Office of Student Returns

Leave of Absence Policies and Procedures

Taking a Leave of Absence

A. Personal Leaves of Absence

Appropriate reasons for requesting a Personal Leave of Absence (PLOA) include a desire to travel, a plan to work in a special non-academic program, take care of family obligations, enroll as a non-degree seeking student at another university, gain a sense of direction, or for health-related reasons. If you are considering a personal leave of absence, you should arrange a meeting with your academic dean to discuss your reasons and to determine whether the request is valid and in your best interest.

In order to be eligible for a personal leave you must:

  1. Be in good standing with the University

  2. Have reached the second semester of your first year

  3. Request a leave prior to the first day of classes of the desired leave term

To apply for a personal leave of absence, you must fill out the appropriate forms located in your Academic Dean’s office.  You will also need to get approval for the leave in writing from your Academic Dean.

A personal leave of absence is typically granted for between one and four semesters. Students placed on personal leave of absence are expected to return by an exact term date, as discussed at the time of your separation. If you anticipate a longer time away, you must contact your academic dean to make your intentions known. If your time away exceeds two years (6 semesters, including summer), please be advised that you may be administratively withdrawn from Duke.

International students must contact Duke Visa Services at 919-681-8472 or email and inform them of their pending separation and travel dates.

B. Medical Leaves of Absence

A Medical Leave of Absence (MLOA) should be considered if completing your undergraduate course work is not possible for health-related reasons. A medical leave of absence is an opportunity to receive appropriate treatment. Duke University hopes that all students will receive effective treatment and apply to return for the purpose of degree completion. If you are considering a medical leave, you should make an appointment to meet with your Academic Dean as soon as possible. In some cases, there may be other options available to you and a frank discussion of those options may be useful to you.

In order to be eligible for a medical leave you must request a leave prior to 5 p.m. on the last day of classes of the semester from which the leave is sought.

To apply for a medical leave of absence, you must fill out the appropriate forms located in your Academic Dean’s office. You will also need to provide your licensed health care provider with a copy of the “Health Care Provider’s Medical Leave Support Form,” which you can get from your Academic Dean’s office. The form must be completed by a licensed health care provider and returned directly to your Academic Dean at the address or fax number provided to you. 

If your leave is approved, you must contact Duke housing to schedule a move-out date and to let them know your arrangements for packing up your things and returning your room key, if you live on campus.

International students must contact Duke Visa Services at 919-681-8472 or email and inform them of their pending separation and travel dates. 

Students who take a medical leave are not required to return by an exact term date. There is no minimum time away. The time away may vary from student-to-student. Students who take a medical leave of absence should prioritize their heath needs.  Duke encourages students to take adequate time for transition, diagnosis, treatment, and stabilization so that the student can return to Duke from a position of strength and without additional interruptions in their degree pursuit. If your time away exceeds two years, please contact your academic dean to share your intentions.

C. General Policies and Expectations For StudentsWho Are Separated From Duke On Leave

Students who have been separated from Duke are no longer active students and therefore forfeit the privileges afforded to enrolled Duke undergraduates.  During your separation you cannot enter university residential buildings (permission under the Housing Guest Policy does not apply to students on leave, or otherwise separated from Duke), participate in student activities, or access student resources and services. You are not eligible to work for Duke University units in job categories reserved for students, nor should you present yourself as an active student to the hiring personnel.  If you have been hired in a position on the basis of your student status, and experience a subsequent separation from Duke, you are no longer eligible to accept the position. You must inform your academic dean and the hiring personnel that you are no longer eligible. During your separation period, you may not attend or audit a Duke course.  If you are a student-athlete, a club member, member of a performance group, or hold an office in a student organization, you are not permitted to participate in meetings, rehearsals, practice sessions, have access to studios, stages, locker rooms, strength conditioning and film areas of DUAA, or sit on the bench during contests.

If you believe there are compelling reasons for you to access resources on campus, you must obtain written permission from the director of the Office of Student Returns.  You must submit a written note via email requesting special dispensation for limited access to specific campus resources and the time and duration of access. Your written request must be submitted at least seventy-two business hours before your anticipated time on campus. Please submit your email request to and write “request to be on campus” in your subject line. Students who do not adhere to this policy will jeopardize their ability to return to Duke.  Students who have been suspended from Duke continue to be held accountable for any sanctions, as communicated by the Office of Student Conduct.  While you are away, you are encouraged to contact the director of the Office of Student Returns if you have questions or concerns. Please note that a list of FAQs are available at

D. Returning From a Separation

Students requesting to return from a MLOA, PLOA, or any other type of separation (disciplinary, academic, etc.) must submit online a return application to the Office of Student Returns (OSR). All applications must be accompanied by a $30 application fee, mailed to OSR. Permission to return is not guaranteed for any student. Students are advised to carefully review the Returning Student Checklist.

In order to be eligible to have your return application considered, you must:

  1. Have a clear Bursar Account

  2. Not have a pending disciplinary matter with the Office of Student Conduct

  3. Not be returning within five years from a second academic dismissal / dismissal for academic dishonesty

  4. Submit a complete application within the specified review cycle and by the respective deadline date, including all appendices applicable to your separation type.

Students must determine their targeted return term and submit their return application accordingly. An earlier application will not be accepted and does not benefit you since it is important for the application to be as up-to-date as possible. It is the student's responsibility to make sure the application is complete by the deadline date. Letters of recommendation and other supporting documents from respective individuals should be requested in a timely manner. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have provided the requested information and that all letters or recommendations have been sent. Only complete application packets will be reviewed

There are three review cycles per year with distinct deadlines. If the deadline occurs on a weekend (Saturday or Sunday), the following business day (date) is applicable. See deadline tables below.

Returning Semester

Application Period Opens

Application Deadline


June 1

July 1


October 1

November 1

Summer I and II

March 1

April 1


The link to the online return application is made available on the OSR website at the beginning of every review cycle.  Falsification of any part of your return application will result in you being referred to the Office of Student Conduct for official disciplinary inquiry and denied readmission for the requested term.

Once a completed application has been received, a review committee will consider your application to determine whether to grant you permission to return to Duke. Your academic dean and the director of the OSR are customary members of every review committee. Other committee members are assigned on an ad hoc basis according to the circumstances that preceded your separation as well as your official separation category. For example, a representative from a Duke health-related unit (e.g., Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Health Services) may be asked to review a return application submitted by a student petitioning to return from a medical leave of absence. A representative from the Office of Student Conduct may review the return application of a student who experienced a separation due to disciplinary matters.

Your review committee will consider all application materials submitted on your behalf as well as other documentation related to your Duke experience before communicating a decision regarding your return to Duke. OSR reviews return applications to determine whether the student has met all leave conditions, ameliorated the health condition(s) (for MLOAs), and is prepared to function as a member of the academic and residential community. At the discretion of the review committee, additional documentation may be requested in order to address inconsistencies found among the supporting documents and or to provide clarity on a key concern(s) of one or more of the committee members.  The review committee may also request an interview as a requirement before rendering a readmission decision.

It is possible that the review committee will impose conditions of return. Return conditions function to enhance your chance of a successful transition back to Duke. They are grounded in your review committee’s awareness of the Duke culture and their years of experience supporting and advocating for the success of students who have had experiences and or challenges similar to yours.  Your individual return conditions are based on your review committee’s evaluation of your complete return application, current health condition as determined by experts, prior health and academic experiences, and overall citizenship record at Duke. You must comply with the conditions of your return for the period of time stipulated in your return letter. 

If you want to appeal the final decision of your review committee, please contact Gerald Wilson, Senior Associate Dean of Trinity College  (  He will consider the information submitted to OSR and determine whether there was a reasonable basis for the review committee's decision. 

You will receive your decision letter via email to the address you provide in your return application. If you are granted permission to return to Duke you must sign and return your decision letter to the Office of Student Returns. Your signature indicates that you have read the conditions of your return and you agree to comply with them. Your registration will be activated according to your scheduled registration window, or within 1-3 days of receipt of your signed letter, whichever is latest.

If you have any additional questions about the University’s leave of absence policies, please contact Dean Sabrina Thomas at 684-2075 or  Please contact the Student Disabilities Access Office (668-1267) if you have any questions related to disability accommodations or requests for modifications.