Leaves of Absence

Application for a Leave of Absence

Leave of Absence status designates degree candidates whose time will be devoted primarily to activities other than degree.

Voluntary Leaves of Absence

Satisfactory Progress requirements as outlined in Chapter VI may be interrupted by a department-approved leave of absence. Students may apply for a leave of absence for an academic term or year. Applications for a leave of absence are submitted electronically and must be approved by two of the following three individuals: 1) the student’s academic advisor, 2) the graduate program coordinator (or equivalent), 3) the director of graduate studies. A paper-based form is available from the Office of Student Affairs and is to be used only in certain extenuating circumstances. Applications then must be approved by the Office of Student Affairs. International students must also obtain approval from the Harvard International Office. Separate applications must be filed for each academic year of leave. With respect to a voluntary leave of absence for medical reasons, the Office of Student Affairs may consult with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from the student’s current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student).

Ordinarily students will be granted a leave of absence for only one year prior to the successful completion of general examinations. Only in unusual circumstances will an extension be considered. Students are not usually approved for a leave of absence during their first year in the Graduate School.  In the special case of a student who wishes to obtain a professional degree or who is on active service in the US military or other documented military service, the approved leave period can be extended beyond a single year. 

Applications for a leave of absence must be submitted online by the student by July 1 for the fall term or academic year, and by December 1 for the spring term. Applications submitted afterward are subject to late registration fees. Students are charged $50 plus $5 for each week that the application is late.

Applications will not be approved if a student has an outstanding term bill or is delinquent in repayment of a Harvard loan. When a student’s application is held up for such reasons, the date the bill is paid is taken as the date of registration, with late fees charged accordingly.

Students should consult their financial aid officer concerning the financial implications of going on leave. Students applying for a leave of absence may request to delay payment of the required full or reduced tuition, and instead pay the active file fee or the facilities fee, ordinarily for a total of no more than two years prior to completion of the tuition requirements (see Chapter VIII). Students delaying payment of tuition should be aware that the required tuition, at the rates current at the time of payment, must be paid prior to the receipt of the degree (see Chapter VIII).

Immigration regulations require F-1 or J-1 visa holders to maintain full-time enrollment status while in the United States. F-1 or J-1 students who are considering applying for leave of absence must speak to an advisor in the Harvard International Office, Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center 864, 617-495-2789, and must obtain approval of their application.

Involuntary Leaves of Absence

Under certain circumstances, a student may be placed on an involuntary leave of absence. An involuntary leave of absence is not a disciplinary sanction. However, an incident that gives rise to a leave of absence, whether voluntary or involuntary, may subsequently be the basis for disciplinary action. A student who prefers to take a voluntary leave of absence for medical reasons rather than to be placed on an involuntary leave of absence for medical reasons is ordinarily allowed to do so. Transcripts do not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary leaves of absence.   

An involuntary leave of absence may be required for the following reasons:

  1. Medical circumstances: (a) The student’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of any person, or has seriously disrupted others in the student’s residential community or academic environment; and (b) either the student’s threatening, self-destructive, or disruptive behavior is determined to be the result of a medical condition or the student has refused to cooperate with efforts by Harvard University Health Services to evaluate the cause of the behavior. The decision to place a student on an involuntary leave of absence for health related reasons is made in consultation with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from the student’s current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student), after an individualized assessment of all of the pertinent factors, such as: the nature of the student’s conduct; the nature, duration and severity of the risk; the likelihood of potential injury; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices or procedures will mitigate the risk. However, reasonable modifications do not include changes that would fundamentally alter the academic program or unduly burden the Graduate School’s resources or staffing capabilities or, with respect to the required level of care or monitoring, that would exceed the standard of care that a university health service can be expected to provide. 
  2.  Alleged criminal behavior: The student has been arrested on allegations of serious criminal behavior or has been charged with such behavior by law enforcement authorities.
  3. Risk to the community: The student allegedly has violated a disciplinary rule of the Graduate School, and his or her presence on campus poses a significant risk to the safety of others or to the educational environment of the community.

The decision to place a student on involuntary leave is made by the GSAS dean for student affairs in consultation with other officers of the University, as appropriate. As noted above, in the case of an involuntary leave of absence for medical reasons, the Graduate School will consult with an appropriate person at Harvard University Health Services.           

The student may petition the GSAS dean for student affairs for reconsideration and may appeal a final decision to the Administrative Board.        

While on Leave of Absence

Students who go on a leave of absence are charged tuition and any applicable fees, including rent, to the end of the period for which they are on leave.

Repayment of educational loans cannot be deferred by students on leaves of absence unless the students are simultaneously registered in another school. Harvard grants toward tuition usually are not available for students on leave of absence.

The date a student goes on leave will affect the student's health insurance through Harvard as outlined in the HUHS Leave of Absence/Withdrawal policy. For details, contact the Student Health Insurance Office, Member Services, at 617-495-2008 or mservices@huhs.harvard.edu.

The registrar’s calculation of Graduate-year (G-year) does not stop while the student is on a leave of absence. Adjustments to the department G-year may be made only for reasons outlined in Chapter VI.

Degree candidates on leave of absence in the Boston/Cambridge area ordinarily are charged the facilities fee, which gives them the ability to access Harvard facilities and to receive unlimited library privileges and access to the HOLLIS catalog and library e-resources. Students on leave who choose to be charged the active file fee instead of the facilities fee do not have access to Harvard facilities, nor do they have library privileges or access to e-resources. Degree candidates who are full-time Harvard employees and on a leave of absence are ordinarily charged the active file fee.

Students on leave also may apply for alumni privileges that include six days of Widener stack access within a twelve-month period from the date of application, unlimited use of all the reading rooms in Widener Library (including the ability to have books retrieved from the Widener stacks to the Phillips Reading Room), and access to Lamont Library, Cabot Library, Chemistry Library, Fine Arts Library, Harvard-Yenching Library, Loeb Music Library, Physics Library, and Tozzer Library. As a courtesy, six books may be checked out from Widener Library. Access to e-resources is always available at the terminals within the Harvard libraries.

If more access is needed, the student may purchase a Special Borrower Card.

Students on a leave of absence may apply for and receive a degree. Students on a leave of absence must pay the facilities fee during their final term of enrollment prior to conferral of their degree.

Any student charged full or reduced tuition, or the facilities fee, is entitled to an active University student identification card and use of University facilities. All students on leave of absence, irrespective of the fees paid, will continue to have email access. See "Tuition and Fees," Chapter VIII.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, if so instructed by the GSAS dean for student affairs a student on leave must remain away from the University campus and may not participate in any University activities.

Students going on a leave of absence, like students registered in residence, are expected to maintain a satisfactory standard of conduct.

Following an individualized assessment, the Graduate School may require students who are on leave for medical reasons to comply with a treatment plan during their time away. 

Returning to School

A student on a voluntary leave of absence ordinarily may return at the start of the term subsequent to the approved term(s) of leave, although it remains the student’s responsibility to ensure that they have adequate time to complete the degree within the time limits established by the Graduate School.  

Any disciplinary matter must be resolved before a student on leave of absence will be allowed to return and, if the student has been required to withdraw while on leave of absence, then any conditions for return after a required withdrawal also must be satisfied.  

Students who were not making satisfactory academic progress prior to a voluntary or involuntary leave must satisfy any conditions for return required by their academic program to resume their studies. Students who were not in good standing at the time a voluntary leave of absence was granted and students who were placed on an involuntary leave of absence must petition the GSAS dean for student affairs for permission to return to the Graduate School and must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to their leave have been satisfactorily addressed and that they are ready to resume their studies. The decision whether to allow a student to return is made by the GSAS dean for student affairs, in consultation with other officers of the University, as appropriate. 

So that the Graduate School may conduct an individualized assessment of their circumstances, students on a leave of absence for medical reasons may be required to consult with Harvard University Health Services (and to grant permission to Harvard University Health Services to obtain their treatment records and communicate with their treatment providers) so that a professional assessment about the student’s stability and readiness to return can be shared with the Graduate School. Please also note that if the Graduate School learns of serious concerns about the health or well-being of a student who is away from School but not on a leave of absence for medical reasons, then the Graduate School similarly may require the student to consult with Harvard University Health Services (and to grant permission to Harvard University Health Services to obtain their treatment records and communicate with their treatment providers) so that a professional assessment about the student’s stability and readiness to return can be shared with the Graduate School. In all such cases, the decision whether to allow a student to return is made by the dean for student affairs, in consultation with other officers of the University, as appropriate. 

Students returning from a leave are encouraged to notify their Financial Aid Officer prior to resuming their studies. A student will not be allowed to register in the University again until all previous term-bill charges have been paid.

Contracts for Enrollment

The Graduate School may condition a student’s enrollment on certain terms or conditions, as set forth in written contract between the Graduate School and the student, when the student’s conduct or circumstances have caused heightened concerns about (a) the student’s safety and/or well-being; (b) the appropriateness of the student’s continued enrollment; and/or (c) the student’s readiness to return to the Harvard community. The contract may include, among other things, compliance with a medical treatment plan, regular consultations with health care professionals, communication with administrators, and limited disclosure of relevant medical information, on a need to know basis, such as compliance with treatment and restrictions on certain activities.  The decision to require such a contract is arrived at in consultation with Harvard University Health Services after an individualized assessment of the nature of the student’s conduct and circumstances and any other pertinent factors. 

Family Leave of Absence Policy

Female and male students enrolled at GSAS may take a Family Leave of Absence for the birth or adoption of a child, childcare, or care of an immediate family member with a serious health condition.

  • Students may take a Family Leave of Absence for one or two semesters. Students are eligible for a departmental G-year adjustment of one year, regardless of whether the Family Leave of Absence is for one or two semesters.
  • Academic requirements (such as postponement of exams and course requirements) will be adjusted for the duration of the Family Leave of Absence.
  • Students are expected to notify their advisors and their Directors of Graduate Studies as early as possible about their plans to take a Family Leave of Absence so that appropriate accommodations can be made to cover any teaching or research responsibilities.
  • Students are eligible for four months of health coverage through the Student Health Insurance Plan and the Student Health Fee (visit Harvard University Health Services for more information) from the point at which they take leave. Students who take leave must pay their own premiums, however.
  • Funding commitments from Harvard are deferred until students return from the Family Leave of Absence. Students receiving funding from external sources, such as governmental grants, are subject to the conditions established by the funding source. Students should contact their funding agency for more details.

     

    Family Leave of Absence FAQ

    Who is eligible for Family Leave of Absence?

Female and male students enrolled at GSAS who are expecting a child, have child care needs, or have the need to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition.

What is the maximum Leave of Absence period?
Two semesters.

Whom should I notify if I would like to apply for a Family Leave of Absence?
As early as possible, you should notify your advisor and your director of graduate studies about your plans to take a family leave of absence, so that appropriate accommodations can be made to cover any teaching or research responsibilities.

How will my student status be affected during the Family Leave of Absence period?
You will be eligible for a departmental G-year adjustment of one year, whether the family leave of absence is for one or two semesters. You will be eligible for four months of health coverage through the Student Health Insurance Plan and the Student Health Fee (visit the Harvard University Health Services website for more information), from the point at which you start your leave, although you will be responsible for paying your own premiums. Funding commitments from Harvard will be deferred until you return from your leave. If you are receiving funding from external sources, such as governmental grants, these will be subject to the conditions established by the funding source. If you have student loans, you should be aware that they may go into loan repayment during your leave. Please connect with your financial aid officer for advice on these issues.