Leave of Absence

Responsible Office
Graduate School - Academic Affairs
Rodney D. Priestley, Dean of the Graduate School
  1. Policy Statement

    This policy describes the terms in which enrolled graduate students within their program length may be eligible for a leave of absence. The policy outlines the timing of leaves, ways to return from a leave, and conditions surrounding involuntary leaves.

  2. Who is Affected by this Policy

    This policy applies to all enrolled graduate students within their regular program length.

  3. Definitions

    Regularly enrolled graduate students
    Degree-seeking Ph.D. students are considered to be in regular enrolled status within the defined program lengths.

    In absentia graduate students
    Degree-seeking students who are pursuing degree-related work but not in residence for greater than half the term.

    Leave of absence
    The regular defined program length has been interrupted because the student is not pursing degree-related work.

  4. Policy

    Acceptance by a student of Princeton’s offer of admission to the Graduate School implies full commitment to graduate and professional study. Such a commitment, in keeping with the University's express policy of urging rapid completion of studies, involves fulfillment of degree work as quickly as possible, compatible with the requirements of the particular discipline. Continuous enrollment between admission and the completion of degree work is thus considered the norm.

    We recognize, however, that circumstances may force students to interrupt their studies temporarily. On the recommendation of a student’s director of graduate studies and other departmental adviser(s), the Graduate School may grant a leave for a term or for a year to a student in good standing. An extension of a leave may be granted if the student requests the extension and the department supports the request, but the total time including any extensions allowed by the Graduate School for a leave may not exceed two years. Leaves are normally granted for personal reasons, when the student will not be actively pursuing an academic course of study in fulfillment of Princeton's degree requirements. In exceptional cases where a student not making satisfactory academic progress is granted a leave, academic or research requirements appropriate to that student's degree program may be put in place as a condition of return from leave. Students on leave are not enrolled or registered students for the period of the leave. Accordingly, no University student benefits continue.  Students on leave are understood to have stepped way temporarily from their degree program and should not maintain a regular presence on campus.

    Leaves should be timed, whenever possible, to begin at the end of a term, preferably at the end of a full academic year. If because of extreme or exceptional personal circumstances a leave is granted to a student during a term, is inclusive of that term, and begins after the sixth week of the term, the student should expect to be on leave the following term as well. Leaves are not normally granted to students who (1) have completed less than one full term of enrollment in residence, or (2) are scheduled to take their general examination in the term for which the leave is being requested, or (3) will be working essentially full time on their Princeton degree requirements, although away from Princeton (for which in absentia status is normally recommended). Leaves are also not normally granted to students who are about to enter or are already in dissertation completion enrollment (DCE) status, which was instituted specifically for the purpose of helping Ph.D. students finish up degree requirements after the regular period of enrollment has ended.  In particular, students in DCE status should not expect to receive approval for leaves for personal, educational, or professional reasons.  Students in DCE status requiring a leave for medical reasons or because of other exceptional circumstances should consult the Graduate School. 

    Reenrollment after an approved leave will not depend on ranking among new applicants but will be subject only to (1) confirmation by the department of the student’s continued professional suitability, (2) a written request from the student to reenroll, and (3) completion by the student of requirements, if any, stipulated by the department and/or the Graduate School as conditions for reenrollment. The student’s written request to reenroll must be received by July 1 for return in the following fall term, and by December 1 for return in the following spring term. Return from leave coincides with the start of the term: for the fall term, reenrollment is effective August 1; for the spring term, reenrollment is effective January 1. Summer returns in the months of June and July may be approved by the Graduate School with the department’s support.

    Financial support that is identical to what a student returning from an approved leave received prior to that leave cannot be guaranteed.  This is true especially for students returning from leave who may be entering Dissertation Completion Enrollment status. Normally, however, the Graduate School and the department work together to identify and assure a comparable level of financial support to students returning from leave who will still be in their regular program length. Students on leave are urged to keep in touch with the Graduate School and their department about their plans.

    If a student does not return to the graduate program after an approved leave ends, the student’s degree candidacy is terminated. A request to return thereafter would entail reapplying to the Graduate School through the annual admission process.

    Involuntary Leave of Absence

    Princeton provides a range of support services to address the medical and mental health needs of students within the context of the campus community. On occasion, students may experience health needs requiring a level of care that exceeds what the University can appropriately provide. In such circumstances, some students may be advised to consider a voluntary leave. In situations where a student is unable or unwilling to carry out substantial self-care obligations, or presents a substantial risk of self-harm or harm to others, and the student declines to take a voluntary leave, the dean of the Graduate School has the authority to place the student on an involuntary leave. Such decisions may be appealed in writing to the vice president for campus life.

  5. Procedures (if applicable)

    Procedures for the applying for a leave of absence

    • Discuss visa support and terms with the Davis International Center (international students only);
    • Review status changes and end of student benefits for students taking a leave of absence, and discuss any exceptional needs with the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School;
    • Complete and submit a leave of absence request via the online status system in TigerHub.

    Approval to return from Leave

    • Confirmation by the department of the student’s continued professional suitability;
    • A written request from the student to reenroll submitted through the online status system accessed through TigerHub, received by December 1 for a spring term return or July 1 for a fall term return;
    • Completion by the student of requirements, if any, stipulated by the department and/or the Graduate School as conditions for reenrollment.
  6. Related Documents/Pages/Forms (if applicable)
  7. See above.

  8. Roles and Responsibilities

    Dean of the Graduate School
    Oversees Graduate School policies and associated procedures.

    Academic Affairs
    Advises students on leave process and associated conditions. Approves leave and return requests. Administers policies associated with enrollment changes

    Directors of Graduate Studies
    Advises students on leaves, approves leave requests on the behalf of the department.