Voluntary Leaves of Absence for Graduate Students
Leaves of Absence can allow a student to take a break from enrollment either before or after a quarter begins. Leaves of absence may not exceed a cumulative total of two years. There may also be conditions associated with a Leave which are outlined in greater detail below.
Students on leave of absence are not registered at Stanford and, therefore, do not have the rights and privileges of registered students. They cannot fulfill any official department or University requirements during the leave period. Students on leave may complete coursework for which an 'Incomplete' grade was awarded in a prior term (unless doing so places an undue burden on the part of an instructor, department, staff, or other university resource) and are expected to comply with the maximum one-year time limit for resolving incompletes; a leave of absence does not stop the clock on the time limit for resolving incompletes.
Leaves do not delay candidacy or master's program expiration dates, except for parental and military leaves of absence, which do extend these degree milestones.
When a student is granted (or placed on) a leave of absence after the beginning of the term, courses in which the student was enrolled after the final study list deadline appear on the student's transcript and show the symbol 'W' (Withdraw).
Voluntary Leaves of Absence
Graduate students who do not meet the requirement for continuous registration during the academic year (autumn, winter, and spring quarters) must obtain advanced approval for a leave of absence for the term(s) they will not be registered.
New graduate students may not take a leave of absence during their first quarter. However, new Stanford students may request a deferment from the department.
Students may request a voluntary leave of absence for up to one year, or four quarters. All leave of absence requests are subject to approval by the Office of the University Registrar. Except where unexpected circumstances necessitate an immediate leave, students are expected to file for a voluntary leave of absence 30 days prior to the quarter in which the leave will begin.
The leave of absence must be reviewed for approval by the student's academic department and, if the student is in the United States on a foreign student visa, by the Bechtel International Center. Except in the case of parental and military leaves, the granting of a leave of absence is at the discretion of the department and subject to review by the Office of the University Registrar. The university may condition its approval of a leave of absence on the student meeting requirements the university deems appropriate in the individual case for the student to be eligible to return (such as, in the case of a leave for medical reasons, proof of treatment and/or an interview with a provider at Vaden Health Center or Counseling and Psychological Services or its designee).
A leave of absence may be extended for up to one additional year, or four quarters, provided the student files an extension request and receives approval from the Office of the University Registrar before the end of the initial one-year leave. Leaves requested for a longer period than one year, or four quarters, are approved only in exceptional circumstances (e.g. mandatory military service).
For students with multiple degree programs or majors, note that leaves of absence are only granted for all programs and majors. Students in multiple degree programs may not request a leave from one program and not the other.
For a full tuition refund, leave of absence requests must be received by the Office of the University Registrar no later than the first day of classes for the applicable quarter.
Pregnancy and Parental Leaves of Absence
Any pregnant graduate student may request a Pregnancy Leave of Absence to suspend enrollment around the time of the birth. Alternatively, a pregnant student may choose to remain enrolled and to request a Childbirth Accommodation. Non-birth parents may request a Parental Leave of Absence. Non-birth parents include: parents anticipating or recently experiencing the birth of a child; parents who adopt a child; and parents by means of surrogacy.
In the case of Pregnancy and Parental Leaves of Absence, all provisions of the policy for Voluntary Leaves of Absence, defined above, will apply, except:
Any matriculated pregnant student requesting a Pregnancy Leave of Absence will automatically be approved for a leave period of four quarters (12 months).
Non-birth parents who request a Parental Leave of Absence will automatically be approved for a leave period of one academic quarter.
Any student on a Pregnancy Leave of Absence in a degree program requiring candidacy, who has not yet been admitted to candidacy, will have the period of time in which to achieve candidacy automatically extended by 12 months (four quarters). If the student has been admitted to candidacy, the candidacy period will be automatically extended by 12 months (four quarters). The 12-month extension of pre-candidacy or candidacy will be applicable whether the student takes a full year of leave or returns in less than one year.
Any student on a Parental Leave of Absence in a degree program requiring candidacy, who has not yet been admitted to candidacy, will have the period of time in which to achieve candidacy automatically extended by three months (one quarter). If the student has been admitted to candidacy, the candidacy period will be automatically extended by three months (one quarter).
In the case where a Pregnancy or Parental Leave of Absence would extend the student’s cumulative total beyond 8 quarters, that extension will be permitted so that the student may return to their program. The student will then be considered to have reached their maximum cumulative leave.
Stanford prohibits discrimination on the basis of any characteristic protected by law including discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. Stanford complies with requirements of California Education Code section 66281.7. Stanford's policy provides that pregnant graduate students be supported either by staying enrolled or taking a pregnancy leave of absence (see GAP 5.9 Pregnancy, Childbirth, Adoption and Lactation). The policy also provides childbirth accommodations for graduate students giving birth as well as support for non-birth parents who have recently experienced the birth of a child. Questions about the policy can be directed to the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education.
Military Leaves of Absence
Any graduate student who has required military service (international and domestic, including National Guard and reservists) may be approved for a leave of absence to exceed one academic year (4 quarters) if necessary to fulfill a service requirement. For active duty students, any leave of absence quarters related to required military service will not be deducted from the student’s total allowable quarters of leave (two calendar years, up to eight quarters) and students may return to their degree program(s) once the required military service has been completed.
Under rare and exceptional circumstances, incoming graduate students may take a leave of absence during their first quarter and return within the same academic year with the permission of their degree program and their Dean’s office. Any student taking leave as a result of required military service in a degree program requiring candidacy who has not yet been admitted to candidacy will have the pre-candidacy period automatically extended for a period of time equivalent to the military service. If the student has been admitted to candidacy, the candidacy period will be extended for a period of time equivalent to the military service. In degree programs not requiring candidacy, the period of time allowed for completion of the degree will be automatically extended by the period of time equivalent to the military service.
Exceptions to the university's Leave of Absence policy may be requested through the Student & Academic Services Student Exceptions Committee. Full details can be found at https://studentservices.stanford.edu/my-academics/access-resources-help/request-exception-academic-policy.