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Voluntary Personal Leave of Absence, Withdrawal, and Health Leave of Absence

Students wishing to take a leave are required to request a leave of absence (LOA) with an expected return date in a future semester. A leave of absence is granted for up to five years. A leave exceeding five years results in an official withdrawal from the University. Due to changing curriculum and major requirements, requests for readmission from a leave five years or greater require reapplication through CALS Admissions. 

Complete the online Cornell Leave of Absence and Withdrawal Request.

A student may choose to request a voluntary personal leave of absence (VPLOA) due to an opportunity or personal circumstances that are not related to a health condition. Students seeking this kind of leave have an expected return date after the end of the current term. A student seeking a VPLOA is responsible for initiating the request by submitting the online Cornell Leave of Absence and Withdrawal Request.

  • Deadline: A student may request a VPLOA at any time after the student has commenced attendance at the university. If the VPLOA is for the current term, the Last Day of the Semester is the deadline (see the academic calendar).
  • Duration: A student is not permitted to return from a VPLOA after an academic term has begun.  A VPLOA is granted for up to five years. A leave exceeding five years results in an official withdrawal from the University. Due to changing curriculum and major requirements, requests for readmission from a leave five years or greater require reapplication through CALS Admissions. 
  • Student Status: Students on a VPLOA may not enroll in any courses offered by the University. Students on VPLOA are not registered with the university and therefore are not eligible for privileges afforded to registered students, including, but not limited to, residing in university housing, accessing university resources, and receiving direct supervision by faculty members.

    To satisfy Cornell degree requirements, courses taken at an external institution must be pre-approved. Credit for courses completed at foreign institutions during a VPLOA will not be accepted for transfer credit unless students are returning to their countries of permanent residence during their VPLOA.  Study Abroad undertaken during a VPLOA will not be accepted as academic credit.


    For international students, taking a VPLOA may have implications for the student’s visa status. International students are advised to consult with the Office of Global Learning, International Services, regarding federal immigration requirements.

    The student’s college or the university reserves the right to change a VPLOA to a required leave or withdrawal if an academic or disciplinary review determines it appropriate.
  • Transcript Notation: A student approved for a VPLOA will have “Leave of Absence” noted on the student’s official transcript. The student will receive a grade for any course that was completed prior to the VPLOA request date.

While a student may take a leave at any time, the college retains the right to add conditions that must be met before a student may return from leave. Students would be notified if any conditions for return were added to their leave. An example of when a condition for return may be added is if the student is in questionable academic standing at the time of their leave request and demonstration of successful coursework completion while on leave may be added as a condition of return.

If the student submits the VPLOA request after the published deadline to drop classes, the student will receive the “course withdrawal” notation (W) for any courses that have not been completed. The student is not eligible to take an incomplete or receive a grade for a course when the leave date precedes the class end date.

Students with health concerns considering a Health Leave of Absence (HLOA) should first schedule a consultation with the Cornell Health Leaves Coordinator healthleaves [at] cornell.edu. For more information about the process and steps, refer to the Health Leave of Absence section on the Cornell Health website.

A student who decides to withdraw from Cornell University for personal reasons or matriculation in another institution of higher learning, with no intention of returning, is responsible for submitting the online Cornell University Leave/Withdrawal form.  The student’s withdrawal from the university will be effective the date the student submits the form. Students not requesting leave and who fail to become registered will be withdrawn from the university.  For more information, refer to the University Registration section of the website. 

  • Deadline: At any point throughout the term, the student can request to withdraw from the institution. Once withdrawn, the student must apply for readmission for any future enrollment. Readmission to the university is not guaranteed.

Students may not be returned until any Bursar, Loan, Collections, or Enrollment holds are cleared from their account. Please log in to Student Center to view any holds and contact the appropriate offices for more information.

Voluntary Personal Leave of Absence

A student requesting to return from a VPLOA must petition to return through DUST. See the petition for relevant deadlines for submission given the anticipated semester of return. Any petitions to return from VPLOA that include conditions are reviewed by the Committee on Academic Achievement and Petitions.

Health Leave of Absence

Students who are ready to return from a Health Leave of Absence (HLOA) must work with the Health Leaves Coordinator to initiate the return process. First, email the Cornell Health Leaves Coordinator healthleaves [at] cornell.edu. For the remaining steps, refer to the Health Leave of Absence section on the Cornell Health website.

Additionally, a student must petition to return through DUST. See the petition for relevant deadlines for submission given the anticipated semester of return.