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Article: How to get back into the swing of things after a leave of absence

Though many students believe that they will follow the “traditional” academic and career trajectory — that is, moving seamlessly from high school, to college, to the working world — not all students ultimately do. Instead, some individuals require one or more leaves of absence before earning their degrees.

Some students believe that taking a leave of absence — essentially an excused break from college — is a sign of failure. However, it is far from one. No matter what drew you away from your college studies, it is important to remember that a leave of absence is not a sign of personal weakness.

A leave of absence can help some students focus on the one thing that has been distracting them from their college studies, whether it is a medical condition, a personal financial situation or a family emergency. They can then return to college more relaxed and ready to complete their studies.

If you have taken a leave of absence and are now ready to return to college, it can be challenging to once again adjust to the rigors and requirements of academic life.

The following tips can help you tackle this transition smoothly and confidently:

1. OUTLINE YOUR GOALS

A medical leave of absence is expected to last as long as necessary for each student. A medical leave of absence can disrupt your existing academic plans.

Before you return to college, it is thus critical to outline the academic and career goals that you hope to achieve by continuing your degree. What have you accomplished to date? Did you enjoy your prior studies? Were you excelling? If your answer to these questions is ‘Yes,’ it is likely worth completing the program you were originally enrolled in.

If your answer is ‘No,’ meet with your academic advisor to find a program of study that is better aligned with your academic/career goals and interests. If you are not passionate about your concentration, and if it will not help you achieve your goals, it may not be the right field for you. In fact, it may even make your transition back to school more challenging.

2. EVALUATE YOUR ACADEMIC OUTLOOK

Once you return to college, visit your academic advisor again so he or she can help you evaluate your current academic outlook. After a leave of absence, it can be all too easy to forget how many credits you have earned, or which basic graduation requirements you have yet to fulfill.

Ask your advisor to clearly outline how many credits you have, as well as how many you need to complete your chosen degree program. Then, create a checklist of the remaining courses and general requirements that stand between you and graduation. This is a great way to stay on track when it is time to register each semester.

3. FORM A SUPPORT SYSTEM

Even the most gifted and confident students may feel out of practice when it comes to reacclimating to college. Locating and utilizing assistance, if it is needed, can help to ensure that your academic performance and personal well-being are as strong as possible during this demanding transitional period.

Though most colleges have excellent student support systems, only a small number of individuals tend to take advantage of these resources. Visit your school’s library and career center, and learn how to use them to your advantage. For instance, you may wish to sign up for a weekly listserv so you can easily stay up-to-date on internship and job opportunities.

You can also strike up conversations with your professors and fellow students. Find inspirational mentors, and surround yourself with positive influences — you are more likely to achieve your goals if you do.