Taking a Health Leave of Absence

girl sitting on bench

"I had mental health concerns long before coming to Cornell. But the stress of being in college put me in situations which finally forced me to get help. Having the opportunity to take a break and go into treatment was invaluable.”

The process

Before you submit a formal HLOA request, it is important that you have information about the process and implications of taking a Health Leave of Absence. Please email healthleaves@cornell.edu or make an appointment with the Health Leaves Coordinator, who can facilitate consultations with health care providers, Student Disability Services, and your academic program before granting a Health Leave of Absence. The Health Leaves Coordinator will also help you identify other logistical steps you may need to take as you leave the university.

Depending on your situation, you may wish to consult with one or more of the following:

  • Student Disability Services counselor
  • Health care provider
  • College student services/advising office
  • For Graduate Students: 
    • Graduate School assistant dean of student life
    • Director of Graduate Studies
    • Graduate Field Assistant
    • Cornell Tech Wellness & Support Office

Once you have determined that you would like to request a Health Leave of Absence, please follow the steps listed below.

STEP 1: Request HLOA

Complete the online Health Leave of Absence Request Form.

STEP 2: Documentation of Health Condition

You will need to provide documentation of the health condition for which you need a leave of absence within five business days of your HLOA request. There are three documentation options, which are listed below:

  • Cornell Health: If you are working with a medical or mental health provider at Cornell Health, you can ask them to complete the HLOA documentation. You will need to complete and upload the release of information to your myCornell Health patient portal to allow Cornell Health Records to share information related to your HLOA with the Health Leaves Coordinator.
  • External provider: Ask your healthcare provider to complete the HLOA documentation and return it to the Health Leaves Coordinator by fax or email.
  • Personal statement: If you have not been working with a healthcare provider, or if you will not be able to obtain documentation within five business days, you can provide the Health Leaves Coordinator with a personal statement that addresses the following questions:
    • What is the condition for which you need a health leave of absence?
    • How does the condition impact your ability to function successfully as a student at Cornell University?

Documentation of the health condition is also referenced during the return from HLOA process, and the Health Leaves Coordinator will confirm that the reason for the health leave has been addressed in the documentation of fitness to return.

Step 3: Academic Information

Your college/school may place academic conditions on your return based on curriculum sequencing, time to degree requirements, or academic actions that will be determined and communicated to you by the end of the term.

Your college/school and the University reserve the right to change a voluntary leave to a required leave or withdrawal if an academic or disciplinary review determines it appropriate.

Undergraduate and Professional School Students: The Health Leaves Coordinator will contact the appropriate advising unit for academic information related to your HLOA, which will be included in the HLOA approval letter.

Graduate School Students: The Graduate School will consult with your field to develop an academic plan for your leave and return. This plan will be communicated to you directly.

Step 4: Commit to the Leave

You will receive an email with a link to view your HLOA approval letter in Cornell Chatter. Please review this letter and the HLOA documentation carefully. The final step is to commit to the leave by clicking on the green button that appears below the letter in Chatter.

Once you commit to the leave, notifications will alert the relevant offices and individuals listed below that you are taking a leave of absence.

  • Appropriate college/school registrar
  • Your current instructions
  • Office of the Bursar
  • Cornell Health
  • Housing Contracts Office
  • Dining Contracts Office
  • Student Health Benefits
  • Office of Global Learning International Services (for international students only)
  • Athletics (for NCAA athletes only)

Deadline to request a Health Leave of Absence

You may request a Health Leave of Absence at any time after you have commenced attendance at the university as part of a Cornell degree program. If the leave is for the current term, the last day of the term is the deadline. Cornell Policy 7.1.

Duration of Health Leave of Absence

  • You may not return from a leave within the semester that the leave was taken. 

  • The duration of the leave will depend upon the time you need for treatment and/or recovery and the resolution of academic conditions determined by your college/school. 

  • Each college may set a maximum duration for a Health Leave of Absence.

Other considerations

Student status

While you are on a leave of absence, you will not be registered with the University. Therefore, you will not be eligible for the privileges afforded to registered students, such as residing in University housing, accessing University resources, and receiving direct supervision by faculty members.

  • Submission of a leave of absence request after the published deadline to drop classes will result in the “course withdrawal” notation (W) for classes that have not been completed. You will not be eligible to take an incomplete or receive a grade for a course when the effective date of your leave of absence precedes the class end date.
  • You will receive a grade for any course that was completed prior to the leave of absence request date.
  • A leave of absence request does not terminate in-progress academic integrity or other student conduct actions. All academic integrity and other student conduct infractions and actions remain part of your academic record.
  • A notation on your transcript will indicate "Leave of Absence" for each semester that you are on HLOA

Financial matters

When you take a leave of absence, tuition charges may be reduced on a prorated schedule. The effective date of the leave of absence will determine your tuition liability for the semester. 

  • The Office of the Bursar can provide information about obtaining a refund if you purchased tuition insurance, including the A.W.G. Dewar, Inc. claim forms.
  • Funded graduate students returning from an approved Health Leave of Absence within the four-year window retain any financial support remaining from their original offer of admission, as outlined in the Code of Legislation of the Graduate Faculty.
  • If you receive financial aid, it is important that you consult with a financial aid representative prior to submitting your HLOA request. The Office of Financial Aid website provides general information about Leaves of Absence and Withdrawal, but you will need to understand the impact of taking an HLOA on your individual financial aid package. 
  • If you receive loans to finance your education, be sure to ask a financial aid representative about the grace period before repayment of loans is required. Additional information is available on the Office of Financial Aid website.

Housing

If you live on campus in Ithaca, contact the Housing Contracts Office for information about prorated refunds and moving out of your on-campus accommodations. If you are a Cornell Tech student and live on campus, contact Cornell Tech Housing.

International students

Taking a leave of absence may have implications for an international student’s visa status. If you are on an F-1 or J-1 student visa, you will need written documentation from a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or clinical psychologist recommending a leave of absence or reduced course load for medical or mental health reasons. Immigration rules for a health leave of absence or reduced course load may not coincide with Cornell’s health leave requirements and limitations. Please contact the Office of Global Learning to discuss the impact of an HLOA on your visa status.

Meal plans

If you are an Ithaca student who is on a meal plan, contact the Dining Contracts Office to cancel your meal plan and arrange a prorated refund.

Career Services

Generally speaking, you should have access to Handshake or other school-based recruiting systems, job postings (without campus interviews), and the Career Fair, but you will not be eligible to participate in campus recruiting (virtual or in-person). Individual appointments and attendance at some programs (even virtual ones) may be limited, depending on capacity in your college career office. The services of the Health Careers Evaluation Committee program are available, provided you meet the requirements of the program.