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

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)