​Policy Guidelines on Absences, Withdrawal, and Student Leaves of Absence

This document sets forth policy guidelines for student attendance, “Leave of Absence” and “Withdrawal” from the College of Dental Medicine.  These policies and administrative actions are designed to protect the interests of students and of the College. Unusual problems, not anticipated by this document, undoubtedly will arise; they must be judged and handled according to the individual circumstances.

Attendance Policies and Leave of Absence (subject to change)

Regular Attendance

The College of Dental Medicine expects that all candidates for degrees and certificates will be in attendance during consecutive periods (semester, years, or months, depending on the year of the curriculum) until the completion of the requirements for the degree or certificate.

Students are strongly encouraged to attend all other lectures. Individual course directors may require attendance as part of the protocol for “passing” the course.

Students are required to attend all small group sessions, preclinical sessions, and unrecorded lectures and laboratories.

Required sessions in the Basic Science Curriculum

  • All small group sessions
  • Just-in-Time Teaching Sessions
  • “Foundations for Excellence In Dental Practice”
  • All Preclinic Sessions
  • Others TBD

Clinical Attendance Policy

100% Attendance is Mandatory on ALL preferred clinical time

Students scheduled in clinic will be required to report at the start of the session, 9 AM (10 AM if there is a class scheduled) or 1 PM, to their GPL or designated Full Time Faculty member to be signed in. Designated Faculty will have an asterisk next to name in faculty coverage schedule.

Sign in procedure includes leaving contact information with the designated faculty before going to Triage.

If a student has no patient scheduled or a cancellation:
1) Student goes to the triage/emergency area and helps with emergency patients and may be asked to bring a patient to their chair in the clinic to see an emergency patient.
2) Student goes to triage/emergency and can be assigned a new patient at the discretion of the group practice leader covering triage
3) Student goes to triage/emergency area and if they are not needed by the GPL in triage/emergency student may leave triage with the understanding that they are on call and must be able to return to the clinic within 5-10 minutes of being contacted.

Should students not adequately populate their schedule during their preferred clinic time, unfilled schedule times will be populated by the GPAs with available patients. NOTE: clinic time begins at 9 AM (unless didactic schedule conflicts), 1 PM, and night clinic at 5PM.  For seniors, this means you should have at least one patient scheduled for morning session starting at 9am and two patients scheduled for the afternoon session generally at 1 and 3pm. Any deviations from this must be approved by your GPL.  Juniors may begin to schedule two afternoon patients as appropriate after discussion with your GPL.  In addition, juniors may consider scheduling a 1pm and 4-7pm patient as appropriate.   

If a student comes to their preferred clinic time late, this will be recorded as an unexcused absence.

Any unexcused absences from clinic will require that the time is made up after graduation for seniors and during summer break for juniors. Such required make up time will impact both graduation for seniors and summer vacation for juniors.

Students may continue to receive excused absences for boards, externships, interviews, etc. only with the signed approval of Dr. Zubiaurre and your GPL on necessary form. Excused absences will also require that missed time be made up.

Required Sessions in Clinical Years

  • Scheduled clinic time
  • Scheduled rotations
  • Scheduled selectives
  • All clinical science courses (DxTx, SIS, etc.)

Protocol for request of excused absences

Students are obligated to promptly notify appropriate faculty and the Office of the Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs of any reasons that necessitates an absence.

If you are requesting time out of Clinic or Rotations, the following steps must be followed;

  1. Access the forms from the Clinical Practice and Advanced Clinical Practice of Dentistry Canvas site.
  2. Bring the completed form to the Student Affairs Office to receive approval; this will include an assessment of the academic value of the experience (e.g. externship or interview).
  3. Once approved by Student Affairs, bring the form to your Group Leader for approval to be away from the clinic; this will necessitate a discussion on any impact on your progress towards on-time completion of requirements of the clinical course continuum. 
  4. Once the Group Leader approves, then clinical support staff associated with Group Practice should enter any excluded time into Axium.

Please note: Completing and submitting the form does not guarantee approval of your request. Until form is approved by ALL approvers and your time blocked off in Axium, you are expected to be in clinic on designated days. CDM has the right to deny your request, if you are not in Good Academic/Clinical Standing, if there are issues regarding professionalism or the request is deemed inappropriate.

Possible reasons for absence:

  • Attendance at a conference as a representative for CDM for which approval has been granted
  • Postdoctoral interviews- see policy below
  • Religious observance as described in the Columbia University Regulation on Religious Holidays- handled on a case by case basis
  • Jury Duty or court appearances
  • Military duty
  • Acute Illness- medical absences that exceed two days will require a Physicians letter. You must call Student Affairs at 305-3890 AND inform your Group Practice at for any day you will be absent.
  • Family emergency
  • Personal crisis- handled on a case by case basis
  • Death in family
  • Sudden change in life circumstance
  • Students may be allowed a brief absence for a wedding in which the student plays a significant role or a graduation of a close family member, but we are not obligated to do so
  • Study time for CBSE, NBDE, ADAT, GRE, and other licensure exams- every excused day, beyond already scheduled study time, will need to be made up

Students are required to make up any missed required material. If there is concern that absences are affecting the student’s academic performance or that absences represent a breach in professional conduct, the Course Director may refer the student for review with the Academic Dean, Student Affairs Dean, or Progress Committee.

If students miss one or more days of a scheduled rotation/selective, they will receive an incomplete and be required to make up the missed time. Arrangements for make up or repetition of the preclinical, clinical, rotation or selective course will be at the discretion of the course director.

While working in clinical settings, it can be challenging to balance self-care with professional duties. To help maintain their self-care, students who need accommodations to attend medical appointments should notify the Office of Student Affairs at 212-305-3890. Students do not need to disclose their specific medical need. The Office of Student Affairs will provide a list of students needing accommodations to the Course Director or Group Practice Leaders without reference to students’ specific medical need. Students are also asked to alert Course Director and Group Practice Leader of their accommodation at least four weeks prior to the start of the clerkship or elective. 

Policy on Examination Date Conflicts or Missed Examinations

If a student has an emergency (unscheduled reason) of the kind listed above, which conflicts with a scheduled examination, a make-up examination may be given at the discretion of the Course Director at any time during the academic year without the approval of the Academic Progress Committee.

Conflicts with scheduled examinations are not considered.

An unexcused student absence from an examination is unacceptable. Prior notice must be given to the course director and the Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs.

Voluntary Extramural Externships and Selectives

  • Approval (following protocol above) must be acquired for all externships and selectives, including Global Health Externships
  • Spring third year Selectives: Students are required to take four selectives:
    • Up to 3 can be electives
    • Up to 3 can be externships.
  • Externships
    If exceeding the 3 externships:
    • For each week over three, an additional week in clinic will be required beyond your scheduled clinic time. This may affect your promotion to the next year or may require staying beyond May graduation. All rotations must be completed.


Interview time exceeding 10 clinic days will require a day for day make up beyond scheduled time. This may affect your promotion to the next year or may require staying beyond May graduation. All rotations must be completed.  Failure to comply with the Absence policy will result in a breach of professionalism that will be part of the global assessment and the Dean‘s letter.

Leave of Absence or Extended Curriculum

A Leave of Absence (LOA) may be granted for a period up to one year, with the intention of returning to the College.  A leave of absence may be granted for:

  • Personal
  • Medical
  • Family emergency
  • Maternity/Paternity Leave
  • Military Service

A student seeking a Leave of Absence must meet with and submit a written request stating the reason for the LOA to the Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs and must contact the Office of Student Affairs at least 3 months prior to their expected date of return in order to receive approval for return.

This process allows re-enrollment within one calendar year at the start or midpoint of the academic year. The continuity of education is a critical factor in building biomedical clinical competence; therefore, leaves of absence are for no more than one year at a time.

Any student on LOA, must meet with their financial aid officer for an Exit Interview to review and plan for deferment and repayment options, should loans come due during their Leave.

For students who have not completed the first semester of the D.D.S. academic year, voluntary leaves of absence will be granted only in exceptional circumstances. The student cannot return sooner than the start of the next academic year and must restart the first year curriculum upon returning. Reentry will be contingent upon review and approval of both the Admissions Committee and the Academic Progress Committee.

In the case of a student seeking a medical leave, the Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs must receive written verification of the need from the Director of Student Health, the administrative psychiatric consultant, or the student’s private physician. To return from a psychiatric LOA, the college requires review by an independent psychiatrist retained and reimbursed by the college. To return from a medical leave, re-entry into the curriculum requires a written letter from the primary physician stating that the medical issue precipitating the leave has either been resolved or has ameliorated adequately to allow the student to pursue a full course of study.

Maternity and paternity leaves (including adoption) are granted at the written request of the student.

Students arranging a dual degree at Columbia must meet with the Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs to discuss their plans.

Protocol for a Leave of Absence

A written request must be submitted to the Dean for Student Affairs stating the reason for the leave and the dates requested.

A plan for re-entry including outline of remedial activities that support a successful reintegration will be presented to student at time LOA is approved

To request to return to classes, the student must inform the Dean for Student Affairs in writing at least three months before expected return.

Required documentation, if required, (Physician letter, Psychiatric evaluation, etc.) must be presented with adequate time for Dean for Student Affairs to review


A student may withdraw voluntarily from the College at any time.  He/she must notify the Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs in writing, and indicate the reason(s) for the withdrawal.  Withdrawals are assumed to be a permanent separation from the College. Readmission may be granted only by the Admissions Committee in consultation with the appropriate Progress Committee.  If readmission is granted, the Academic Progress Committee in consultation with the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will determine the student’s entry point in the curriculum. Readmission may require a full new competitive application.

Students withdrawing from the College must attend a Financial Aid Exit Interview to finalize their deferment and repayment obligations with any loans borrowed during their attendance at CDM.


Involuntary Administrative Leave of Absence

The Dean of Students or other staff person as designated in the school's bulletin (DOS) of a student's school, or his/her designee, may place a student on an Involuntary Leave of Absence for reasons of personal or community safety. This process will be undertaken only in extraordinary circumstances when there is compelling information to suggest that the student is engaging in or is at heightened risk of engaging in behavior that could lead to serious injury to others, including as a result of physical or psychological illness. In addition, the Involuntary Leave process may be initiated if, based on an individualized assessment, it is determined that there is a significant risk that the student will harm him/herself, and that the risk cannot be eliminated to reduced to an acceptable level through reasonable and realistic accommodations and/or on-campus supports.

This policy provides students with general information regarding an Involuntary Leave of Absence. For more specific information regarding the circumstances and processes for an Involuntary Leave of Absence, as well as conditions relevant to returning from Leave, students should speak with their Dean of Students. Students are responsible for understanding the implications of an Involuntary Leave of Absence for housing, financial aid, health insurance, and progress toward the degree.

For more information, please consult: