Carnegie Mellon University

Taking a Leave from CMU

Students may temporarily interrupt their studies at Carnegie Mellon for any number of reasons, such as personal or medical issues, a professional opportunity, family commitments, or a required academic leave - referred to generally as a leave of absence.

Whatever their reason is for taking a leave, CMU staff and academic advisors are available to help guide students through the process of taking time away and returning. Our goal is that a student taking a leave has a clear understanding of expectations while away and feels confident when they are ready to return.

Steps for Taking a Leave

1)  Discuss Plans with Primary Advisor

Academic advisors can provide a student with guidance in taking necessary steps before and during their leave and help them understand any conditions that may be required for a seamless return to CMU later on. Advisor contact information can be found in Student Information Online (SIO)

2)  Complete & Submit Leave of Absence Form

To help with a smooth return to campus, it is important to complete this form and submit it to the University Registrar’s Office (prior to the leave, when possible). Be sure that the form includes all required signatures.

3)  Review & Understand Impacts

Prior to or during a leave, students should make sure they review the financial impacts, as well as impacts on health insurance, housing, etc., and understand which university services may continue to be available during their leave. Learn more.

Preparing to Return

We look forward to welcoming students on leave back to Carnegie Mellon. Quite a few students take a leave each semester for various reasons and return to have an enjoyable, successful experience. CMU staff and academic advisors are ready to help with preparing students for the transition back to the university and campus life.

Students planning to return from a leave of absence should initiate the return process at least one month prior to the semester in which they plan to enroll. Ideally, students should try to gain approval to return in time to participate in the registration period for the semester in which they plan to take classes.

Steps for a Smooth Return

1)  Complete & Submit Petition to Return Form

To gain approval for return, students on leave will need to complete this petition and submit it to their department or college at least one month before the semester in which they wish to return begins - or better yet, before the registration period for that semester. View the Academic Calendar for dates. 

2)  Ensure Eligibility to Return & Enroll

Certain types of holds – whether financial or community-related – could impact a student's ability to re-enroll and register for courses. Contact The HUB for information about financial holds (if any) and a Student Affairs College Liaison regarding community holds (if any.)     

3)  Find Resources & Support

CMU staff want to help students experience a seamless and positive return to the university and campus life after a leave. A number of resources and contacts are available to support students and address concerns.

Important Return Policies

Undergraduate students who have been away from CMU for more than two years are welcome to contact their home department to initiate a discussion about a return and re-enrollment. According to university policy, a return after such a period is not guaranteed. Students who have taken classes elsewhere during their time away may receive transfer credit subject to their school/college policy, and the completion and processing of the appropriate documents.

Graduate students will need to discuss their return with their home department and follow departmental policy.

Non-resident/international students will need to consult the Office of International Education regarding visa implications prior to returning.

View the University Policy on Student Returns for additional details. 

Withdrawing from CMU

An official withdrawal occurs when a student decides they need to drop all of their classes and leave the university after the semester begins, with no intention of returning. The university encourages all students considering a withdrawal to speak with their primary advisor in order to understand the impacts and, depending on the situation, to discuss whether taking a temporary leave might be an option they may want to consider instead.

Students who choose to withdrawal are required to complete and submit a Withdrawal Form (pdf), and cease attendance in all classes and academic activities. Those taking a withdrawal are responsible for any tuition and fee charges associated with their classes or other services provided while enrolled at CMU.