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Leave of Absence

A leave of absence is a temporary interruption of one's studies at Duke, generally for a period of one or two semesters.  In order to take a leave of absence, you must be in good academic standing. There are two types of leaves described here.

  • A Personal Leave of Absence (PLOA), allows you to leave Duke for one or two semesters with the approval of your Academic Dean. A PLOA begins after one semester ends and before the next semester begins.  Students may request a personal leave of absence no later than 5 pm (EST) on the last business day before the 1st day of classes of the semester in which the leave will take place.  However, a personal leave of absence is something that you should plan for in advance.  Reasons why you might consider a leave of absence include the desire to travel, participate in a non-academic program, work and earn money, support a family during a crisis, or to gain a sense of direction. While on a personal leave, you can take courses at another four-year institution for transfer credit at Duke, though you are limited in how much credit will transfer by the normal rules for transfer credit. You are not allowed to enroll full-time in another university while on a leave of absence from Duke. Campus housing is preserved as long as the appropriate forms and deadlines are met.
  • A Medical Leave of Absence (MLOA) is possible at any time and should be considered if due to documented personal or health problems where it is impossible to continue your courses. Grades of W (withdrawn) are issued for each of your courses. The deadline for a Medical Leave of Absence is at 5 pm on the last day of classes in a semester. Medical leaves are not granted once classes have ended and final exams have begun.  Students placed on medical leaves may return according to the policy of the Time Away Office.


If you are contemplating a personal or 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 the problems you are facing may be useful to you.

  • For a Personal Leave of Absence, you must be in good academic standing.  You are required to meet with your Academic Dean to discuss your reason for requesting a personal leave.  If your plans for a PLOA take shape while you are away from campus, for instance during the summer, you should set up a phone interview or write to your Dean explaining your reasons for requesting a personal leave.  In addition, there is a form to complete and submit for approval.
  • For a Medical Leave of Absence, to be authorized, you must provide your Dean with a letter from a health professional, physician or therapist recommending a medical leave.  In addition, you are expected to complete a form available from your Dean.

Students who withdraw during the first or second week of the semester receive 80% of their tuition back. During the third-fifth weeks, they receive 60% of their tuition, and during the sixth week, 20% of their tuition. Residence hall charges are pro-rated depending upon the number of days a room is occupied. For more information, contact the Bursar's Office and Housing.


If you have taken a one or two semester leave of absence and wish to extend it, you may petition your Academic Dean for additional time. A leave of absence may not generally extend beyond three semesters, not including summers. For more prolonged absences, you are usually expected to withdraw from Duke with the option of applying for readmission at a later date.

  • When you are ready to return from a PLOA, you must submit a "Notification to Return from a Personal Leave of Absence" form to the Time Away Office.  For complete details on this procedure, and to begin the process, consult the Time Away return checklist
  • When you are eligible to return from an MLOA, it will be processed through the Time Away Office.  To begin the process, consult and follow the procedures described on the Time Away Office website.  If your return has been approved, the Registrar will reactivate you as a student so that you can register online.


  • If you take a one- or two-semester PLOA and wish to extend it, you may petition your academic dean for additional time.  A PLOA may not generally be extended beyond 3 semesters (not including summers).  For more prolonged absences, you are usually expected to withdraw from Duke with the option of applying for readmission at a later date. 
  • If you have taken an MLOA, returned to Duke, and now find that a second MLOA may be necessary, you should consult your academic dean immediately. 




Last updated: October 22, 2020