Medical leave and return procedure

Students considering a medical leave are urged to make an appointment with a graduate dean who handles “Advising and Personal Support” to discuss their plans. Students who feel that there are any barriers to taking a medical leave are strongly encouraged to contact their program’s graduate officer or graduate administrator, or the OGE directly. International students should consult the ISO early in the application process, to obtain current regulatory information.

An approved medical leave can be granted for mental and physical conditions that prevent or hinder the student from completing or otherwise making satisfactory progress towards academic goals. The decision to request medical leave can be made by one or a combination of persons or offices (see “How to request medical leave” below). If you are uncertain about whether medical leave is appropriate to your situation, please contact the Office of Graduate Education (OGE). If a student does not wish to take a medical leave, students can discuss taking a personal leave with their advisor.

Medical leave is granted by the Office of Graduate Education (OGE) and is reviewed for appropriateness by MIT Health.  It is not intended as a device to shield a student from unsatisfactory progress or any other academic irregularity.

Students are limited to applying for one regular semester at a time with a twelve-month maximum. (Normally two semesters plus one summer.) Students can take a medical leave at any time including during the summer semester. Students should anticipate two to three weeks for the approval to be granted and for notifications to be sent. Students should provide the OGE with a current mailing address so that notification can be sent via US mail, as necessary. Students who take a medical leave during a term will be charged a prorated tuition until the date of their withdrawal.

If an incoming student wishes to take a medical leave, they will need to defer due to medical reasons. Please email for additional information. 

How to request medical leave

A request for medical leave can be initiated by one or a combination of the following persons/offices: the student (in consultation with their health care clinician); the student’s clinician; the student’s program office; or the OGE. The health care clinician may be a physician, psychiatrist or psychologist, social worker, or nurse practitioner.

Two pieces of documentation are required from the student in order to initiate a formal request.

  • The first is a letter from the clinician, on official letterhead stationery or via e-mail, addressed to a graduate dean in “Advising and Personal Support” in the OGE, Room 3-138. The letter is required to state that in the provider’s medical opinion, a request for medical leave is warranted. Details of the illness or condition are not required to the OGE, but may be needed for MIT Health’s review. Letters from clinicians outside MIT are also accepted.
  • The second is a letter or email of support from the program from which the student is seeking a medical leave. This letter must include a statement that describes the sources of financial support for the student.

After receipt of a request for medical leave

Once the clinical and program letters have been received, the OGE consults the chief of the appropriate division at MIT Health who will review the request and relevant medical records, consult with faculty and with the OGE as appropriate, and make a recommendation to OGE. If the student has received medical care outside the MIT Health Department, external medical records may be requested for the review. This professional recommendation may include steps that the student is expected to take toward recovery. Successful follow-through on these recommendations will weigh heavily in consideration of the student’s request to return. Once a medical leave has been granted, the OGE will notify all essential offices on campus, including the Registrar and the MIT Health Plans Manager for Finance. The student is responsible for contacting external fellowship sponsors regarding their medical leave; the student may contact the OGE Fellowships Manager with any questions regarding the process.

While on medical leave

Students are encouraged to maintain minimal contact with the academic program office during the period of medical leave.

Prior to the end date of the medical leave, the student is expected to provide an update on medical status from the attending health care clinician to the OGE. Effectively, these updates renew the leave status. For international students, a clinician’s update must be provided to the OGE each term.

Leave extensions

Extensions of medical leave beyond one year are granted only in exceptional circumstances. The maximum allowable extension is one additional semester. The student must provide updated documentation from their clinician and department for an extension that they are actively engaged in a treatment program and is likely to stabilize within one additional semester. International students are not eligible for extension due to U.S. immigration policy. Requests for a medical leave extension should be initiated by June 15 for the fall term and by November 15 for the spring term.

Returning from medical leave

The process for returning from an approved medical leave is similar to the leave process. OGE requires two documents: a clinician’s letter stating that the student has substantially progressed in his or her treatment and supporting the student’s return to their studies and campus life; and an academic program letter supporting the student’s return to their academic and research program. Students should try, if possible, to anticipate their resumption of studies and plan accordingly to avoid registration problems. Students may return from their medical leave at the beginning of the summer term.

Requests to return from medical leave should be initiated by the following dates:

Summer term: April 1

Fall term: June 15

For students returning to the fall semester, please submit a clinician letter close to the fall term so the OGE has the most up to date documentation.

IAP or Spring term: November 15

MIT Health will review the clinician’s letter(s), relevant MIT records, information from healthcare providers outside of MIT, and consult as needed with other individuals. After the review is complete, MIT Health will make a recommendation to the OGE about the student’s return from leave. Students may not register without explicit consent from the OGE.

Since funding and/or research within the program may have changed over time, the program will need to examine carefully the viability of the student’s return to a prior research project and associated funding support. The student is strongly encouraged to consult with the program about such matters.