College Life: How to Leave for Treatment and Tie Up Loose Ends

Contributed By: Carla Garber, PhD

If you have made the decision to leave school in order to seek treatment, I applaud you! As a therapist, I have rarely seen a client who regrets this decision.

The reasons most college students give for resisting this option are:

“I don’t want to cost my parents more money!”


“I won’t graduate on time!”

Experts agree that putting off treatment can allow the disease to progress to levels where eventual treatment may be less successful. You or your parents could end up paying much more in the long run for attempts to help you.

Most Students Don’t Take the Traditional Amount of Time Nowadays

Regarding graduation, the majority of college students (56% and more) take more than 4 years to complete their degrees, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. I have seen many students wait until finals’ week to admit they need help. These students usually end up failing several classes and need the entire next semester to recover.

So, your decision to prioritize your mental health is a courageous and wise one. Now let’s take a look at a “to do” list that may be helpful.

  • Check your online Student Handbook for your school’s policies on medical withdrawal from classes.
  • Check the online Academic Calendar as to any refunds you might receive depending on the number of class days enrolled. (Some schools work with outside insurance companies who will insure your tuition, room and board up to 80% in case of emergency or medical withdrawal. This is something you or your parents may want to consider for the following semester.)
    Contact your Campus Life or Dean’s Office. They will be your best resource to lead you through the process.
  • Although that office will probably contact your professors, it is helpful if you also contact each one individually.
  • Notify all of your mental health team – on campus or off campus Counselors, Psychiatrists, Nutrition Therapists and Physicians. They will want to follow your progress and be prepared to support you in your treatment aftercare plan.
  • If you live off campus, you or your family will want to talk with your landlord and roommate to make arrangements for rent and payment of bills while you are away.
  • If you live on campus, talk with your Hall Director and Resident Assistant. You can ask them to keep your situation confidential or to help others understand the disease you are battling.
  • It’s your decision who you tell and how much you tell others about why you will be away. Many people find it easier to tell the full truth. Since a large percentage of entering college freshmen report receiving treatment for a mental health diagnosis, most of your contemporaries have a supportive view of seeking help.
  • However, you may feel better able to communicate with friends and acquaintances after your treatment stay. If so, in the meantime, you could let people know you “need to attend to a health issue that you’ll know more about when you return”.
  • Don’t commit to an exact return date. Your treatment team will be the ones to decide that date. (Trust them!)
  • Let close friends, family, part-time employers and significant others know that they may not hear from you for some time, because you need to direct your full attention to your recovery and well being.

Decide to put yourself first and take full advantage of this valuable opportunity! You deserve it!


2014, Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS): BPS studies follow students when they first begin their postsecondary education. National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.

2014, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): IPEDS is a system of surveys designed to collect data from all primary providers of postsecondary education. National Center for Educational Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.