​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 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

Students should work directly with their course directors regarding any absences.  It is up to the course director whether to excuse the absence and determine a way to make up the missed work.

Clinical Attendance Policy

Clinic attendance is 100% mandatory

During the clinical years (D3 and D4) years student will have the following vacations:

2 weeks off in the summer between D2 and D3 and two weeks off between D3 and D4

Spring break every year

Winter break every year

Apart from vacation days, students will be allowed the following excused absences:

20 discretionary days over the two years

5 days for school sponsored events

 Sick days  (a doctor’s note is required after 2 consecutive absences)

Appropriate reasons for Excused absences:

  • Attendance at a conference as a representative for CDM for which approval has been granted
  • Postdoctoral interviews- see policy below
  • Externships
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 for any day you will be absent.

Excused or unexcused absences from clinic that exceed the allocated time listed above, will require that the time be made up during evening clinic, summer break, or after May graduation date (for seniors). Such required make up time will impact a student’s ability to complete the program on schedule.

If a student has no patient scheduled or a cancellation the following are acceptable activities:

1) Student may go to the emergency area and helps with emergency patients

2) Student may go to triage /intake to help with patient intake

3) Student may assist in one of the specialty programs

4) Student may meets with GPL or GPA

5) Student may perform lab work for comprehensive care patients


Protocol for request of excused absences

Students are obligated to promptly notify appropriate faculty and the Office of 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;

Access the forms: https://app.smartsheet.com/b/form/7b0263f523bc40d083f7ee3367750083

Your GPL and GPA, will email you regarding the status.

Once the Group Leader AND Group Administrator approves, you will be informed.

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.

Students are required to make up any didactic coursework that occur as a result of an excused absence. 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 respective Academic 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 Student Affairs.

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 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 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 Student Affairs to discuss their plans.

Protocol for a Leave of Absence

A written request must be submitted to the Associate 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 Associate 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 Associate 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 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 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 Associate Dean for Student Affairs with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Academic Progress Committee 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 the Associate Dean for Student Affairs. 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: