Student Affairs Resource Website

Leave of Absence or Curricular Expansions

This page contains information for students who wish to take some time off during medical school. There are “what if?” situations, scenarios, and things to consider. For any questions about anything related to leaves of absences or expansions, contact the Director of Proactive Advising at somproadv@uw.edu.

What is a leave of absence?

A leave of absence is when a student takes off two or more quarters, is not enrolled in any course work or clerkships, and is not paying any tuition or receiving any financial aid.

Students in the Foundations phase and Clinical phase who wish take a leave of absence must first meet with the Director of Proactive Advising and/or Associate Dean for Student Affairs (ASDA) and then submit a petition to request a leave of absence. A leave of absence will affect the student’s schedule and may affect the student’s graduation date. The Student Affairs Office can be approve one year of leave. If students want to take two years of leave, the second year must be approved by the Student Progress Committee. Additional leave beyond two years is at the discretion of the Student Progress Committee.

What is a clinical expansion?

An expansion is when a student spreads out their clinical curriculum such that they are enrolled at least every other quarter. Expansions are only an option for students in their clinical curriculum. A clinical expansion affects the students’ graduation date.

Examples of when a student may need to take a leave of absence or expand their curriculum:

Personal reasons:

  • Having a baby
  • Personal health issues
  • Family emergencies
  • Career exploration
  • Non-sponsored research
  • Taking more time to study for Step 1, Step 2CK and CS
  • Break from medical school

Academic reasons, as mandated by Student Progress Committee:

  • Remediating a failed Foundations required course, block, or thread
  • Remediating a failed clerkship

Research:

  • Completing a PhD or other degree
  • Completing a research fellowship
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)
    • Fogarty
    • Doris Duke
    • Sarnoff
    • Pathology
  • Completing a concurrent degree (MPH or MHA) – See further down this page for more info about concurrent degrees

How to take a leave of absence or expand

All students who wish to take a leave of absence or expand must meet with the Proactive Advising Director and/or Associate Dean of Student Affairs. Once approved for a leave or expansion, students will be given a petition to fill out and submit back to the school for formal approval to take a leave or expand their clinical curriculum.

Petitions should be submitted at least 6 weeks before the start of the quarter that the student wishes to take a leave or expand. The School of Medicine Registration and Scheduling, and Student Affairs offices need this advanced notice to process your request and make any changes to your schedule. If you submit your request to take a leave/expand after this deadline, you risk being charged a tuition forfeiture fee by the Office of the University Registrar. Students should be aware that late requests may limit your options in terms of available clerkships, and your graduation date may need to be postponed.

Things to consider when taking a leave of absence or expanding

Competitiveness for Residency Programs and Eligibility for the NRMP Match

  • It will be noted in your Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) that you took a leave or expansion, and took longer than 4 years to complete the MD.
  • Learn more about the MATCH at http://www.nrmp.org/, and click on the Program Director Survey report for information related to each specialty.
  • Unless you completed a concurrent degree, if it takes 6 or more years for you to complete medical school, you are at risk of not successfully matching to a residency program, and you may need to consider career options that do not include clinical practice.
  • Students can meet with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs and/or a Career Advisor to discuss the impact a leave or expansion might have on matching to future residency programs.

Financial Aid, Tuition, and Registration Fees

You will want to consider financial aid and tuition implications if you take a leave of absence or expand your curriculum. If you are a Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, or Idaho Foundations student, you will want to be aware of financial contracts or programs you are in related to your program state. Please review the following document which contains information for all students regarding financial aid and tuition: WWAMI Students on Leave and Expanding – financial aid info

Late add and Late drop fees:

Click here for registration deadlines: http://www.washington.edu/students/reg/calendar.html

  • If you are unsure of your plans for a given quarter and drop a course or add a course late, you will have to pay fees to the Office of the University Registrar.
  • If you plan to make changes to your academic schedule, be aware of potential changes to your tuition bill. Credits dropped after the 7th calendar day of the quarter may incur a tuition forfeiture fee. If possible, make your changes before the deadline to avoid extra charges.
  • Refer to the Office of the University Registrar for information about late adds, drops, and withdrawals – https://finance.uw.edu/sfs/tuition/forfeiture-refund

Re-enrollment fees:

  • If you do not enroll in any courses for two consecutive quarters, you will be required to re-enroll and pay an $80 re-enrollment fee to the Office of the University Registrar.
  • You will have a “withdrawal” noted on your UW transcript for the quarters during which you were un-enrolled and not on an official leave of absence.
  • If you do not maintain enrollment or leave status, you will need to observe the Office of the University Registrar’s re-enrollment application deadlines. If you are denied re-enrollment, your upcoming courses/clerkships will need to be cancelled. Visit this website for more information: https://registrar.washington.edu/enrollment-and-records/returning-student-reenrollment/
  • You can consider applying for a Hardship withdrawal if you have had to withdraw from a course. Consult with the Registrar or ADSA to discuss this further.

How a leave or expansion affects your schedule, timeline, and graduation

Taking a leave of absence or expanding can have impacts on your schedule further down the road. If you take a leave of absence or expand your curriculum early in your third year, you will want to consider the following:

  • Having sufficient time to study for Step 2 CK and/or CS
  • Having time to travel and complete residency interviews– you will need to build in at least four weeks to your clinical schedule for residency interviews. During a 4 week clerkship you may request up to 2 days off, but the timing of this has to be negotiated with the clerkship director or administrator and cannot be during orientation, the exam, or other required activities.
  • Receiving an MSPE for residency application requires that the Patient Care Phase clerkships are completed by the end of Spring B. If you are registered for a patient care phase clerkship in Summer A or beyond, you will not be able to enter the match as you will not have an MSPE, which is required for your residency application.
  • Having time to fit in events (e.g. weddings, graduations, etc.) or travel
  • Graduation requirements:
    • The Patient Care Phase OSCE must be scheduled in Seattle in the May/June time frame after you finish 3rd year required clerkships
    • Transition to Residency (AKA Capstone) in Seattle — this must be scheduled in May immediately preceding graduation

Access to resources

  • Students on leave of absence do not pay the fees associated with the UPASS and IMA, therefore will not have access to these resources while on a leave of absence.
  • Students on leave are unable to register for any courses with UW or UWSOM the quarters they are on leave.
  • Students on leave will continue to have access to the library and other electronic services and resources the library offers.

MPH/MHA Concurrent Degree

  • MPH and MHA are the only concurrent degree programs approved by UWSOM and the UW Graduate School. Both programs must be completed at the University of Washington. Students must independently apply for these programs. Student can initiate application for these programs during the admissions process to medical school and if accepted, must defer enrollment until after completion of the Patient Care Phase.
  • If the student wants to pursue a non-concurrent program at UW or at another institution, they can request to take a leave of absence to complete the program. During the leave of absence, the student will not have access to UWSOM resources and cannot enroll in any UWSOM school work.
  • The student is expected to complete all components of the concurrent degree program including the thesis before returning to the medical school curriculum.
  • Tuition for these programs is set by the program.. Students may contact the UW state residency office to clarify their residency status for tuition purposes. WWAMI regional students must discuss their plans with their foundations dean and understand their financial obligations. No UWSOM tuition waivers can be used for a concurrent degree program.
  • Enrollment in the concurrent degree program can begin only after completion of the patient care phase, Step 2 CK and CS, and Senior OSCEs. In addition, students are required to complete the following before starting the concurrent degree:
  1. Neurology OR Emergency Medicine
  2. Advanced Patient Care clerkship (4 weeks) OR a Sub-I (4 weeks)
  • Students must contact the UWSOM Registrar’s office, (somreg@uw.edu) to arrange their schedule to allow for completion of the Explore and Focus Phase after completion of the concurrent degree program.
  • Students cannot complete a concurrent program in their final year of medical school, because they need to finish medical school with the Explore and Focus Phase.

Have you delayed taking Step 1?

  • Students who delay taking Step 1 may be required to take a leave of absence for the quarters they are un-enrolled from clerkship, or may be required to expand their clinical curriculum due to not being able to graduate on time, or both. If you take off more than 12 weeks during the Patient Care Phase for any reason, you will likely have to delay your graduation date by one year. Please consult with the Director of Proactive Advising (somproadv@uw.edu) to review your graduation requirements prior to delaying your exam further. If you decide you need to cancel clerkships in order to have more time to study for Step 1, contact adminsa@uw.edu.

Questions? Contact the Director of Proactive Advising at somproadv@uw.edu