Please note that many of these responses are based upon PGY members’ personal experiences. These responses are not intended to officially represent university policy in any way. You are strongly urged to consult with relevant administrators before making any major decisions.
PGY members have kindly assembled this online handbook to make more information accessible for current and future Princeton students.
Also note that these answers are works in progress that are being refined and expanded with the help of relevant administrators.
Leaves of Absence
What is the procedure for taking time away from Princeton, and where do I find the official University policies and information?
The Office of the Dean of the College provides official information on taking time away from Princeton on their website. There is also a section of the Undergraduate Announcement with the official regulations and definitions listed. To begin the process, you always start with the dean of your residential college. The deans are officially charged with taking care of all administrative matters connected with withdrawals and readmissions, so you should always begin the process with them. This applies even if you are an upperclassman, as you retain your college affiliation through graduation. Even if taking time away is just something you are thinking about, your dean can be an excellent resource, helping you to weigh the pros and cons, and placing the decision in the overall context of your progress toward your Princeton degree.
How does the withdrawal process actually work?
So the typical process would look like this: you meet with your dean to discuss, and if you do decide to proceed with a leave or withdrawal your dean will give you the appropriate paperwork to fill out and submit. The form will list some additional offices you might need to visit, depending on the type of withdrawal and your individual circumstances. For example, if you receive financial aid from Princeton, you would visit financial aid to make sure you have all of the information you need from that office. If you are a varsity athlete, you visit with the compliance officer to make sure you are settled on any eligibility issues. And if you are an upperclassmen you would visit with your departmental representative to discuss any academic implication from the perspective of your major. If there are health issues involved you might need to visit UHS. The appropriate representatives initial the form and you return it to your residential college dean to complete the process.
How does readmission following time away work?
When you are preparing to return to campus towards the end of your leave, your dean will contact you. You will typically be asked to submit a brief essay detailing what your activities were during your time off. If you were given requirements to complete during your time away, there will be an opportunity to provide documentation indicating that you have fulfilled them.
Am I guaranteed readmission if I take a voluntary leave of absence?
Yes. You will be asked to fill out paperwork for “readmission”, but don’t fret – this is just part of the formal process. In the case of a voluntary withdrawal (leaving after the semester started), you might be asked to meet certain conditions before returning, but these are meant to be very reasonable and straightforward. In essence, students who want to come back will be readmitted.
Will I be eligible for financial aid when I return?
Typically, yes, as long as you remember to fill out the Financial Aid application by May 1. (If your NetID is not activated yet by May 1, you will be asked to submit your application as soon as possible after it is activated.) However, the amount of financial aid you receive may vary depending on how your circumstances have changed. Your Financial Aid offer will be provided to you once you have been formally readmitted to the university. Contact the Undergraduate Financial Aid office for further clarification.
Am I allowed to take just one semester off?
Typically, no. Princeton expects students to graduate after the spring semester, so your total academic experience will usually add up to eight semesters in total. However, if you are eligible for Advanced Standing, it may be possible for you to take one semester off.
I was suspended. Am I guaranteed readmission?
In the cases we know about, the answer has been yes, but check with your residential college Dean and see the language in the letters you are sent.
Will a suspension show up on my transcript?
Yes. The type of notation on the transcript will reflect the type of suspension. However, this only applies to your official transcript. The unofficial transcript you can print from SCORE will not include disciplinary records
Who will know my disciplinary record?
The Dean of your college will know, and deans in ODOC (e.g., Dean Jueds, Dean Fowler) will have access. Your Director of Student Life may know, although we’re not sure under what circumstances they find out.
Am I barred from any student groups when I come back?
Not really. Once you return as a student in good standing, it’s not against any rule for you to apply for the Committee on Discipline, the Honor Committee, RCA, or Pace Center programs like PICS and Breakout. However, in all these contexts, expect to be asked for permission to consult your disciplinary record.
What do I say to people on campus about my leaving and coming back?
Most likely you’ll have at least some understanding friends to whom you can explain what really happened in depth if you want to. How you handle public information and catching up with acquaintances is a balancing act. Ideally, you’ll be able to tell part of the truth while also protecting your privacy, which is your right.
How can I prepare to ease my transition back to Princeton? What will the University do to help me?
Definitely discuss this with your Dean, and also try to get to know your Director of Student Life and Director of Studies. The staff, tutors and learning consultants at McGraw can be very helpful for getting up to speed academically, and Counseling and Psychological Services is a useful resource regardless of the reasons for your leave. Contact Jonathan Pastor (jpastor@) if you’re interested in Back at Princeton, a discussion and support group for returning students. There are lots of ways to transition back socially and meet new friends – if this is a concern, get in touch with some of our mentors or come to our PGY study breaks and dinners on campus! McGraw can support students transitioning (back) into Princeton with individualized learning consultations or small-group workshops on a variety of topics from managing the reading load to getting started in lab research.
Also take a look at our checklist. Finally, we invite you to connect with Princeton Gap Year for community and unofficial advice!
How can the McGraw Center help students who have taken a gap year transition into Princeton?
McGraw works with students to make successful transitions into and through Princeton, so we think a lot about what is new, unfamiliar and challenging to students at various academic junctures. At any point, we can help gap year students develop the strategies and skills for meeting coursework demands, articulate a strategic approach or plan for a particular course (e.g. one outside your comfort zone), prepare for your first exam back, manage your JP or thesis, and generally address any issue or topic you bring to a learning consultation. Learning consultants can also serve as mentors and prompt reflection and offer advice on a wide range of topics relating to re-entering Princeton. Of course, we offer useful tutoring, workshops, panels, and study breaks as well.