Health Leave of Absence

A Health Leave of Absence (HLOA) is recommended when a student's medical or mental health condition is condition is found—collaboratively with the student and their healthcare provider(s)—to significantly impair their ability to function successfully or safely as a student. It is expected that the student uses the time away from the university for treatment and recovery.

Cornell students may request an HLOA (see instructions below).

To be approved for an HLOA – and return to the university afterwards – you must receive an HLOA recommendation from Cornell Health AND administrative approval from your college or school.

Once approved, HLOAs are coordinated through Cornell Health. The amount of time students take will vary depending on circumstances. A Cornell Health clinician or counselor will provide specific treatment recommendations as part of the HLOA agreement. Compliance with the treatment expectations is a primary factor in approving a student’s return to Cornell.

Health Leave of Absence vs. Personal Leave of Absence

Potential advantages of an HLOA over a Personal Leave of Absence:

  • An HLOA usually qualifies a student for benefits under any tuition reimbursement plan they may have.
  • Students who think they may need to take an HLOA during the course of a coming semester can consider purchasing tuition reimbursement insurance before the semester begins.
  • Students enrolled in the Student Health Plan (SHP) may be able to purchase the insurance for an additional academic year while on an HLOA).
  • For international students, an HLOA may provide a way to remain in the US while maintaining legal status.
  • An HLOA sometimes qualifies a student to initiate a leave of absence later in the semester than might normally be permitted for a personal leave.
  • The grades a student received during the semester for which the leave was initially granted are usually not calculated in the student's GPA; sometimes an HLOA eliminates a semester's courses completely from the student's transcript.

Speak with a Cornell Health counselor or medical clinician to see if pursuing an HLOA is right for you.

How to initiate an HLOA

STEP 1: Request an evaluation by a Cornell Health provider for a possible HLOA recommendation.

If you are already receiving care at Cornell Health, ask your current counselor or medical provider to help. If you’re not sure who to work with – or have questions about the process – you can email healthleaves@cornell.edu and will receive a written response within two business days.

If you are not in the Ithaca area and are unable to meet with a Cornell Health provider for an evaluation, email healthleaves@cornell.edu to consult about your options.

STEP 2: Obtain approval from your college of school.

Once you receive an HLOA recommendation from Cornell Health, you must get administrative approval from the advising office of your college or school. (Graduate students must get approval from the dean of the Graduate School.)

Schools, colleges, and graduate fields have their own policies regarding leaves of absence, including time restrictions and requirements for subsequent re-enrollment. Contact your advising office (not your faculty advisor) to find out what specific conditions or restrictions may apply.

Deadlines

To have an HLOA processed for the current semester, students must complete an evaluation and all of the necessary paperwork with a Cornell Health clinician no later than the last day of classes (not study or exam period) of the current semester.

Requests for an HLOA made after this deadline will only be considered for the following semester. Cornell Health does not make HLOA recommendations retroactively (i.e., for a semester prior to the current one).

Other considerations

Financial implications: Contact your college or school to determine the financial implications of taking an HLOA. Undergraduates who have financial aid must contact the Office of Financial Aid. The University Bursar provides information regarding eligibility for tuition reimbursement.

International students: International students must contact the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) to determine the impact of a leave on their visa status.

Health insurance: Review your health insurance coverage to find out how it might be impacted by an HLOA. Students enrolled in Cornell's Student Health Plan (SHP) who take an HLOA are automatically covered for the remainder of the plan year; they also may be eligible to purchase a one-time, one-year extension of SHP insurance. The Office of Student Health Benefits can provide detailed guidance. Students with other health insurance plans should contact the plan provider to clarify coverage (see number on the insurance card). In some cases, students may need to apply for continuation of coverage (COBRA). Please note that enrollment in COBRA is time-sensitive.

Other contact information

Returning from an HLOA

Students wishing to return from an HLOA should carefully follow each step of the Return Process Checklist (PDF).  

STEP 1: Notify Cornell Health in writing of your wish to return to Cornell.

Email healthleaves@cornell.edu ...

  • no later than June 1 for fall semester return
  • no later than November 1 for spring semester return
  • no later than April 1 for summer session return

STEP 2: Submit to Cornell Health all required documentation of treatment during your HLOA.

Submit your documentation …

  • no later than July 1 for fall semester return
  • no later than December 1 for spring semester return
  • no later than May 1 for summer session return

Missing either of these deadlines will result in your return being postponed until a later semester. 

Approvals to return

You must be approved by Cornell Health before returning from an HLOA. To obtain health clearance, you must demonstrate:

  • compliance with treatment recommendations
  • amelioration of the health condition that prompted the HLOA; and
  • the ability to function safely at Cornell

Approval may require evaluation by a Cornell Health provider.

All decisions regarding return from an HLOA are made by an interdisciplinary committee of Cornell Health clinicians. Student requests to return are denied only when the committee is unanimous in its opinion that a return is not advisable at this time. To appeal a decision of the committee, students must email Greg Eells, PhD,  the member of the Cornell Health senior administration who provides oversight for the HLOA process. If your appeal is denied, you must wait until the following semester to apply again to return from leave.