Illustration by Joaquin Kunkel

REACH Column: Leave of Absence 101

A quick guide on NYUAD's leave of absence policy.

Oct 19, 2017

The NYU Abu Dhabi student body and administration recognize that sometimes, the best form of self-care is to take time away from the university and focus on healing. Students at NYUAD have the opportunity to take a Leave Of Absence (LOA), in which a student spends a minimum of one semester away from NYUAD due to a broad range of circumstances. The process for applying for an LOA is outlined on the Student Portal. The guidelines are updated by the Dean of Students Office as NYU continues to synchronize the procedure for an LOA across the GNU sites.
“In the vast majority of cases, students choose take an LOA for health reasons, an exceptional opportunity such as an internship or research position or military service,” explained Kyle Farley, the Dean of Students. In rare instances, a student may be required to leave campus on suspension due to their academic or disciplinary standing, or if they are experiencing significant mental health issues that put them or others at risk.
While there are several routes toward making the decision to take an LOA, such as speaking to counselors in Health and Wellness, trusted professors or Campus Life staff, the central point of contact is Farley. Students can take an LOA for any reason and are expected to share that reason with Farley. There is no obligation, however, to share that reason with other faculty, staff or students. Students must also fill out the LOA form, which asks for the student’s reason for an LOA as well as a signature of approval from their faculty mentor.
“Once an LOA is approved, the student will receive a letter from our office outlining their leave and making note of some deadlines that students need to be aware of,” remarked Farley. “Once this letter is sent, all processes related to the student’s leave are set in motion, including informing … Global Education, Residential Education, the Registrar and Public Safety that you will not be on campus. We do this to ensure that the student’s LOA process goes as smoothly as possible.”
Transcripts and financial aid packages are affected by a student’s decision to take an LOA. If a student applies to leave NYUAD within the first two weeks of the semester, classes for that semester will not appear on their transcript and financial aid will be unaffected. Once the student communicates with the Dean of Students Office and gets approval from his or her academic mentor, the leave of absence is processed.
Although students can choose to take an LOA before the upcoming semester even starts, some decide after they are well into the semester. If a student chooses to leave NYUAD three to nine weeks into the semester, this is recorded as a term withdrawal, not a leave of absence, but the administrative process is similar. In such a case, the financial aid for the semester would have already been used. The university, however, is committed to granting an extra semester’s worth of financial aid to students who need to withdraw from a term for physical or mental health reasons.
If a student decides to leave NYUAD for the semester any time after the ninth week, he or she will receive a grade based on the work submitted in each course at the time of the withdrawal. If insufficient work has been completed, a failing mark will appear on the transcript and the student can repeat the course upon return to the university.
“If a student does fail a course, they have the option of retaking the course. NYUAD only factors in the higher grade into the student’s [grade point average] instead of averaging the two grades of the repeated course. This policy should help students feel comfortable leaving when they need to, as repeating the course removes the negative impact on a student’s overall GPA,” explained Farley.
If a student took an LOA for mental health reasons, they must meet certain requirements before being approved to return to campus. They must see a mental health professional regularly and obtain that professional’s signature on the student’s Certificate of Readiness to Return. Back on campus, the student is strongly encouraged to meet with an on-campus counselor for a minimum of two sessions. If an LOA was taken because of physical health issues, a medical doctor must complete the same form. If a student chose to take an LOA for personal reasons, he or she can choose to spend up to two semesters away — with the exception of an LOA taken for military service — and have no required forms to complete upon their return.
If a student notifies the Dean of Students Office or Registrar of their intent to return before the deadlines for course selection and housing pass, they will be able to apply for semester courses with the rest of the student body. However, the university’s priority is always the student’s health and wellbeing. For students who take an LOA for mental health reasons, it is more challenging to determine if a student will be mentally healthy enough to meet those deadlines.
While Global Ed will not change the destinations of tickets booked months in advance, there are no restrictions on where a student can go for his or her leave of absence. The Dean of Students Office asks only that students inform them of where they intend to be. Any costs attached to last minute changes to flights are the student’s responsibility.
The general NYU policy outlines that students on an LOA should not have access to campus or campus resources. The university strongly encourages being physically away from NYUAD to ensure a full recovery. During a student’s time away, the primary point of contact is Jess Castelyn, the Dean of Students Office’s Program Manager.
“Students on LOA are always welcome to reach out to me. We want to make sure that if students have any questions or concerns, they don’t hesitate to make contact,” Castelyn noted. Starting this year, students on LOAs can apply to come back to Abu Dhabi to take summer courses, and students are responsible for the cost of their flights.
After being away from campus for a semester or two, adjusting to life on campus can be nervewracking for some students. In addition to the Dean of Students Office, those students can get in touch with the Health and Wellness Center, REACH, and Chuck Grim, the Vice Provost for Academic Administration. Student wellbeing is of utmost importance to the NYUAD community.
Brian Kim and Sangeetha Mahadevan from the REACH are contributing editors. Email them at
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