Resources for PhD Students

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 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.

  • On-campus housing (Sansom): If the leave occurs within the semester, complete Request for Early Termination. For more information see here

  • 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 fax documentation to Student Health & Counseling attention: Request Leave of Absence or Request Return from Leave of Absence. Fax number 215-746-1032. 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.