While most students enter college with the intent of successfully finishing their degree, sometimes circumstances require a student to pause their coursework and withdraw either permanently or temporarily. If this happens, it's important to inform the school via an official letter. If you find yourself in a hardship situation, the school may be able to issue grades of Incomplete or Withdrawn, rather than a failing grade if your coursework was not finished. Each college or university has its own policies about student withdrawal after the drop/add period, and some schools will make exceptions for students who can prove a hardship situation or who have a medical reason for withdrawing from their courses.
Open Your Letter
When it's time to compose your withdrawal letter, research who it should be addressed to. Some situations, like a medical disability, may need to address the school's health office, while others, like a military deployment, should go to the dean of your school. Many larger universities have offices dedicated to processing withdrawal cases, so they will be able to walk you through the process and explain any ramifications of your withdrawal. In the opening portion of your letter, express appreciation for the opportunity to study at the school. It's always best to leave on a positive note.
State Your Reason
In your letter, clearly explain the reason behind your withdrawal request. While it is not necessary to give personal details, the dean or panel will need to have some understanding of why you are requesting a withdrawal, especially if you are also requesting that they make an exception to school policy. Do not make excuses, but provide an honest description of the reasons you need to stop your degree program and whether you hope to eventually return. For example, you could state, "I need to request a temporary withdrawal from my courses due to military deployment beginning in April" or "Due to my father's recent death, I will need the remainder of the semester to go home and tend to the affairs of his estate."
Along with your letter, be prepared to provide copies of documentation that shows proof of your situation. If you are simply withdrawing and do not need to ask for any special considerations, documentation will not be needed, but if you are requesting an exception based on your hardship, you should be able to back up your request. For example, if you have a medical situation, your medical records, letters or proof of your disability may be required. If you are in the military and are being deployed, copies of official orders may be needed. In a financial emergency, providing information about the steps you have already taken to try to cover the costs of school can be helpful. In general, it's best to provide copies of your documents along with your withdrawal letter instead of waiting to be asked for them.
Exaplain Your Plan
You should have a plan for making the move away from your studies. If you plan to vacate student housing by a certain date, be sure to explain that. If you will be leaving a work-study or internship position, that needs to be detailed as well. In the event that you have already begun coursework for your major, note the number of hours that will remain. Depending on your situation, you may also be able to give a projected return date so that the university can keep a record of when you would like to re-enroll. Once your letter is complete, provide your best contact information, including phone, email and new address.
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