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Graduate Student Leave of Absence


The Graduate Student Leave of Absence policy was created to provide College graduate students with an opportunity to take care of uncontrollable events that interfere with their academic progress. During a leave, students are not expected to make progress towards their degree. Although students can complete coursework from previous terms during a leave, they may not attend class or use the leave to catch up in current coursework, prepare for exams, or write dissertations. If approved for a College leave, the academic accommodations are determined individually for each student with the guidance of faculty advisors, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), and the College Graduate Office. Students receive a written record of their absence that can be used to support requests to professors for extensions of incompletes, or requests to the University Graduate School for extensions of degree milestones. Although a leave of absence does not guarantee these accommodations, it provides supporting documentation for the request. Depending on department policy, the leave may also extend funding commitments such as fellowships and AI-ships that are contingent on continued progress towards a degree.

This document presents general guidelines for graduate student leaves of absence. All leave requests are reviewed and granted on a case-by-case basis. Students and faculty who have questions about individual students' circumstances should contact the Director of Graduate Student Services at for more information.


Alternatives to a Leave of Absence

We encourage students to work closely with their departments to determine whether a leave of absence meets their needs, and to craft an appropriate plan to address their specific circumstances, before contacting the College Graduate Office. In some circumstances, a leave may not be necessary. Students can expect faculty to reasonably accommodate brief illnesses or medical hardship during a term even if they do not take a leave of absence. It may be possible for students to schedule medical appointments around their normal work and class schedules and arrange informally for department accommodations of foreseeable absences. Students who experience extended absences from their courses due to illness may be able to remain registered by taking incompletes, or by reducing coursework or other academic requirements.

Master's students, and doctoral students in the pre-candidacy stage, are not required to be continuously enrolled. Many departments will allow such students to take extended time away from their studies without taking a leave of absence and without requiring that they reapply to the program. However, if students feel they will not be able to meet degree milestones or time limits due to time away, a leave of absence is more appropriate.

Please note that students who have passed the qualifying exam must maintain enrollment in at least one credit hour each semester until they defend their dissertation, even if they are on a leave.


To be eligible for a leave, a student must:

  • be enrolled full-time in a College Graduate program and be in good academic standing (students on academic probation are not eligible for a leave).
  • have completed at least one semester (a minimum of nine credits) in a College Graduate program.

Reasons for Leaves of Absence

Leaves of absence may be granted to students under the following circumstances:

  • medical hardship (physical or mental, chronic conditions, conditions requiring multiple treatments, overnight hospitalizations)
  • to provide care for family members (spouse, dependent children under age 18, domestic partner, child of a domestic partner, or parent)
  • to serve military duties. Leaves for military duty are coordinated with Indiana University Veteran Support Services and the College Graduate Office. International students who are called to military service are encouraged to contact the Office of International Services to determine how such service affects their academic and visa status.
  • in exceptional circumstances, for other personal reasons

Leave Timeframes and Limits

Students may request a leave as early as six months prior to the leave start date. Students can request up to 12 consecutive months of relief from coursework and academic requirements. The maximum period that a student may be on leave is 24 (non-consecutive) months or four regular academic terms. Leaves can be taken for extended or intermittent periods of time, depending on the needs of the student provided that the total length of the leaves is 24 months or less. After a leave of absence, students are expected to return to their programs of study and resume progress toward their degrees. Leaves of absence may not be requested retroactively.

Students wishing to take a leave of absence after the term has begun are encouraged to first contact their Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) to discuss whether they can remain registered (e.g., by taking incompletes).  If the program cannot reasonably accommodate the student's situation (see section on Alternatives to a Leave of Absence above), the student can request a leave of absence. Depending on the point in the semester when students request leave, it might be most appropriate to withdraw from all courses. A full withdrawal can impact international student visas, tuition payments, student loans, fellowships, and health insurance.  Registrar deadlines will determine the amount of tuition that can be refunded.

If students who are funded through a College SAA take a leave of absence after the semester has begun, their positions will be terminated, their remaining salary will be cancelled, and any unused fee remission will be canceled. Students who hold College-funded SAAs are eligible to maintain student health insurance until the end of the academic term in which a leave is requested. Please note that the College has a parental accommodation policy that, although not a leave of absence, provides release from SAA duties and academic accommodations for six weeks following the birth or adoption of a child. Please see the College's Parental Accommodation Policy for details.

Students who receive funding from external sources (e.g., research positions on external grants, foundation fellowships) are subject to the leave of absence policies of those funders. College Graduate Office staff are available to review those policies and determine an appropriate plan to meet the student's needs.

To take a leave after the semester has begun, students must apply for a leave of absence through the College Graduate Office, and also contact the Student Advocate's Office to arrange a full withdrawal. Student Advocates can be reached at or (812) 855-0761.

University Services

Students who are on leaves of absence will maintain access to basic University resources such as library services, email, and campus buses. To use the SRSC and the city bus service, students who are not currently enrolled pay a higher public rate. If students do not enroll for two consecutive terms (fall, spring, and summer are each considered one term) their university accounts will be disabled.

Requests for Extensions of Incompletes and Degree Milestones

A College leave of absence does not guarantee an automatic or immediate extension of incompletes, degree milestones or standard time limits. Students wishing to receive extensions of incompletes should contact the professors of courses in which they received incompletes to make the request. The Director of Graduate Studies in the student's program may be available to assist with such requests. Extensions of degree milestones and time limits are handled by the University Graduate School, not the College Graduate Office, and all such requests should be made directly to Associate Dean David Daleke at Students may use documentation of an approved College leave as support for both requests.

How to Apply

  • Students should first discuss the leave, and possible alternatives, with their department. A guidance sheet is available to facilitate departmental conversations with students about leaves.
  • If it is determined that a leave is required, students must fill out the Graduate Student Leave of Absence Request. When the leave request form is submitted to the department, the DGS should meet with the student to create a Leave Return Plan. This plan should include the following:
    • A summary of student progress in the program up to the current term.
    • A record of funding commitments and the status of those commitments upon the student's return.
    • An expected return date. (Students who are not able to return by this date should request a leave extension and negotiate a new Leave Return Plan)
    • An outline for the academic work the student will complete once they resume their studies (including plans to resolve incompletes).
  • If the leave is for medical reasons, students must fill out the Medical Certification form. Persons authorized to provide medical certification include podiatrists, psychologists, optometrists, chiropractors, dentists, doctors of medicine or osteopathy, nurse practitioners and midwives, clinical social workers, and Christian Science practitioners. Leaves for medical reasons cannot be approved until the Medical Certification form is received by the College Graduate Office. Departments may ask to review the Medical Certification form prior to submission to the College Graduate Office.
  • The student or the department should forward the Leave of Absence Request, the Leave Return Plan, and the Medical Certification form (if the leave is for medical reasons), to the College Graduate Office.
  • All documents will be reviewed and a formal decision will be made. Both the student and the department will be notified regarding the final decision.

Students requiring assistance at any point in this process may contact the College Graduate Office at