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Working with Returning Students

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A Returning Student is a student who, for whatever reason, takes time away from the University.  A student may be away for one quarter, several quarters, a year, or several years.  Though their circumstances are diverse, Returning Students may often feel as though they are “off-track” in some sense.  Others may find themselves without a peer group, since their friends may have graduated or moved on to more advanced courses.  Below are some considerations for working with Returning Students and the issues they encounter.

Working with students who return from extended time away from Stanford

Often, students returning to Stanford may have been away for several years.  During this time, they may have been working in a professional environment, may have started a family, may have been dealing with health issues, or may even have completed an extended career and entered retirement.

Students returning to Stanford after a long period away may have very different reasons for completing their degree, may present differently in the classroom environment, and may interact differently with other students than a Stanford student who has never taken time away, or who has been away from Stanford for only a brief period of time.

Students who have been away from Stanford for an extended period may be less prepared for using the available technology, including PowerPoint, Canvas, and other course tools, and may feel as though they generally don’t belong, particularly in classroom settings where group work is encouraged and plays an important role. They also may not share cultural cues and memes that are widespread among the average, younger Stanford students and may feel a closer bond with the instructor than with fellow students.

It is important to keep in mind that older students who return to Stanford likely bring a wide variety of experiences that might be incorporated into classroom discussions in a positive and productive way (although these students may not always wish to be singled out). Including older returning students into the classroom environment can add a great deal of value to the experience of all students in the class.

If an instructor notices that a student may be struggling with issues that go beyond the content of the course, strongly encourage the student to meet with their Undergraduate Advising Director to discuss their current situation.

Keep in mind that instructors are always welcome to contact an Academic Advisor from the Office of Academic Advising (

Returning to Stanford

 Academic Advising has published a useful booklet to help students transition back to Stanford life.  These pages provide information on how to return and register, list the essentials for a smooth return, and remind students of the resources available to them. If you or your student wishes to learn more about returning to Stanford, this is a great place to start.

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Click on the full screen icon to see a larger view, or read the Returning to Stanford booklet here.

The Request to Return and Register

All students who wish to enroll in any given quarter must have an active student status with the University. Students on a Leave of Absence (LOA) who return at the time designated on their LOA form are automatically term-activated by Axess, and are not required to meet with an Academic Advisor. Otherwise, a Request to Return and Register in Undergraduate Study form must be submitted by an undergraduate student who wishes to:

  • Return from an expired or unfiled LOA regardless of time away; or
  • Return from a completed Academic Suspension.

Students who wish to submit a Request to Return and Register in Undergraduate Study form must make an appointment to meet/speak with an Academic Advisor, and must clear any, and all, obligations (holds) to the University including: academic, financial, departmental, housing, and community service (if it is part of an academic hold). 

Returning students with a declared major should meet with the Student Services Officer and major advisor to check on major requirements, establish a plan, and get a list of remaining major requirements. If the student is submitting a Request to Return and Register in Undergraduate Study, their form must be signed by their departmental advisor.

Note: students who receive a suspension through the Office of Community Standards for an Honor Code or Fundamental Standard violation are processed through the Office of Community Standards under different guidelines and procedures.