Leaves of Absence

Although you may complete coursework from previous terms during a leave, you may not attend class or use the leave to catch up on current coursework, prepare for exams, or write your dissertation.

After a leave of absence, you are expected to return to your program of study and resume progress toward your degree. Leaves of absence may not be requested retroactively.

General guidelines

The information provided here is intended to serve as a general guide to graduate student leaves of absence in the College. All leave requests are reviewed and granted on a case-by-case basis.

To be eligible for a leave, you must be enrolled full time in a College graduate program and have completed at least one successful semester (a minimum of six credits) in the program. You also must be in good academic standing—if you are on official academic probation, you are not eligible for a leave.

Leaves of absence may be granted under the following circumstances:

  • For medical hardship (physical or mental illness, 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)
  • For military service. Leaves for military service are coordinated with IU 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.
  • For other personal reasons, in exceptional circumstances

Requesting a leave before the term begins
You may request a leave of absence as early as six months prior to the leave start date. You can request up to 12 consecutive months of relief from coursework and academic requirements. The maximum period that you may be on leave is 24 (nonconsecutive) months or four regular academic terms. Leaves can be taken for extended or intermittent periods of time provided that the total length of the leaves is 24 months or less.

Requesting a leave after the term has begun
If you wish to take a leave of absence after the term has begun, you are encouraged to first contact your department’s director of graduate studies to discuss whether you should remain registered (e.g., by taking incompletes). 

To request a leave after the semester has begun, you must submit your request through the College Graduate Office and contact the Student Advocates Office to arrange a full withdrawal. 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 you are approved for a leave of absence, your academic accommodations will be determined by your faculty advisor, the director of graduate studies for your department, and the College Graduate Office. You will receive documentation of your leave that can be used to support requests to professors for extensions of incompletes, documentation for loan deferments, or requests to the University Graduate School for extensions of degree milestones.

Although the approval of a leave does not guarantee these accommodations, it provides supporting documentation for such requests. Depending on department policy, the leave may also extend funding commitments such as fellowships and student academic appointments that are contingent on continued progress towards a degree.

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. However, you may use documentation of an approved College leave as support for such requests. In most cases these are addressed within the Leave Return Plan.

If you wish to receive extensions of incompletes, you should contact the professors of courses in which you received incompletes to make the request. Your program’s director of graduate studies may be available to assist with such requests.

Extensions of degree milestones and time limits are handled by the University Graduate School, and such requests should be made directly to the Graduate School. 

If you have a student academic appointment (SAA) and you take a leave of absence after the semester has begun, your position will be terminated, your remaining salary will be canceled, and any unused fee remission will be canceled. If you hold a College-funded SAA, you are eligible to maintain student health insurance until the end of the academic term in which you request a leave.

If you receive funding from external sources (e.g., research positions on external grants, foundation fellowships), you 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 your needs.

While you are on leave, you will maintain access to basic university resources such as library services, email, and campus buses. To use the Student Recreational Sports Center and the city bus service during your leave, you must pay the public rate.

If you do not enroll for two consecutive terms (fall, spring, and summer are each considered one term), your university accounts will be disabled. 

We encourage you to communicate closely with your department to determine whether a leave of absence meets your needs and will address your specific circumstances before contacting the College Graduate Office.

In some circumstances, a leave might not be necessary. You can expect faculty to reasonably accommodate brief illnesses or medical hardship during a term, even if you do not take a leave of absence. It may be possible for you to schedule medical appointments around your normal work and class schedules and arrange informally for department accommodations of foreseeable absences. If you experience extended absences from your courses due to illness, you may be able to remain registered by taking incompletes, or by reducing coursework or other academic requirements.

If you are a master’s student or a doctoral student in the pre-qualifying examination stage, you are not required to be continuously enrolled. However, if you have existing funding and will not be able to meet degree milestones due to your circumstances, an official leave of absence is more appropriate. 

Before requesting a leave of absence, you should first discuss the leave and possible alternatives with your department. If you decide to proceed with your leave request, you must follow these steps:

  • Fill out the leave of absence request via https://graduateapps.webhost.iu.edu/Leave/leaveApplication.cfm 
  • If the leave is for medical reasons, please provide the supplementary documentation (PDF only) to the application within 30 days of a leave of absence submission. If supplementary documentation is not provided in 30 days, that request may be cancelled at the College Graduate Office's discretion. Leaves for medical reasons cannot be processed or approved until the medical certification is received by the College Graduate Office.
  • Meet with your program's director of graduate studies to create a required leave of absence return plan.

Leave of Absence Return Plan Template

The College Graduate Office will review your request and make a formal decision. You and your department will receive official notification of the decision by email.