Returning from Academic Suspension

Everyone's Stanford journey looks different, and academic suspension isn't the end of the road. Each year, many students return to Stanford after a completed academic suspension and go on to successfully earn their degrees.

Academic suspension is not an end to your studies, but a pause designed to give you the time to reassess your goals and think through any obstacles you may be facing. Once your academic suspension is completed, we ask all returning students to participate in a special return process called the Request to Return and Register in Undergraduate Study. This is a process meant to encourage you to reflect on your past circumstances, challenges you may have faced, and changes you may have to make in order to succeed academically and personally upon your return.

For official information on Stanford's academic suspension and reinstatement policies, you may consult the Stanford Bulletin and Academic Advising's Returning Students website, linked below. As advisors, we understand that returning from an academic suspension can be intimidating. Read on for our explanation of the return process and some advice on how to put yourself in a strong position to return to your studies.

Stanford Bulletin information on Academic Suspension and Reinstatement
Academic Advising's Returning Students website

The Request to Return and Register

In general, students returning from an academic suspension must:

  • Meet with an Academic Advisor (either in person or through a phone or video meeting)
  • Contact any relevant partner offices (for example, Student Financial Services) and clear related obligations, including any financial holds
  • Check in with their major (or intended major) department about their remaining requirements
  • Complete the Request to Return and Register form
  • Write a personal statement about their past circumstances, academic plans upon their return, and strategies for future success (see further details below)
  • Submit the completed Request to Return and Register materials to their Academic Advisor or to the Academic Advising front desk in Sweet Hall

The Request to Return and Register is not a readmission process. You do not have to apply to the university all over again! Rather, the Request is structured to help you think through all aspects of your return, including any changes you may have to make or support services you may need to utilize in order to thrive at the university. Your Academic Advisor can help you navigate the necessary steps and offer support both before and after your return to Stanford.

The Request to Return and Register should be started early, at least 8 weeks in advance of the quarter you wish to return. Keep in mind that if your request is approved, you will still need to apply for housing and for financial aid through separate processes, and that these applications have their own deadlines. If you know you will need to apply for housing and financial aid, you may wish to start the Request to Return and Register 3 or 4 months in advance to make sure you have enough time for these for these applications.

Official information on the Request to Return and Register
Applying for Student Housing
Financial Aid Deadlines

Reflection and the Personal Statement

The personal statement is a crucial feature of the Request to Return and Register. This is your space to tell us how you see the situation that led to your academic suspension, and what you believe you need to do to be successful upon your return.

Many students may feel tempted to push themselves even harder upon their return, or try to finish their requirements as quickly as possible in order to make up for lost time. But these self-imposed pressures can often be counter-productive. They do not make for a strong Request to Return and Register, and they do not set up the best circumstances for you to perform well upon your return. Rather, try to keep your academic plans thoughtful, realistic, and forgiving, allowing yourself time to readjust before trying to ramp things up. The more feasible you can be about your plans for return, the stronger your Request to Return and Register will be.

Finally, we understand that many of the challenges students face are complex and ongoing. You do not need to have your life perfectly "fixed" in order to return to Stanford. But you do need a thoughtful plan about how you are going to tackle these challenges and get the support that you need.

Some questions you may want to consider in your statement:

  • What were your original plans upon entering Stanford? Have you rethought those plans during your time away?
  • Describe your situation when you were last enrolled. What went well, and what wasn't going so well?
  • Were there any outside circumstances that made it challenging for you to do well in your classes?
  • If these circumstances are ongoing, how will you get the support you need to navigate them?
  • Before you left, were you succeeding in your required classes for your intended major? If not, have you considered switching to a new major?
  • What courses do you plan to take upon your return? What would be a reasonable amount of units and a good combination of classes?
  • What resources will you seek out to improve your academic performance?
  • Are there other changes to your past behaviors, habits, or extracurricular commitments you may need to make in order to do well in your classes?
  • How will you maintain your wellness upon your return? Would it be useful to visit CAPS?
  • If you have an ongoing health or mental health situation, have you considered registering with the Office of Accessible Education?
  • Do you plan on having regular check-in meetings with your Academic Advisor after you return to help you stay on track?

While students meet with an Academic Advisor at the start of the return process, we encourage you to meet with your Academic Advisor a second time to revise your personal statement before submission. This period of revision helps ensure that you are thinking through all aspects of your return. Your Academic Advisor can help you consider the full range of changes you may need to make or resources you may need to utilize in order to thrive at the university, and to address these in your statement. And once you return to Stanford, we encourage regular meetings with your Academic Advisor to help you stay connected and supported as you get used to being back at the university.

The Returning Students Group

Worried you'll feel out of place after your return? The Returning Students Group is a place for students to meet with each other, share their experiences, and offer support in the transition back to Stanford. Most members have been away from Stanford for at least one year, and many have been away for longer than one year. The group has a welcome back dinner at the beginning of each quarter, as well as monthly lunches with special guest speakers. If you're interested in joining, please contact Sally Mentzer (smentzer@stanford.edu) in Academic Advising.

The Returning Students Group's website and calendar of events