

May be taken if a student consults with the Health Leaves Coordinator about this option; the ILR School will grant and readmit a student from a medical leave only upon the recommendation of the Health Leaves Coordinator, and outstanding academic requirements, if any, are met.  More information on the Health Leave of Absence process can be found on the Cornell Health website.


If, in mid-semester, a student decides to withdraw from Cornell University, with no intention of returning, they must submit the University Withdrawl Form.  The student’s withdrawl from the university will be effective the date the student submits the form.

If a student requests a Leave of Absence or withdraws, it is their responsibility to contact the following offices prior to leaving to find out about possible implications of doing so:

Where to Find Support and Additional Resources

We encourage students to make OSS, 101 Ives, their first stop when questions or problems arise. We are happy to listen and work with all students to help devise appropriate solutions to problems, provide accurate information about and referral to useful university resources. There are many types of assistance available to students on campus. Here are some links to university resources that help students manage academic, financial, emotional, and social issues.