- Medical Leaves
- Military Leaves
- Personal Leaves
- Refund of Tuition and Fees
- Transcript and Registration
- Loans and Fellowships
- Using University Facilities While on Leave
- Health Insurance
- Visa Issues
A leave of absence allows a student who must interrupt his or her studies for a compelling reason—for example, a sustained medical condition that prevents attendance or a personal matter requiring absence from campus—to be exempt from the Continuous Registration requirement. Leaves will not be granted retroactively.
Students who intend to take a leave of absence must submit a Request for a Leave of Absence (.pdf) to the Office of the Dean. Until students are notified by the Office of the Dean that the leave has been approved, they should assume that they are registered and will be expected to fulfill their academic and/or financial responsibilities, including completing course work.
Leaves of absence are granted for one or two semesters; under unusual circumstances students may apply for a third or fourth semester of leave. Leaves are not granted for longer than two years (four semesters). Withdrawal is the proper route if absence from graduate study will exceed four semesters.
A student in a Master's program that does not lead to the Ph.D. is eligible for a leave of absence after satisfactory completion of at least one semester of study. Ph.D. students are eligible for a leave of absence after satisfactory completion of at least one year of study. Master’s students in their first semester and Ph.D. students in their first year who wish to leave the University even temporarily should request a withdrawal.
A student who must interrupt study temporarily because of physical or psychological illness may be granted a Medical Leave of Absence, contingent upon the submission of documentation from a health care professional. The student must provide documentation from a health care professional confirming that the student is unable to engage in graduate study; such documentation may include a statement as to when the student may be expected to resume studies. See below for information regarding health insurance for students on approved medical leave.
A medical leave is granted only to students whose academic and administrative standing (as defined by the student's department or program and GSAS) permits them to continue in the degree program when they return from leave. Medical leaves will not be granted retroactively.
In order to return after a medical leave the student must provide the Office of the Dean with written approval of the health care professional who treated the student during the leave, confirming that the student is capable of returning to graduate study and proposing any recommended qualifications (e.g., part-time study).
A student who must interrupt study temporarily to fulfill a compulsory military obligation will be granted a military leave of absence. The student seeking a military leave of absence must provide the Office of the Dean with written documentation from the appropriate military authorities (including dates of the period of obligation).
A military leave is granted only to students whose academic and administrative standing (as defined by the student's department or program and GSAS) permits them to continue in the degree program when they return from leave. See below for information regarding health insurance for students on approved military leave.
Students who must interrupt study temporarily for compelling reasons other than those described above may request a personal leave of absence.
A personal leave is granted only to students whose academic and administrative standing (as defined by the student's department or program and GSAS) permits them to continue in the degree program when they return from leave. See below for information regarding health insurance for students on approved personal leave.
Note: Ph.D. students who have received the M.Phil. degree and D.M.A. students beyond fourth-year academic standing are not eligible to request a personal leave.
All students who withdraw or take a leave of absence during a semester in which they are registered are charged a $75 withdrawal fee. Tuition is refunded on a prorated basis, ordinarily calculated from the date on which the Office of the Dean receives the request for a withdrawal or leave of absence. No fees are refunded after the second week of the semester. The Registrar's office publishes a schedule of refunds for tuition and fees based on the week in the semester during which the withdrawal or leave is approved.
Leaves of absence and withdrawals from the University during a semester are ordinarily allowed between semesters or at any time before the final examination period within a semester. Courses and grades (if already recorded) for the semester in progress are expunged from the student's record, and the semester’s Residence Unit registration, if any, will not be counted toward degree requirements.
Students taking a leave of absence are not considered to be registered Columbia students. Approved leaves are entered on a student's permanent academic record. The period of the leave is not counted toward the time allowed for completion of the degree requirements. A student on leave may not fulfill any degree requirement other than, if he or she wishes, the completion of work in courses for which an approved grade of IN (Incomplete) has been issued by the instructor; however, the period of the leave will not be counted toward the time allowed for completion of an Incomplete. Other degree requirements, including language exams, oral exams, and dissertation research and writing, may not be completed while a student is on leave.
Students should contact the GSAS Office of Financial Aid for information about the effect of taking a leave of absence on loans and fellowships. Most University and government loan programs do not permit the deferment of loan repayment while a student is on leave.
To be considered for fellowships—including reinstatement of multi-year Ph.D. fellowships held at the time of the request for leave—or for financial aid other than loans, students returning from leave should contact the Office of Financial Aid by the following deadlines:
- February 1 if returning in the following fall semester
- October 1 if returning in the following spring semester
When the student notifies the Office of Financial Aid of his or her intent to return, the decision to award financial aid, including reinstatement of previously awarded aid, will be based on satisfactory academic progress prior to the leave and departmental recommendation.
A student on leave may not use University facilities. Email accounts are normally suspended within six to nine months after approval of the leave.
Students on an approved leave of absence may request library access for specific short periods of time and specific reasons, by application (.pdf) to the Office of the Dean. Please note that students on leave who have previously been awarded a Columbia degree may, as alumni, have email forwarded and use facilities such as the libraries: see the Columbia Alumni Association website for more information.
Students must be registered to remain in Columbia Housing. Students who plan to withdraw or take a leave of absence should contact University Apartment Housing regarding the date by which they will be expected to vacate.
Students who vacate a UAH apartment to take a leave of absence remain eligible for University housing, although they are not guaranteed housing upon return. Students returning from a leave who wish to apply for University housing for the fall semester should contact Craig Knobles (212-854-2889; firstname.lastname@example.org) by May 1; to apply for the spring semester, the deadline is December 1.
A student whose personal or military leave of absence is approved during the first 30 days of the term will not be eligible for either the Columbia Student Medical Insurance or Health Services programs, and a full refund will be applied to a student’s account, unless the student has utilized the benefits of the insurance plan or made use of care provided by Health Services.
For medical leaves: Students enrolled in the Columbia insurance and Health Services programs whose medical leave of absence is approved during the first 30 days of a term are eligible to remain enrolled in those programs for up to two leave semesters following the semester of their last registration. Students should read the full details of the Health Services policy and procedures on withdrawal due to medical leave and contact the Health Services Insurance Office for further important information.
Students enrolled in the Columbia insurance and Health Services programs whose leave of absence or withdrawal is approved after 30 days of the term have passed will remain enrolled in the Columbia Student Medical Insurance and Health Service programs for the remainder of that term; no refund will be granted.
Students on a J1 or F1 visa who intend to take a leave of absence must contact the International Students and Scholars Office as soon as possible.