Deferring during your studies

Deferring during your studies

Semester One may only be a couple of weeks old, but that does not mean that some students are considering taking a break from their studies. It could be due to unforeseen circumstances, a great job opportunity or just general dissatisfaction – whatever the reason, you are able to either alter or cease your studies after commencement. 

Taking a break from your studies is often confused with a deferral, which is when you delay your commencement date and start your course later than originally planned. Taking time off study after you’ve enrolled and commenced is often called a leave of absence or an academic break by universities. Most institution offer academic leave or an equivalent to their students, allowing you to put your course on hold for a semester or year-long period.  

Whether it is your first or fourth year of tertiary study, leave of absence may be a topic of interest for you. Read on as we detail why and how you can apply for academic leave, so you aren’t caught short if you decide to take a break from your studies. 


Students choose to take a leave of absence for a number of reasons. These include: 

  • Travel 
  • Work opportunity 
  • Illness 
  • Financial issues 
  • Family issues 
  • Personal issues 
  • Course dissatisfaction 
  • Simply just wanting a break from study.  


You can apply for a leave of absence via your institution’s student portal, with links to application forms generally being found under a Student Administration tab (it will vary depending on your university). Your institution will require you to complete and submit a form detailing the length of and reasons for taking your leave of absence; once your application has been processed, you will be advised of the outcome via your student portal. 

Some courses may require you to submit a paper-based application, while you may have to gain approval from your faculty before applying in other cases. It is best to do your research and liaise with your course coordinator to find out what the correct application procedure will be for you. 

Some important tips

  • Each university will have varying conditions when it comes to taking a leave of absence. Many institutions require the completion of at least one trimester or semester of your course, or a certain number of credits or units, before you are eligible to apply for leave. Universities also tend to disallow leaves of absence in the final semester of your course.  
  • Check your course and university’s leave policies before applying, as your future studies may be negatively impacted if you take a leave of absence without researching your eligibility. Scholarship students in particular need to research their leave conditions, as many scholarship conditions do not allow you to take a break from study without exceptional reasoning. 
  • It is important to apply for leave before the semester or trimester’s census date, as you will almost definitely incur academic or financial penalties if you withdraw from your studies after this deadline. 
  • Taking a leave of absence does not mean you can disappear off the face of the Earth – you are still expected to maintain some form of contact with your university. Checking your student email account keeps you up to speed on any important announcements such as re-enrolment dates, while updating or confirming your personal details where necessary means that your university will be able to contact you should they need to. 
  • While taking a break from study may appear as the only option if you’re overwhelmed, it is always good to explore other options before taking the plunge. If you are struggling with the volume of study, consider dropping down to a part-time load so you only have to complete two subjects a semester, as opposed to the typical four. Those who are having a hard time settling into university life could look into online study, providing you with a flexible timetable that fits in with your lifestyle. If you are looking to take leave due to course dissatisfaction, consider booking a consultation with a careers advisor to help you find clarity and direction within your studies. It is generally a good idea to check in with your institution’s academic support and wellbeing services before taking leave, irrespective of the reason behind your study break.

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