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.

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 A student who fails to register for the next regular academic term following a Leave of Absence will be withdrawn automatically as of the end of the term in which the Leave of Absence expired. A student who is withdrawn must reapply for admission.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 or MDES 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 or MDES 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.

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

Whether you are planning on taking a leave of absence prior to the start of a new term, or taking a leave mid-term, your Harvard University Student Health Program (HUSHP) coverage will be impacted. Students should refer to the HUSHP Leave of Absence policy.

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.