Internet Explorer Detected

The Penn State Graduate School website is best experienced in Firefox or Google Chrome. It is highly recommended that you use an alternative browser.


GSAD-906 Graduate Student Leave of Absence


  1. Student determines a need to be absent from their program for an entire semester or longer.
  2. Student consults with their adviser and committee chair (if not the same person).
  3. Student completes a Leave of Absence Form found on the University Registrar website and submits to the Graduate Program Head. Students requesting a Military Leave of Absence should adhere to the guidelines outlined in policy J-3 Military Leave of Absence, Withdrawal, and Late Drop. Military Leaves of Absence are processed through the Office of the University Registrar. Detailed instructions can be found here.
  4. Graduate Program Head compiles and submits the following information:
    1. The reason for the request,
    2. Begin and end dates for the Leave of Absence,
    3. A written summary of the remaining requirements for the degree, and
    4. A statement indicating whether or not they support the request and if not, why.
  5. Graduate Enrollment Services will determine if the Leave of Absence is approved or denied.
  6. Graduate Enrollment Services will notify the student, the college/school administrator for graduate education, and the Graduate Program Head regarding the outcome of the request.
  7. If the leave is approved, a student MUST take the following steps:
    1. REGISTRATION: If enrolled for the semester(s) requested, the student must cancel all courses prior to the beginning of the semester.
      1. INTERNATIONAL: If the student is an international student studying in residence (not solely via the World Campus) and all courses are to be cancelled prior to the start of the semester, the student MUST contact their International Student adviser at the Penn State Office of Global Programs, Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA) prior to finalizing the cancellation.
    2. INSURANCE: If the student has purchased the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan through the University, the student MUST contact the Student Insurance Office (Student Health Center; 814-865-7467) to determine how the Leave of Absence might affect their benefits.
    3. HOUSING: In general, student must be enrolled full-time to maintain eligibility for University housing. If the student requesting Leave of Absence is currently living in University housing, the student MUST contact their local housing office to learn how the leave will impact their housing contract.
    4. FINANCIAL AID. If the student is receiving any form of financial aid they MUST contact the Student Aid representative at his or her campus before cancelling all courses due to a Leave of Absence, to discuss any potential issues related to repayment of aid funds.
      1. Consequences to financial aid when a student drops all courses can be exceedingly complex. A Student Aid representative can help a student seeking a Leave of Absence understand how their aid will be impacted.
      2. Students requesting a Leave of Absence due to a medical condition may petition the Bursar for a waiver of tuition; note that not all requests are granted.
    5. PENN STATE ACCESS ACCOUNT. Students on a Leave of Absence may qualify to extend their Access Account for the duration of the leave, for a nominal fee.
      1. Graduate Assistantships are not available for students on a Leave of Absence.
      2. While every effort will be made to identify funding upon the student’s return, there is no guarantee that there will be funding available upon return.
    7. THIRD PARTY or EXTERNALLY FUNDED STUDENTS: Students whose graduate school tuition is paid for by third parties or external sources should contact those sources to determine how dropping all courses will impact their funding.
  8. Graduate Enrollment Services will finalize the Leave of Absence by:
    1. Verifying the student has cancelled all courses for the upcoming semester(s).
    2. Updating the student information system to reflect the leave status.
    3. Evaluating any necessary academic time limit extensions.
  9. RETURN TO STUDIES: At least thirty days prior to the date of return from the Leave of Absence, the student must notify their Graduate Program Head and adviser (if applicable) of their intent to return. Returning students will be required to meet any conditions of their Leave of Absence and pay any outstanding balance on their student account before re-enrolling. Students returning from an approved Leave of Absence do not need to complete the formal Resume Study process.
    1. A graduate student returning from an approved leave shall resume the academic responsibilities as outlined in the leave agreement.
    2. If the student decides not to return to their studies at the end of a Leave of Absence, the student must notify their Graduate Program Head and Graduate Enrollment Services, including whether they intend to resume their studies in the future. Should the student decide to return in the future, he/she will follow the standard Resume Study procedure.


Leave of Absence – Office of the University Registrar

Further Information

Management of Graduate Assistantships, Fellowships, and Traineeships for Graduate Students with an Approved Leave of Absence - Guidelines

Revision History

  • Revised by The Graduate School, March 19, 2024
    • Updated statement #3 to refer to policy J-3 Military Leave of Absence, Withdrawal, and Late Drop and direct readers to the University Registrar's website for more details.
  • Approved by The Graduate School, May 13, 2019
This page was generated on June 16, 2024 at 6:29 PM local time. This may not be the most recent version of this page. Check the Penn State Graduate School website for updates.