Below are the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s policies for students on Leave of Absence (LOA). To obtain the Leave of Absence petition please contact the Registrar.

Voluntary Leaves of Absence

Students who wish to interrupt their studies at any time before graduation may request a leave of absence.  Requests for a leave of absence may be granted by the [Dean of Students] in consultation with other officers of the University, as appropriate.  With respect to a voluntary leave of absence for medical reasons, the Dean of Students ordinarily will consult with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from the student’s current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student).

Involuntary Leaves of Absence

Under certain circumstances, a student may be placed on an involuntary leave of absence.  An involuntary leave of absence is not a disciplinary sanction.  However, an incident that gives rise to a leave of absence, whether voluntary or involuntary, may subsequently be the basis for disciplinary action.  A student who prefers to take a voluntary leave of absence for medical reasons rather than to be placed on an involuntary leave of absence for medical reasons is ordinarily allowed to do so.  Transcripts do not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary leaves of absence.

An involuntary leave of absence may be required for the following reasons:

  1. Medical circumstances: (a) The student’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of any person, or has seriously disrupted others in the student’s residential community or academic environment; and (b) either the student’s threatening, self-destructive, or disruptive behavior is determined to be the result of a medical condition or the student has refused to cooperate with efforts by Harvard University Health Services to determine the cause of the behavior. The decision to place a student on an involuntary leave of absence for health related reasons is made in consultation with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from the student’s current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student), after an individualized assessment of all of the pertinent factors, such as: the nature of the student’s conduct; the nature, duration and severity of the risk; the likelihood of potential injury; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices or procedures will mitigate the risk.  However, reasonable modifications do not include changes that would fundamentally alter the academic program or unduly burden the School’s resources or staffing capabilities or, with respect to the required level of care or monitoring, that would exceed the standard of care that a university health service can be expected to provide.
  2. Alleged criminal behavior: The student has been arrested on allegations of serious criminal behavior or has been charged with such behavior by law enforcement authorities.
  3. Risk to the community. The student has been charged with a violation of a disciplinary rule of the School, and his or her presence on campus poses a significant risk to the safety of others or to the educational environment of the community.
  4. The student’s term bill is unpaid and the student has not made arrangements acceptable to the School to address the issue.
  5. Failure to provide medical documentation of required immunizations.
  6. Unfulfilled academic requirements. The student has not met an academic requirement and has not taken steps acceptable to the School to meet the requirement.
  7. Failure to register. The student has not registered as required at the beginning of each term.

The decision to place a student on involuntary leave is made by the Dean of Students in consultation with the executive dean and the student’s program director.  As noted above, in the case of an involuntary leave of absence for medical reasons, the School will consult with an appropriate person at Harvard University Health Services.

A student is notified in writing that he or she has been placed on involuntary leave.  The student may petition the Dean of Students for reconsideration and may appeal a final decision to the Dean of the School.

Leaves of Absence for Master’s Degree Students

A student may take a voluntary Leave of Absence for not more than one year, or two academic terms. A student must have been enrolled for at least one semester prior to taking a leave. Occasionally, a Program Director might approve the extension of a Leave of Absence beyond one academic year or term, usually for medical reasons. Absences beyond four consecutive semesters are not allowed. The deadline for application for a Leave of Absence is usually before the start of the semester, and there is no guarantee that applications received after that date will be approved. A $15 fee will be charged for petitions received after the deadline. Students, who have contacted the Registrar and received the petition, must get approval from their Program Director.

The deadline for taking a LOA without becoming liable for payment of tuition is listed in the Academic Calendar and under the section on Tuition and Expenses. After that date, tuition is charged to the end of the tuition period in which a student takes a LOA.

If students wish to continue their health insurance while on leave, they must meet with the Registrar. A student who fails to register for the next regular academic term following a Leave of Absence will be withdrawn automatically as of the end of the term in which the Leave of Absence expired. A student who is withdrawn must reapply for admission.

Financial Aid recipients must reapply for financial aid, generally by mid-February of the previous academic year, for the term in which they return.

MArch students who plan on taking a Leave of Absence for any length of time must speak with the Registrar about the ramifications this will have on their ability to “split” during their last semester at the GSD. In order to be eligible to “split,” a MArch student’s final semester must be slated to be a Fall semester. That is, “splits” may only begin with a Fall semester and end with a Spring semester. “Splits” can never start in a Spring semester.

Leaves of Absence for International Students

International students who plan on taking a Leave of Absence must speak with the GSD’s contact at the Harvard International Office (HIO), Ivana Hrga-Griggs, about the immigration-related ramifications of taking a leave, particulary potential ramifications on optional practical training (OPT) eligibility. International students who take a Leave of Absence must be aware of how this might affect his or her visa status and practical training eligibility. Please go to the HIO web site to to make an appointment in order to seak with Ivana about this. The HIO is located on the eighth floor of Smith Student Center in Harvard Square.

Leaves of Absence for Doctoral Students

A Doctor of Design student may apply to the Advanced Studies Programs (ASP) committee for a Leave of Absence of up to two semesters after the first year of study, provided the general examination has been passed. Such a Leave of Absence may be used for collection of data, related field research, or for personal reasons. Students with health or medical issues requiring a Leave of Absence should meet with the Dean of Students, who will help the student make appropriate arrangements for the duration of the leave as well as plans to return, and will ensure compliance with all academic rules. Regardless of a Leave of Absence, the residency requirement for the Doctor of Design program is four academic semesters, and the maximum length of time for the program is three academic years since matriculation. A student must be registered for the semester in which the thesis is submitted for approval.

While on Leave of Absence

Any student who goes on leave of absence during the academic year is charged tuition and any applicable fees, including rent, to the end of the period in which he or she leaves.  Students receiving scholarship or other financial aid should consult the Financial Aid Office concerning the financial implications of going on leave.  Foreign students should consult the International Office concerning their status.

Libraries and other facilities normally may be used only by students who are currently registered (see below). Students on leave may not participate in extracurricular activities.  Exceptions to this rule must be specifically approved in advance by the School.  If so instructed by the Dean of Students, a student on leave must remain away from the University campus.

Students going on leave are reminded that all degree candidates, whether currently registered or not, are expected to maintain a satisfactory standard of conduct.

Following an individualized assessment, the School may require students who are on leave for medical reasons to comply with a treatment plan during their time away.

ID Cards

Students do not have active ID cards while they are on Leave of Absence.

Access to GSD Computing Resources

Students’ GSD email accounts remain active for the duration of their Leave of Absence; however, GSD computer accounts are disabled. Students on leave do not have any access to Design School computing facilities or technical support. Special circumstances, such as required computer course work to be completed, must be arranged with the Dean of Students and Director of Computer Resources.

Library Privileges

Loeb Library Privileges

You can use Loeb Library’s resources onsite for no fee (does not include borrowing privileges) while you are on leave by getting an access card at the circulation desk. If you will be returning to graduate from the GSD and you have research or course work to complete while on leave that requires you to borrow library materials, you may purchase Loeb Design Library borrowing privileges at the alumni rate of $50 for 4 months or $125 for a year. A “Frances Loeb Library Special Borrower” picture I.D. will be issued. This card is non-transferable and valid only at the Loeb Library.

The following conditions must be met:

  1. The student is returning to graduate from the GSD; and
  2. The student has research or course work to complete while on LOA.

To obtain an ID from the Loeb Library a student should present a copy of his or her Leave of Absence Petition to a Loeb Library Circulation Desk staff member. An ID can be created in 24 hours.

Widener Library Privileges

Students should go to the Privileges Desk, Room 195, an immediate left after entering the main entrance to the library, with some form of identification, such as a driver’s license. If a student has been registered for at least one semester, he or she will qualify as an “alumnus” and will be granted privileges which are: 6 days of stacks free and 6 borrowed books free of charge; then $25/3 months or $100/year.

Health Insurance

The date a student goes on leave will affect the student’s health insurance through Harvard. For details, review the Leave of Absence policy on the HUHSP website, or contact the Student Health Insurance Office, Member Services, at 617-495-2008 or mservices@huhs.harvard.edu.

Harvard Housing

Students cannot maintain leases on Harvard housing while on leave, or reside in Harvard dormitories.

Letter of Certification

Students on a Leave of Absence may request a Letter of Certification via the Document Request Form. The Letter of Certification will state the date that you began your course of study at the GSD, the fact that you are on an approved Leave of Absence, as well as the date you are expected to receive your degree.

Returning to School

A student in good standing on a voluntary leave of absence ordinarily may return by notifying the Registrar twelve weeks in advance of the start of any term, although it remains the student’s responsibility to ensure that he or she has adequate time to complete the degree within the time limits established by the School.

Students who were not in good standing at the time a voluntary leave of absence was granted and students who were placed on an involuntary leave of absence must petition the Dean of Students for permission to return to the School and must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to their leave have been satisfactorily addressed and that they are ready to resume their studies.  The decision whether to allow a student to return is made by the Dean of Students, in consultation with the chairperson of the Administrative Board or such other person as the Dean designates.

If the leave, whether voluntary or involuntary, was for medical reasons, then the student must petition the Dean of Students for permission to return to the School and must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to their leave have been satisfactorily addressed and that they are ready to resume their studies.   In addition, so that the School may conduct an individualized assessment of their circumstances, students on medical leave ordinarily will be required to consult with Harvard University Health Services (and to grant permission to Harvard University Health Services to obtain their treatment records and communicate with their treatment providers) so that a professional assessment about the student’s stability and readiness to return can be shared with the School.  Please also note that if the School learns of serious concerns about the health or well-being of a student who is away from School but not on a medical leave of absence, then the School similarly may require the student to consult with Harvard University Health Services (and to grant permission to Harvard University Health Services to obtain their treatment records and communicate with their treatment providers) so that a professional assessment about the student’s stability and readiness to return can be shared with the School.  In all such cases, the decision whether to allow a student to return is made by the Dean of Students in consultation with the executive dean and the student’s program director.

Any disciplinary matter must be resolved before a student on leave of absence will be allowed to return and, if the student has been required to withdraw while on leave of absence, then any conditions for return after a required withdrawal also must be satisfied.

Students returning from a leave who wish to apply for financial aid must notify the Financial Aid Office and file the necessary application forms by mid-April for the following fall term, and by October 1 for the following spring term. Late applicants cannot be assured that their aid will be available in time for registration payment deadlines.

Students who have been granted a leave and who have borrowed money through Harvard must submit an annual loan deferment form to the Student Loan Office upon their return to Harvard. Deferment forms may be obtained through either the Student Loan Office or the Financial Aid Office and must be completed and certified by the Registrar immediately following Registration.  Failure to file a deferment form upon return will cause payments to be due on loans and could affect future borrowing eligibility.

A student will not be allowed to register in the University again until all previous term-bill charges have been paid and no loan is in default.

Contracts for Enrollment

The School may condition a student’s enrollment on certain terms or conditions, as set forth in a written contract between the School and the student, when the student’s conduct or circumstances have caused heightened concerns about the student’s safety and/or well-being and: (a) the appropriateness of the student’s continued enrollment; or (b) the student’s readiness to return to the Harvard community.  The contract may include, among other things, compliance with a medical treatment plan, regular consultations with health care professionals, communication with administrators, and limited disclosure of relevant medical information, on a need to know basis, such as compliance with treatment and restrictions on certain activities.  The decision to require such a contract is arrived at in consultation with Harvard University Health Services after an individualized assessment of the nature of the student’s conduct and circumstances and any other pertinent factors.

Withdrawals

A student who wishes to withdraw from the GSD is required to discuss the matter with his or her assigned faculty advisor or program director and the registrar or the Dean of Students. A letter indicating reasons for withdrawal should then be filed with the registrar. The deadline for withdrawing without becoming liable for payment of tuition is listed in the Academic Calendar and on the registrar’s website. After that date, tuition is charged to the end of the tuition period in which a student withdraws. A student who fails to register by the deadline for late registration in a given term will be withdrawn automatically as of that date, unless a leave of absence has been approved. Students who withdraw must reapply for admission.

Leave of Absence/Withdrawals Tuition Charges

Any student who is granted a leave or withdraws from the university after registration will be held responsible for tuition charges according to the following schedule:

Fall 2017 Term

  • Leaves on or before September 13: no tuition charge
  • Leaves on or before October 5: one-fourth tuition charge
  • Leaves on or before November 3: one-half tuition charge
  • Leaves on or before December 1: three-fourths tuition charge
  • After December 1: full tuition charge

Spring 2018 Term

  • Leaves on or before February 5: no tuition charge
  • Leaves on or before February 23: one-fourth tuition charge
  • Leaves on or before March 26: one-half tuition charge
  • Leaves on or before April 23: three-fourths tuition charge
  • After April 23: full tuition charge