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Resources for PhD Students

PhD Leave of Absence Policy, Procedures, and Frequently Asked Questions

Procedures to request PSIP coverage while on medical or family leave

The following procedures apply to PSIP coverage for PhD students on medical or family leave as outlined by the PhD Student Leave of Absence Policy effective July 2022. For questions, contact provost-ed@upenn.edu

For PhD Students on Medical Leave
  1. Student requests medical leave and indicates if PSIP funding should continue, following the procedures outlined here.  
  2. Student requests healthcare provider to submit medical documentation to Penn Wellness at wel-shsinsur@pobox.upenn.edu.
  3. Penn Wellness confirms with Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education at provost-ed@upenn.edu that sufficient documentation has been provided.
  4. Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education confirms with School and Graduate Group that student is approved for medical leave.
  5. School confirms in writing with student that leave is approved and provides any conditions for return.
  6. School notifies Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education at provost-ed@upenn.edu that student is funded and will remain on PSIP, along with the beginning date of leave.
  7. Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education alerts Penn Wellness that student on leave will remain on PSIP.
    1. Penn Wellness charges PSIP to the student’s account and School will pay.
    2. Students who will be on leave in July-August will need to contact Penn Wellness at wel-shsinsur@pobox.upenn.edu to sign up for the new plan year before the August 31 deadline.
  8. Student may continue to pay for their own dependents on PSIP. Student must contact Penn Wellness at wel-shsinsur@pobox.upenn.edu if they wish to enroll dependents while on leave.
  9. Student may apply to School for second semester extension of PSIP coverage. If approved, repeat steps 6-8.
For PhD students on Family Leave
  1. Student requests family leave and indicates if PSIP funding should continue, following the procedures outlined here.
  2. Director of Family Center confirms with School and Graduate Group that student will take family leave and the dates, and requests that School confirm that student is funded for PSIP.
  3. Director of Family Center notifies Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education at provost-ed@upenn.edu that student is taking Family Leave, is funded and will remain on PSIP.
  4. Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education alerts Penn Wellness that student on leave will remain on PSIP.
    1. Penn Wellness charges PSIP to the student’s account and School will pay. Provost’s Office will journal transfer the cost to the School.
    2. Students who will be on leave in July-August will need to contact Penn Wellness at wel-shsinsur@pobox.upenn.edu to sign up for the new plan year before the August 31 deadline.
  5. Student may continue to pay for their own dependents on PSIP. Student must contact Penn Wellness at wel-shsinsur@pobox.upenn.edu if they wish to enroll dependents while on leave.
  6. Student may apply to School for second semester extension of PSIP coverage. If approved, School must notify Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education at provost-ed@upenn.edu. Repeat steps 4-6.

FAQs for PhD students thinking about taking a leave of absence

How does a PhD student request a leave?

Students wishing to take a Family Leave should fill out this form. Students wishing to take other types of leave – military, medical, or personal — should fill out of PhD Leave of Absence Request form available in each school: 

How Does a PhD student request a return from leave?

Students should fill out the PhD Request to Return from Leave of Absence form available in each school. Requests to return from leave should be made at least 30 days in advance of the term beginning that a student wishes to return.

How does a PhD student request continuation of PSIP coverage?

Students whose University funding package includes coverage of Penn Student Health Insurance can request that coverage be continued at the time they request medical or family leave. Refer to Covering PSIP for PhD Students on Medical or Family Leave.

How long can a leave be for a PhD student?

Leave is typically for one or two semesters. In order to ensure successful completion of the PhD, a student’s leave(s) should generally not exceed two years over the course of the doctoral program. If, however, it is determined in an individual case that extension of the leave period(s) beyond two years is appropriate, students may need to repeat coursework or other requirements, as determined by the Graduate Group Chair. Original funding limits remain in place for students who must repeat requirements.

I still have questions about the PhD Leave of Absence Policy. Who should I ask?

Contact the student affairs staff in your school or provost-ed@upenn.edu with questions about the policy.

Leave of Absence Checklist for Students
  • Student Bills/Financial Aid: Check your student account; any outstanding balance will result in late fees and your account will be placed on hold. Students who have borrowed from the Federal Loan Program must complete the online exit loan counseling session. Please note that depending on the length of the leave, students may be required to begin repayment of federal loans before returning to Penn.
  • Tuition: If the leave is requested before the end of Add/Drop students will receive a full refund of tuition and fees. If the leave occurs after Add/Drop, partial refunds may apply. Leaves processed after the 6th week of classes are not eligible for any tuition refund. Consult your school for tuition refund information.
  • Penn Student Insurance Plan: PhD students whose University funding includes coverage of the Penn Student Health Insurance Plan can elect to receive coverage for their individual health insurance while on medical or family leave for one full semester; students may petition for an additional semester. Be sure to request this coverage when you fill out your Leave of Absence form. Refer to Covering PSIP for PhD Students on Medical or Family Leave.
  • International students: Immigration status is dependent upon full-time enrollment and students are required to depart from the U.S. within 15 days of a posted leave, except in certain cases requiring medical care in the U.S. International students must communicate their intention to take a leave of absence with their ISSS advisor. See here for details. You may need to obtain new immigration documents for re-entry.
  • Medical Documentation: Medical documentation is required to request a medical leave and to return from medical leave. Please ask your healthcare provider to email documentation to Student Health & Counseling with the subject line: Request Leave of Absence or Return from Leave of Absence. Email: wel-shsinsur@pobox.upenn.edu. Do not provide medical documentation to faculty or staff in your Graduate Group.
    • Student Health & Counseling will alert the Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education that medical documentation has been received, and the Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education will alert the appropriate School and Graduate Group.
  • Students with an approved leave of absence will receive a letter from their Graduate Group Chair outlining the terms of the approved leave and any conditions for return.