ASU students have the option to take a leave of absence from school

Students commonly take leave because of medical conditions, religious missions, internships and financial issues

A medical condition, a religious mission, an internship opportunity or a financial problem – these are common reasons why ASU undergraduate students choose to take a leave of absence for a semester or more. 

Robert Alford, an academic success specialist in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, said a leave of absence (LOA) is simply a way to preserve a student’s enrollment at the University while taking time off school. 

Alford said while students may be worried that potential employers or graduate schools will look down on students who take a leave, it probably won’t even need to be addressed. He said it will not appear on a transcript as an LOA, but will just show the student was not in school at the time.

“It would maybe generate a question, and it would be something you as a student would have to answer for,” he said. “I don’t think it would be inherently bad.”

One issue Alford sees come up with LOAs is that many students find it difficult to get back into the rhythm of school after leaving for a few months, but he said adjustment varies depending on the drive of the student and the program in which they're enrolled.

“For something like engineering, it would be really hard to pick up where you left off,” he said. “But maybe for other programs it would be OK.”

If students are pondering taking an LOA, Alford said the most important step to take is to talk to their academic advisers. 

“Information is the key,” he said. “The more informed you are about your options, the better off you’ll be.”

Students don’t technically need to speak with their advisers before taking an LOA – Alford said the necessary forms can be filled out online. But working with an adviser can make the process much easier, he said.

Madeleine Holler, current Miss Arizona and a junior studying broadcast journalism, took an LOA to pursue Miss Arizona opportunities when she earned the title in June 2017. Pageantry soon became her full-time job.

She said her adviser helped her defer her academic scholarships to the next semester, when she was able to return. The scholarship deferment process is a separate form and, while it can be done online, Holler said it was helpful to have an adviser walk her through it.

“My adviser was a really crucial part in making sure I was deferring properly,” she said. 

Holler said getting back into school wasn’t as difficult as she thought it might be. 

“Of course when you take a little bit of a break, it can always be a little nerve-racking to get back into it,” she said. “But so far I found all the professors and advisers really helpful, so it is going very well.”

Emily Ducker, a sophomore studying journalism and sports and media studies, also found her adviser to be extremely helpful when she took an LOA during the second semester of her freshman year.

Ducker said she has suffered from mental illness since middle school, and coming to ASU from out of state didn’t help her mental state.

“I just wasn’t really adjusting well,” she said. “Over winter break I had this meltdown talking to my parents, and we decided as a family it was best for me to just step back and come home for the semester.”

Ducker said she was already enrolled in second semester classes when she made the decision. Her adviser helped her get out of classes and plan to return the following fall.

“Having ongoing communication with him and with the different resources at the school made it easier to transition back into school after being away from a few months,” she said.

Ducker advises students to not be afraid of taking a semester off if needed.

“I was so afraid of bringing up that thought — ‘What if I don’t go back right now?’” she said. “It’s not something you should decide at the drop of a hat, but it is a process that ASU has in place, and it is available, and if you need it you shouldn’t feel like you shouldn’t do it.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @mackinleyjade on Twitter. 

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