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Articles / Applying to College / How do I drop out of college to visit my sick father?

How do I drop out of college to visit my sick father?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Feb. 3, 2012

Question: I want to drop out from college because I have to go back to my country and see my sick father. How can I write my dean a letter? And should I get a letter from my sick father addressed to my dean? How can I convince my school so I can officially drop my subject?

I’m sorry to hear about your father’s poor health. I’m sure that attending school far away from home makes a stressful situation even more so. It’s not clear to me if you want to take a temporary break from your college or drop out entirely. If you hope to return, your college probably has an official policy in place that governs leave-of-absence protocol. Before you contact the dean, you should try to find this (look in the Student Handbook which may be available online) and see how the published “rules” mesh with your needs. The official policy may explain what sort of documentation is required, if any (e.g., letter from your father or father’s physician).


Note that the leave-of-absence policy will be different than the "Withdrawal" policy, so be sure to look for the one that pertains to you.

Next, you should make an appointment to meet with the dean in person (unless the handbook suggests a letter instead). The dean may expect you to eventually put your request in writing, but I recommend a face-to-face meeting first.

It sounds like you plan to go home in the middle of a semester. If you are indeed leaving part-way through the term, you might want to speak with your professors before you contact the dean to find out if there is any way that you can finish each class on your own. Since it’s probably very early in the semester right now, this may be impossible. It will also depend on which classes you are taking … some are more easily tackled independently than others.

If you drop out in the middle of a semester, it is likely that you will lose the money you have paid for this term and you will not receive credit for the work you have done in the term either (unless you get the okay for independent study, as discussed above). However, some colleges will offer a pro-rated refund if the student leaves within the first month or so of the semester. So you should act quickly if your college provides this.

You will be able to keep any credits you earned in previous terms and transfer them to another institution, if you don’t expect to come back to this one. (Note, however, that each college has its own regulations regarding credit evaluation. So, depending where you end up, all of your current credits might be accepted … or not).

I’ve found that college officials tend to be sympathetic and helpful at times of family crisis, but—even so—they can be bound by inflexible rules that may not work in your favor.

Good luck to you … and to your dad.

(posted 2/3/2012)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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