January 18, 2023

Dear students,

As you begin this new term, I want to make you aware of recent policy changes and clarifications designed to make it easier to take time off if you ever need to and easier to return. Some of you have taken time off in the past to manage a crisis like a family emergency, an acute illness, or some other pressing challenge. I wish that no students ever had to face situations like these, but some of you may. If you do, I hope these revised policies ease any concerns about your student status, allowing you (and the people supporting you) to focus on what is important.

Last year, the Yale College Dean’s Office began a review of our policies on leave, withdrawal, and reinstatement, leading to some initial changes in the spring and a commitment to continue the work into the fall. Listening to current and former students, and collaborating with colleagues across the university, the revision team focused primarily on the policies for students taking time off for medical reasons, with the goal of reducing obstacles for them to get the care they need. Whether or not you find yourself needing to take advantage of the new policies, I hope these changes encourage you to keep your health and well-being as your highest priority.

The policy revisions also lift some of the requirements associated with academic and personal withdrawals, while clarifying processes and expectations for all the various ways that students take time off and then resume their studies. Even if you do not plan to do this, I hope you will acquaint yourself with these policies so that you are aware of the options for yourself and for your friends.

What follows are highlights of Yale College’s policies for time away and return, including longstanding practices as well as changes. You can find the detailed policies within the Yale College Programs of Study.

Leaves of Absence

  • Any student in good academic standing may request a leave of absence at any time before the fifteenth day of the term. Beginning this year, students are eligible for four terms of leave, rather than just two.

Medical Leaves of Absence

  • Students needing to take time away for medical reasons will now take a medical leave of absence, rather than a withdrawal. The records of students currently on medical withdrawal will be updated with this new classification.
  • The "leave” status confers some important benefits not available to withdrawn students, including an option for students with Yale Health Hospitalization/Specialty Care Coverage to transition to Yale Health Undergraduate Affiliate Coverage for one year. Financial support for the continuing insurance premiums will be available for students receiving the highest levels of financial aid. Other benefits include the ability to continue working as a student employee, to meet with advisers at the Office of Career Strategy, and to use library resources.
  • As part of taking a medical leave of absence, each student receives an individualized recommendation for how long they might expect to remain away due to their medical needs. Students may seek to return earlier than that recommendation; they may also stay away longer if they wish. There is no minimum or maximum limit on the number of terms for medical leaves of absence.
  • To return from a medical leave of absence, students will participate in a medical clearance process and submit a simplified reinstatement request, as described below.
  • Some students, instead of requesting a medical leave of absence, may request a new accommodation: If urgent medical needs arise during the term that require significant time for treatment, students can petition to be able to drop to as low as two courses while remaining in good academic standing.

Medical Leaves of Absence as well as Academic and Personal Withdrawals

  • Students in all these categories now have access to campus as visitors and guests. They may participate, in limited ways, in student organizations.
  • The reinstatement process has been simplified. Last spring, the process was revised to eliminate the need to interview with the committee chair, as well as (for most students) the requirement to complete coursework before returning. Now, the need for letters of reference, as well as the requirement that students remain “constructively occupied” during their time away, are also eliminated.
  • Students on personal withdrawal and students on medical leave of absence are no longer required to pass every course in the first two terms after they return. (The requirement stands for students who are academically withdrawn; the policy now more clearly indicates that these students are allowed to drop courses.)

I am grateful to the many students, past and present, who have shared their experiences and proposed many of these changes, and to the staff in the residential colleges, Yale Health, the University Registrar’s Office, the Yale College Dean's Office, and in many offices across campus for enacting them. I thank them for their work, and for simplifying the process of taking time off. I am particularly grateful to the residential college deans for serving as the primary point of contact for you if you ever want to learn more about taking time off; I urge you to be in touch with them whenever you have questions about medical leaves of absence or need guidance in exploring any of the options available to you, at or beyond Yale.


Pericles Lewis
Dean of Yale College
Douglas Tracy Smith Professor of Comparative Literature
Professor of English