A medical leave of absence (MLOA) allows students whose academic progress and performance, or ability to otherwise function, has been seriously compromised by a mental health condition or a medical condition (for example, pregnancy, need for surgery, depression, substance abuse, as well as other conditions) to take time away from the University without academic penalty. Such leave affords students time to pursue treatment and eventually return to the University with a significantly improved chance of success academically and personally.
Whenever a student is granted this kind of leave, at some point in the future the student's program at Georgetown will look to our office (the Counseling and Psychiatric Service, or CAPS) to issue a recommendation regarding that student's readiness to return so that the student can then be considered for re-enrollment at the University. While CAPS makes recommendations for both MLOAs and returns from MLOAs, the authority for granting leaves and returns rests with the dean's office.
Recommendations for students
After meeting with a student considering an MLOA, we put our recommendations in writing. Our recommendations are done on an individualized, case-by-case basis. That said, we will generally recommend an appropriate form of treatment for the issue at hand. Ideally, treatment should be initiated immediately upon taking the leave from the University.
In addition, depending on the circumstances, we may possibly recommend that a student undertake some sort of regular daily activity such as a work or volunteer experience or an internship or community service to test out the capacity to handle day-to-day activities and to make productive use of time away from Georgetown. Generally, students must petition or otherwise secure the permission of their Georgetown dean if they wish to take courses elsewhere while on MLOA. When deemed appropriate, this may be another way of assessing one's own ability to handle academic pressure, course requirements, deadlines, paper writing, participation in classroom activities, and studying, at least some of which are often impaired when there is need for an MLOA.
The recommended time period for an MLOA is determined for each student individually, on a case-by-case basis, reflecting the assessment done at the time of the leave.
The return process
When a student feels ready to come back, we ask that student to undertake the following steps as part of the process of being considered for re-enrollment.
To keep everything on track, we advise students to contact the Dean's office and our office to let us know of the intention to re-enroll approximately 3 months in advance of the intended return date. CAPS requests that students submit all materials by November 1 for consideration for the spring semester, April 1 for the summer sessions, and June 30 for the fall semester. This ensures that CAPS and the Dean’s office have sufficient time to review the student’s request and re-enroll the student. If materials are received shortly after the relevant deadline, the University will attempt to be flexible and review the student’s request to return for the desired semester. However, if there is missing information and/or the University needs additional time to contact the student’s treatment provider, as discussed below, consideration for a return may be made for the following semester rather than the semester for which they were initially seeking to return.
We ask the student to provide us with Release of Information forms so that we may communicate with relevant parties such as deans and healthcare providers. If treatment was recommended at the time of the leave, we use a Community Provider Report Form which enables a provider to easily communicate findings. If a regular daily activity or a course of study was recommended at the time of the leave, we also look for a letter of reference from a reliable adult community observer or a transcript as to those experiences and the student's ability to function.
Depending upon the nature and individual circumstances of the MLOA, at the time a student leaves we may ask a student to provide a brief statement when ready to return describing (1) the student’s experience away from Georgetown including the activities undertaken while away, (2) the student’s current understanding of the factors that led to the need for the leave, and the insights the student has gained from treatment and time away, and (3) how the student plans to ensure a successful return to Georgetown University.
Once a student has sent in all the required documentation, our internal CAPS MLOA committee reviews the materials to determine if the student appears ready to resume academics and university life. If so, we contact the student to arrange a check-in visit to review the student's safety and review the student's plan for maintaining optimal health, including recommendations for ongoing treatment if that is warranted.
We then contact the dean's office to indicate our recommendation. The dean's office takes this into consideration when deciding whether or not to re-enroll a student. As noted earlier, final authority for granting a return rests in the dean's office.
While the return process is time-intensive for our office as well as for students, it is designed to ensure that a student will be in the best possible position to thrive when he or she returns to school.