FAQ: Medical Leave from MIT

What is medical leave?

Medical leave is a leave of absence from MIT for medical reasons. Medical leave allows students to focus their resources and time on getting better rather than studying. At many other schools, any student who is hospitalized is automatically given a medical leave from school. At MIT, we assess each individual case to determine what’s best for the student. 

When is medical leave recommended?

A medical leave is recommended — or is initiated by a student — when the student’s medical condition interferes with their ability to do schoolwork, manage day-to-day functioning, or live safely in the school environment. A medical leave is often recommended when it becomes clear that a student needs more intensive treatment than is possible while registered for classes. 

What’s the process for medical leave?

Medical leaves are processed through Student Support Services (for undergraduates) or the Office of Graduate Education (for graduate students) with consultation from Student Mental Health & Counseling or another area at MIT Health. A few facts: 

  • Medical leaves are reevaluated each term. 

  • Leaves are usually for a minimum of one full term but may be as long as two terms plus a summer. 

  • Often students must fulfill specific requirements during the leave, such as obtaining medical treatment and taking courses or working.  

How do students return to MIT after medical leave?

For undergraduates, the return process is initiated through Student Support Services. The student prepares a return application, including a statement about what they have done during the medical leave and why they are now ready to return. In the case of a student applying to return after a mental-health-related leave, either the chief or the associate chief of Student Mental Health & Counseling will assess the student’s medical stability, level of functioning, and readiness to return by interviewing the student and, perhaps, by speaking with clinicians whom the student saw during the leave period. They will provide this assessment to the committee evaluating the return. 

Sometimes, Student Support Services will require that a student continue in therapy after returning to MIT. Student Mental Health & Counseling has a support group for students who have recently returned from medical leave. 

For graduate students, the return process goes through the Office of Graduate Education (OGE) and must be initiated by June 15 for the fall term or November 15 for the spring term. To begin the process, a student on medical leave should provide OGE with: 

  1. A letter from their clinician stating that the student is well enough to return to academic and campus life. The letter should include some basic information about the clinician’s basis for the opinion. 

  1. A letter from their department supporting the return. The student should make this request through the department’s graduate administrator.

Note: As each person’s situation is unique, students are urged to contact the OGE for specific guidance regarding the content of the required letters. For more information, consult the medical leave section of the OGE website. 

Can you recommend additional information about medical leaves related to mental health?

Yes, McLean Hospital’s College Mental Health Program has produced a very useful  Student Guide to Mental Health Treatment.

Have questions about your health insurance coverage while on medical leave? Visit the MIT Student Insurance office website.