A Leave of Absence (LOA) is when a student unenrolls from SMU for one or two consecutive long semesters with plans to return. There are a variety of reasons why a student might be interested in taking a leave, including, but not limited to, personal challenges, family challenges, or illness.
A Withdrawal is different from a leave of absence.
A Withdrawal is when a student drops all courses (down to 0 credits) in a given term after the first day but before the withdrawal deadline. Students can drop individual courses on their own but cannot drop to 0 credits without requesting a withdrawal.
It is common for students to request a withdrawal and LOA simultaneously.
A Withdrawal and taking a Leave of Absence due to illness differ from a Medical Withdrawal. Read more about their differences.
What to know before requesting a leave of absence
Students considering taking a leave of absence should contact their academic advisor to discuss the decision and the possible impacts on their academic progress and graduation timeline.
Students planning to take classes at another university while on leave need to contact their academic advisor to petition transfer courses before enrolling at another school. Post-matriculation transfer credit is only granted for coursework at regionally accredited four-year colleges and universities.
Withdrawal, Cancellation, and Leave of Absence deadlines
Leaves of Absence (LOA) can be requested at any time. However, some students request a withdrawal or cancellation in addition to their LOA.
- Students enrolled in a semester that has not yet begun will need to request a Course Cancellation as well as a Leave of Absence.
- Students enrolled in a semester that has already begun may request a Withdrawal to be unenrolled from the current semester prior to being placed on a Leave of Absence for an upcoming semester.
- Students not enrolled in classes need only request a Leave of Absence.
- Please see the academic calendar for withdrawal and cancelation deadlines in relation to your academic records. Refunds are granted based on the date of outreach and follow the Bursar’s refund schedule.
Potential impacts from a leave of absence
Every student situation is unique, so we encourage you to get in touch to discuss potential impacts on your student status, but we’ve outlined the common impacts.
- Financial aid: Withdrawing can impact a student's financial aid, including eligibility for federal student aid refunds. Financial aid recipients should contact the Office of Financial Aid with questions.
- Tuition refund: Please refer to the refund schedule for regular withdrawal and cancellation. Please get in touch with the Bursar with questions regarding refunds.
- Residence Life and Student Housing: Students living on campus should contact firstname.lastname@example.org and notify them about their intention to leave. Housing contracts and associated cancellation penalties may apply.
- International students: International students must make an appointment with their International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) advisor and notify the office about their intention to leave. Please visit ISSS Forms/Requests for more information about the process.
- Student-Athletes: Student-Athletes should submit their leave form to SSR and also notify their Athletic Counselor about their intention to leave.
Stay connected! Students on leave of absence have access to many SMU resources, including SSR, their academic advisors, and the career development center.
SMU ID cards will not work on campus while students are on leave, and students will not have access to dining, parking, or fitness facilities.
Need to extend LOA? Sometimes students decide they should extend their leave due to various reasons. Students must meet with the Director of Student Success and Retention to request LOA beyond two consecutive semesters.
Preparing for your return
To ensure a smooth transition back to the Hilltop, it is crucial to plan ahead. We put together a checklist below to help our students prepare for a successful return.
LOA Return Checklist:
SSR invites students to meet with them to discuss resources and work together to create a plan for a successful semester.
- Reflect on the past semester and write down what went well and what did not go as well.
- Set goals for the upcoming term
- Create a list of tasks to get done before returning to campus
- Check if your SMU account and email are workingIf your my.SMU password has expired, you may use the OIT Password Reset tool to regain access.
- Log in to my.SMU to check and clear all account holds
- Meet with an academic advisor to review your degree plan and progress toward graduation. Students that took courses at another 4-year institution while on leave must notify their advisors or school of record. Academic Advisor's contact information can be found on the students' "Student Center."
Welcome back! The Office of Student Success and Retention is here to support our students' transition back to the Hilltop! We provide assistance connecting students to campus resources and guidance to those navigating unforeseen barriers, all while helping troubleshoot ways to improve the student experience.
Students are encouraged to have regular success meetings with the SSR success coaches to ensure they are well-supported through their first semester back at SMU. Students might also benefit from the services listed below.
- Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center: The Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC) provides academic resource that is no cost to students. It's located on the second floor of the Loyd All Sports Center (Suite 202). They offer tutoring in common courses, writing support, academic counseling, workshops, etc. These student programs are designed to maximize students' learning potential, personal adjustment, and academic performance.
- Office of Student Advocacy & Support: Staff in the Office of Student Advocacy & Support oversee the Caring Community Connections (CCC) program and "The Shop" food pantry. They work directly with and provide support to any SMU student who may be struggling outside the classroom with any issue and assist in connecting them to appropriate available resources.
- Financial Aid: The financial aid office provides information to secure the financial resources required to meet their educational goals and financial obligations to the university. Financial aid advisors offer personal attention to help explore a multitude of available scholarships, grants, loans, and payment plans.
- The Career Center: The Hegi Family Career Development Center at SMU is dedicated to serving the needs of SMU students and assisting employers in reaching qualified SMU candidates. They are located on the first floor of the Hughes-Trigg Student Center.
- Counseling Services: Counseling Services is dedicated to supporting the mental health needs of SMU students. Various options are available, whether it's meeting one of the staff counselors at the Health Center, accessing the network of mental health providers they offer online, or utilizing some of the resources they make available for self-help.