Leave of Absence

Grinnell remains committed to academic continuity while observant of the public health challenges imposed by COVID-19. We are innovating and investing considerable financial resources to provide every student the opportunity to complete their degree within four years while working to minimize the amount of time students will need to spend away from campus. We are also trying to preserve space for future Grinnellians who will be applying for admission next year. Toward a goal of a timely degree completion and preserving opportunities for future Grinnellians, we encourage all students—whether on campus or online—to remain enrolled, full-time, throughout the 2020-21 academic year. Online classes this fall will have the benefit of several months of faculty preparation that our emergency move to online learning in the spring did not. Nevertheless, we recognize that some students may find it necessary to request a time away for one or more terms in the upcoming academic year.

How to Request a Leave of Absence

First-Year Students

As you know, Tutorial is the first and only required course at Grinnell outside of a major. Tutorial sections have all been arranged for Fall Term 1. Due to the unusual circumstances of the pandemic, a limited number of first-year students (e.g., international students who were unable to obtain a visa in time for Fall Term 1) were approved for a spring arrival. We intend to honor the deferrals that have already been approved and provide students enrolling for the first time (with no online classes in the fall) with Tutorial in Spring Term 1. Unfortunately, no additional space in Tutorials is available for students who have not already been approved for a deferral until Spring Term 1. 

First-year students who are not already approved for a spring arrival may either enroll online in the fall and come to campus for Spring Term 1 or request a gap year until the Fall of 2021. If you would like to request a gap year, please email Sarah Fischer, Director of Admission, at fischers@grinnell.edu, and provide a brief explanation for why you want to take a gap year. For full consideration, gap year requests should be submitted no later than July 31 and will not be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. If the number of gap year requests exceeds our capacity to accommodate them, we will use a lottery system to determine whose request to approve. Those who are not awarded a gap year will be required to enroll this year. The admission office will notify students as soon as possible whether or not their gap year request has been approved.

Continuing Students

For continuing students, planned personal leaves of absence – between 1 and 4 terms in length during the 2020-21 academic year – remain an option. Students should note the new timeline for application, cap on number of credits permitted to transfer, and eligibility for future enrollment privileges. F-1 students should consult the Office of International Student Affairs.

Review of applications for personal leave will begin June 26. This gives interested students the opportunity to read more about personal leaves, consider alternatives for the year ahead, and consult with their advisers, families, friends and others to determine the most appropriate course of action. Students are strongly encouraged to submit a Personal Leave of Absence Application (login required) by July 22; however, applications will be considered up until the Add/Drop deadline of Fall Term 1.

Benefits of Full-Time Enrollment

  • Grinnell has a reputation of offering one of the very best classroom experiences in the United States. The same faculty who facilitate student learning on campus are the ones who are working diligently to offer innovative teaching in an online format.
  • Grinnell’s inventive approach to preparation for life after graduation through the Center for Careers, Life and Service (CLS) will continue, unabated, regardless of whether you study on campus or online. Access to some CLS services for students who take a Personal Leave will be restricted in 2020-21. Continuous full-time enrollment in fall 2020 and spring 2021 academic terms will be among the factors CLS will consider when reviewing summer 2021 internship applications. Students whose personal circumstances require them to take an Emergency/Medical and/or Personal Leave will not be penalized as part of the review process. Students must be enrolled as a full-time student during the term(s) when applications are due.
  • Students who remain enrolled full-time maintain their eligibility for funding opportunities awarded by a range of other offices and programs including the Rosenfield Program, Wilson Center, Institute for Global Engagement, Academic Dean’s Office, SGA, etc.).
  • Grinnell’s Off Campus Study (OCS) policy requires that students enroll full or part time in the term leading up to the off-campus study experience.

Grinnell is eager to accommodate the difficulties you face by enrolling full-time this year. If you have encountered financial difficulties, technology issues, international border crossing constraints, new health concerns or learning challenges, etc. we are prepared to assist in a variety of ways. Students should contact one of the offices listed on the Resources and Support for Students webpage.

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