College Status and Leave Policies

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    Students with hydrocephalus may require more flexibility in their college experience, due to unpredictable hospitalization, medical procedures, and illness. It’s important for students and families to understand the policies on full- and part-time student status as well as leaves of absence before committing to a school, particularly if you anticipate that you may have interruptions in your education, or that you may need to engage in a more rigorous course of treatment/management while you are in college. Most colleges have these policies in their Student Handbook which is typically available on their website.

    Here are some policies to be aware of:

    Reduced Course Load

    In order to be considered a full-time student, the student usually has to take 12 or more credits per semester. Some schools require undergraduate students to take a full-time course load in order to be in the program. If the student needs to take fewer courses to manage their condition (treatment, appointments, rest and recovery, etc.) they may be able to request a reduced course load as an accommodation. Typically, the student would need to work with the Disability Support Office (DSO) and their advisor on this process. Note that part-time student status may impact the student’s financial aid.

    Medical Leave of Absence

    Students who are experiencing a health issue and need to leave school may want to take a medical leave of absence. This process typically starts with the student’s advisor. Generally, the student is asked to provide information and documentation about the nature of their request for a medical leave. There is often a process for reentry, which may require the student to provide updated documentation that indicates they are able to re-engage with school. The appropriate department evaluates the documentation, speaks with the student, and then either approves or denies the student for re-entry.

    Personal Leave of Absence

    Students may also choose to take a personal leave of absence. This type of leave usually ranges from a semester to a year. Individual colleges have different policies around when a student is allowed to take a personal leave and for how long a student can remain on leave. This process typically starts with the student connecting with their advisor to request a personal leave of absence. Re-entry usually requires a student to provide a written statement to their advisor by a specific date and let them know about their intention to return.

    Because policies vary from college to college, it’s important to check with the college about their policy. When the student is in the college search phase, it may be helpful to meet with the DSO and provide hypothetical scenarios (hospitalization mid-semester, introduction of new health needs management processes that are time-consuming, etc.) and see how those situations might be handled. Finally, remember to read the Student Handbook to be aware of the official policies when doing your college search.

    Information you can trust! This article was produced by the Hydrocephalus Association, copyright 2021, in collaboration with Annie Tulkin, MS, of Accessible College.

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