Leave of absence

Graduate students who experience circumstances that prevent them from maintaining active status through continuous registration (excluding summer term) and who, through consultation with their Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), advisor(s), Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC), and relevant offices determine that a leave of absence (LOA) is appropriate, must request a LOA from the College of Biological Sciences Associate Dean for Graduate Students and Postdocs.

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  • Duration: A leave may last up to two years. You may go on a leave in the middle of semester; you may return from a leave only at the beginning of a semester.
  • Stipend: You may not hold a graduate assistantship or fellowship during your LOA. Your assistantship or fellowship will be suspended for the duration of your LOA.
  • Health insurance: When your graduate assistantship or fellowship is suspended during your LOA, premium payments for your graduate assistant health plan coverage also end. You remain eligible for the graduate assistant health plan, but must sign up for continuation of coverage and pay the full premium out of pocket.
  • Time to degree: If approved for a LOA, the clock stops on your time to degree, giving you more time to complete your degree. (Ph.D. students have eight calendar years, M.S. students have five calendar years to complete their degree.)
  • International students: International students will be required to leave the United States during their leave of absence. Consult with ISSS to determine how immigration regulations will affect your particular situation.
  • Campus access: While on a leave of absence, your access on campus is limited to the access available to the general public. You may not use University facilities or services that are available only to registered students. If a student on leave needs access to buildings or research areas, it will be up to the student's advisor or program to arrange that access with the college facilities manager. Continued access while on leave can be revoked for inappropriate behavior.
  • You may not be able to defer payment on student loans. Check with OneStop Student Services for all questions regarding student loans.
  • If you take a leave of absence and do not return to register and enroll within the agreed-upon timeline, you will need to reapply to the Graduate School via Express Readmission. If you return within the agreed upon timeline, no readmission will be required.

Personal reasons for LOA:

  1. serious illness or mental health situation;
  2. death of a loved one (family member or otherwise), the consequences of which requires a considerable time investment from the student;
  3. childbirth or adoption of a child;
  4. military service;
  5. need to deal with a serious family obligation, such as caring for a family member that is ill or incapacitated;
  6. becoming the caregiver for someone whose former caregiver was called to military service or incapacitated; or
  7. debilitating economic need.

Academic and/or professional reasons for LOA:

  1. an off-campus experience that is directly related, in an important way, to your academic/professional development but cannot be financially supported. (Granting such a leave would be a judgment call by the department); or
  2. special research, teaching, work, or internship opportunities (locally, nationally or internationally).

Note that this list is not exhaustive. Consult with your advisor, the DGS, and GPC If you have extenuating circumstances that might warrant a leave of absence.

This follows UMN policy: Leave of Absence and Reinstatement from a Leave: Graduate Students


To request a leave of absence:

  1. Consult with your faculty advisor and DGS.
  2. Check the guidance for leaves of absence on page two of the LOA request form and consult with your GPC. 
  3. If you are an international student, consult with International Student and Scholar Services before making plans for a LOA.
  4. Develop a plan for your leave of absence: when your leave will start, when it will end, checkpoints along the way, what a return to the program and lab will entail. Use the CBS LOA memo template to assist you in developing this plan.
  5. Write a memo with your advisor, outlining this plan. (Use the CBS LOA memo template.)
  6. Share this memo with the DGS, for their review and signature.
  7. Submit the LOA plan memo, along with the LOA request form, to CBS College Coordinator for Graduate Programs (Sara Eliason, seliason@umn.edu).
  8. The CBS Associate Dean for Graduate Students and Postdocs will review the LOA request.
  9. The College Coordinator will enter the LOA on your student record after final consultation with the DGS and GPC of your program.   

Medical LOA: If your leave of absence is precipitated by a persistent medical or mental health condition that needs your attention, you may be eligible for a medical leave of absence with health care benefits. Please refer to the medical leave of absence guidance.

To return from a leave of absence:

  1. Check in with your faculty advisor and DGS about one month prior to your return from leave.
  2. Revisit your LOA plan along with your advisor. Together, revise and solidify this plan, including updates to your return plan timeline and details of returning to the program and a lab (expectations, funding, remaining course requirements, remaining degree completion steps, checkpoints for tracking progress, etc.). You also may use the Scholarly Work Agreement form to outline your return from leave plan.
  3. Share your revised plan with the DGS for their review and signature.
  4. If you are on a medical LOA with health insurance benefits, provide a brief note from a treating provider that you have completed your course of treatment or are at a point where your provide supports a return from leave.
  5. Check the guidance for leaves of absence on the leave of absence reinstatement request form and consult with your program coordinator. 
  6. Submit the revised LOA plan memo, along with the leave of absence reinstatement request form, to the CBS College Coordinator for Graduate Programs (Sara Eliason, seliason@umn.edu).
  7. The CBS Associate Dean for Graduate Education will review the leave of absence reinstatement request.
  8. The College Coordinator will enter the return from leave of absence date on your student record after final consultation with the DGS and GPC.
  9. Work with your GPC to register for the semester when you will return from leave.
  10. Set meetings with your advisor and your program's DGS and GPC for 3-months and 6-months after your return from leave. This is to ensure you have the support you need after your return to your program.