Leaves of Absence

Continuous registration is required of all degree candidates, but Leaves of Absence (LOA) may be granted for bona fide reasons, normally for one year. In exceptional circumstances the DGS may approve a second year, but not a third. Final approval is through the GSAS. Applications for Leaves of Absence are also available in 107 Low Library. Students on LOA lose all student privileges during the time away, including housing, library cards, and gym access. Health insurance may be purchased by arrangement. Also, student loans may become payable.

Medical Leave of Absence

On the written recommendation of a physician and with the approval of the department, a student who must interrupt study because of physical or psychological illness will be granted a Medical Leave of Absence.

Military Leave of Absence

A military Leave of Absence usually will be granted to students who must be absent from the University to fulfill a compulsory military obligation.

Suspension of Responsibilities for Childbirth

The Suspension of Responsibilities for Childbirth Policy allows PhD students who are pregnant, give birth, or care for a new-born in their fellowship years a six-week period in which regular responsibilities associated with their doctoral program are suspended. Class attendance, course assignments, exams, and other academic requirement and research. We recognize that Teaching Fellows make important contributions to the instructional mission of the University. Further, we realize that releasing a TF from the classroom for six weeks could be pedagogically unwise, depending on the point of time in the semester and the extent of the TF’s responsibilities. Thus, for some students, teaching responsibilities may be suspended for the entire semester. Non-teaching responsibilities for Teaching Fellows will be suspended for six weeks.

During this period of suspension of responsibilities, full-time student status will be preserved, so the stipend for a Columbia fellowship, student health insurance, and housing eligibility are retained. The policy does not affect a student’s ability to request a leave of absence to begin after the six-week period has ended.

Click here to read more on the Suspension of Responsibilities for Parental Accommodation.

Other Leaves of Absence

Departments may recommend, subject to the approval of GSAS, a Leave of Absence for other compelling reasons for students who find it necessary to interrupt study. A student is eligible for such a Leave after satisfactory completion of at least one year of study. 

Time "Off-Plan"

Students ineligible for official Leaves of Absence, who need to interrupt their studies, may go "off-plan" for a year (with the approval of the DGS). Students "off-plan" receive no funding and are required to register for M&F at their own expense.

Since students are expected to teach for four consecutive semesters, a student who plans to take time away from campus should do so during the third or fifth year. In rare circumstances, a student may leave the teaching cohort after only three semesters without jeopardizing future funding. Students who for an involuntary, compelling reason need to interrupt their four consecutive teaching terms should consult the DGS and Director of the Undergraduate Writing Program as early as possible. Students who complete the training to teach and then take a year off must make arrangements with the Director of the Undergraduate Writing Program for review sessions before being given a teaching assignment.

When students return from Leave they resume their program from where they left. The year away does not count towards progress to the degree.