Nonresident doctoral thesis research status

Thesis research is ordinarily done in residence at the Institute. However, on some occasions, it may be essential or desirable that the student be absent from the campus during a portion of thesis research or writing. Nonresident doctoral thesis research status allows thesis research to be carried out while not in formal residence at the Institute. The link to apply is at the bottom of this page.


Fall TermJuly 15 deadlineApplication closed
Spring termNovember 15 deadlineApplication closed

Please note that the application will be completed via DocuSign and will require the student applicant to enter the names and email addresses of their thesis research advisor, program’s graduate administrator, and graduate officer. Incomplete applications will not be approved.


Nonresident status is intended for doctoral students who have completed all requirements other than the thesis.

Prior to seeking approval from the Office of Graduate Education, the student must have:

  • completed the general qualifying examinations;
  • been in residence as a regular graduate student for a period of at least four regular terms (periods of residence at other educational institutions, as a special student or during the summer session at MIT may not be counted in meeting this requirement);
  • included a copy of their thesis proposal (approved and signed by the appropriate departmental committee) with their application for nonresident status;
  • made arrangements for financial support sufficient to cover their research and living expenses during the nonresident term.

Terms of status

A student who is permitted to undertake nonresident thesis research must register as a nonresident doctoral candidate and will pay a substantially reduced tuition. For the first three regular academic terms, tuition is approximately 5 percent of regular full tuition. Thereafter, it is charged at approximately 15 percent. The Schedule of Fees sets forth the specific tuition charges.

For doctoral students on nonresident thesis research status, the following types of financial support from MIT may be awarded:

  • Fellowship support: For only the first three semesters of nonresident status, a student may receive fellowship support from MIT (or from an external funding source, with MIT acting as administrator) for an amount that is no more than 5 percent of tuition per semester. The intention of the fellowship is to cover reduced tuition charged to students approved for this status. Nonresident students cannot receive tuition or stipend support from or through MIT beyond the amount (5% of tuition) that is allowable.
  • Health insurance coverage: Departments and programs may, at their discretion and depending upon availability of funds, cover student health insurance for the duration of the nonresident period, including after the first three semesters.
  • Graduate Student Short-term Emergency Grant: Students experiencing unexpected financial emergencies may be eligible to receive this grant during the nonresident period; eligibility determined for each application
  • Grant for Graduate Students with Children: Students with children may receive this grant during the nonresident period; eligibility determined for each application.

Eligibility for federal loans and sponsored billing remain unaffected for the length of nonresident period.

Nonresident doctoral candidates have limited access to the facilities and academic life of the Institute. However, they are permitted access to the libraries and athletic facilities, and may be eligible to use office, design studio, laboratory, or computer facilities of the Institute. Nonresident doctoral candidates also have the same student health privileges and options as resident students upon payment of the health insurance premiums.

Approval process

Permission to become a nonresident doctoral candidate must be obtained from the Office of Graduate Education prior to Registration Day of the term during which the student wishes to register in this category, in accordance with deadlines published in the Academic Calendar (a fee will be assessed for late requests).

Please note that application for nonresident status is separate from registration. Students must register for thesis units as they normally would when in resident status. Submission of the nonresident status application does not take the place of registration.

Prior to submission, the nonresident doctoral thesis research status request form must be approved by the student’s thesis advisor and by the graduate officer from the student’s department of registration.

Justification for the nonresident status must be provided in the proposal. This may include:

  • fieldwork or data collection
  • use of special or unique facilities at other laboratories
  • the need to accompany a thesis advisor who transfers to another institution prior to completion of thesis research
  • simultaneous employment unrelated to the Institute and also unrelated to the thesis research

Nonresident doctoral candidates must describe arrangements for thesis research to be supervised by a member of the faculty or a senior staff member approved by the department. Candidates are expected to have sufficient financial support and must describe their plans for funding during nonresident status.

Duration of nonresident status

Approval for nonresident status may be granted, if requested, for two successive regular terms (fall and spring) in the same academic year. Students who know that they would like to be in nonresident status for a full academic year may apply for both terms by the fall term application deadline. If plans are uncertain, they may apply for spring term nonresident status at a later point by submitting a separate application by the spring deadline. Registration as a nonresident doctoral candidate is not required during the summer session unless the student is returning to resident status to complete degree requirements and submit a thesis.

Extending nonresident status
Continuation for two additional periods of two regular terms each may be granted by the Office of Graduate Education if the student’s progress is satisfactory and if the thesis advisor and the department so recommend. Generally, a maximum of six regular terms in nonresident status will be permitted. Longer periods will need written endorsement from the thesis advisor and departmental graduate officer.

Returning from nonresident status
A thesis may not be submitted while the student is on nonresident status. Following completion of the nonresident period, the student must return to resident status for a minimum of one term for submission and defense of the doctoral thesis. If the thesis is submitted and defended during the first term of return to resident status (including summer session), tuition for that term will be prorated on a weekly basis subject to a minimum charge of one half the tuition for a regular term.

Registration must be continuous. If a student is withdrawn and then readmitted to resident status to submit a thesis and receive the doctoral degree that same term, tuition will be 1.5 times the full tuition for a regular term.

Special conditions


Nonresident doctoral candidates are not eligible to reside in student housing or to be Graduate Resident Assistants. Upon approval for nonresident status, students must terminate their current license agreements (with adherence to current policies) and forfeit their continuing housing status, if applicable. The standard 30-day advance notice requirement to MIT Housing and any lease termination fees are waived for students who are approved by the OGE to transition to nonresident doctoral thesis research status.


Students cannot accept employment as academic, administrative, or research staff, or as hourly employees at MIT, Lincoln Laboratory, or the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory while registered as nonresident graduate students.

Apply for Nonresident Thesis Status