When Should a Dental Student Consider a Leave of Absence?

Posted by Amy Carbone on Mar 1, 2021 9:00:00 AM

Considering a leave of absence from dental school? While it may seem like a smart way to alleviate stress and take time for other life issues, it might not be appropriate for everyone. In fact, taking a leave of absence now may cause some people additional stress and challenges long-term.


Reasons You Might Consider a Leave of Absence

Family Changes

Significant life changes may be the first reason that comes to mind when you think of taking a leave of absence: becoming a parent, losing a family member or having to take over the responsibilities of a family member. These types of life changes can quickly lead students to taking a step away from their current academic load. 

Unfortunately, coming back may not be easy and a break may not relieve the stress of school itself when you choose to continue.

Personal and/or Medical Issues

Debilitating medical issues may also trigger fast requests for a leave of absence. A leave of absence gives students a chance to seek treatment and recover from an injury or illness. Those students may then be able to return and take on the challenge of dental school once again. 

Without an injury or illness, you may use personal reasons to request a leave of absence from dental school. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you will have to submit leave of absence requests for approval, so your reason should be within the guidelines of what your dental school will approve.

Military Service

If you have always wanted to serve your country and would like to take the opportunity now, then you may be able to take a leave of absence. This situation might also come about if you are serving as a reservist who is called to duty during your dental school career.

How to Get a Leave of Absence

If any of the situations above are applicable to you, you may have a reason for seeking a leave of absence from dental school. This formal arrangement between you and your school may have different qualifications and requirements and may vary from school to school.

In some cases, the process involves submitting a written request to the Associate Dean of Student Affairs outlining the reasoning. Students may also have to contact the Office of Student Affairs for approval some set time period (like three months) before planning to return.

A Leave of Absence Shouldn’t Last Long

Due to the continuity needed to build biomedical clinical competence, students may want to hesitate before taking a leave of absence that lasts longer than a year. You may not even be able to request such an absence until you have at least completed some amount of your training. Leaves of absence are typically awarded to first-year students only in exceptional circumstances.

Planning Your Return

Another aspect of orchestrating a leave of absence often requires a reentry plan. As a student, you may have to present this plan when you issue your request for leave. If you have left for a medical reason, you might need to provide a physician’s letter or psychiatric evaluation to prove you are able to return to school. Stick to your planned return as closely as possible to get back into dental school in as smooth of a transition as possible.

Leave Is Different from a Withdrawal

A temporary leave of absence is not a voluntary withdrawal from school. Withdrawals are permanent. A withdrawal should only be considered if you are sure you will not be returning to dental school. This should be considered only as a last resort.

Reasons Not to Take a Leave of Absence

Leaving dental school, while sometimes necessary, may make it harder to finish upon your return. Students may get behind in classes and have to retake courses. In retaking classes they may even have to pay for those classes again which may have significant consequences and considerations. 

What to Do Instead of Taking a Leave of Absence

If stress is the primary reason for taking a leave of absence, consider tips to make note-taking easier, suggestions to improve study habits and more advice available to you. 

Dental school is difficult and it may be understandable for every student to struggle at times. But perseverance is rewarded with an exciting, lucrative career that’s respected and needed around the world. 

When you do graduate, you’ll be faced with a whole new set of challenges brought on with the many decisions that come with beginning your career as a practicing dentist. Our free Ebook Post-Dental School Survival Guide covers some of the decisions you may need to make before and after graduation. Discover the additional skills you may need that aren’t taught in dental school, the insurance options you’ll have to consider and other important concepts to understand for planning your career.

Learn More about Life after Dental School

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Insurance products are offered through Treloar & Heisel, LLC.

This content is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as advice. Treloar & Heisel, LLC. and its divisions do not offer medical advice. Please consult a professional concerning this topic. 


Topics: Dental School Tips