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Health and Wellness in Graduate Education

The Office of Graduate Education is committed to the health and wellness of its students and provides a number of programs designed to promote well-being.

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More About Wellness for Graduate Students

Insurance Expand answer

Insurance requirements differ based on the status of the student or trainee.

Graduate Assistant Paid Leave Expand answer

The guidelines for Graduate Assistant Paid Leave can be found at the Graduate School at Penn State’s website.

The Penn State College of Medicine Graduate Student Leave of Absence Policy is listed here.


A Graduate Leave of Absence (GLA) is authorized permission for a graduate student to withdraw from their formal studies due to a significant health issue or other significant reason that prevents continued progress toward their degree for six weeks or more.


The purpose of the GLA is to allow graduate students who must withdraw from their program for health or other reasons to resume their studies without having to apply for re-enrollment and without changing conditions and requirements of their graduate program.

Terms and Conditions

  • A graduate student whose thesis adviser’s primary faculty appointment is at the College of Medicine may request a Graduate Leave of Absence (GLA) from their studies when a serious health issue or other serious personal issue arises that interferes with progress toward their degree.
  • A graduate student requesting a GLA must provide a written statement describing the need for a leave. If the issue concerns the student’s health, a statement from the physician involved in the student’s care is required at the time the request is made. (This statement does not need to provide diagnostic information, but simply confirm that the student’s current health status would prevent them from success in the program.) The Associate Dean for Graduate Education will determine what (if any) documentation is required for other situations.
  • GLA requests will be granted or denied after review by the Associate Dean for Graduate Education.
  • Initial GLA requests can be for up to one year. Extensions to an approved GLA will be considered upon submission of additional information. Extensions to an approved GLA beyond one year are at the sole discretion of the Associate Dean for Graduate Education.
  • A student who wishes to return to their studies after a GLA must notify the Associate Dean for Graduate Education 30 days before reenrollment is planned. In the case of a leave for health reasons, a current evaluation from the treating physician indicating that the student’s health status has improved such that the student is likely to be successful in their studies is required. A GLA granted for other reasons may have different return requirements as determined by the Associate Dean for Graduate Education. Upon receipt of the necessary materials, the student will be notified that they may re-enroll and register for the next semester. While reenrollment is technically required due to the Graduate School’s current system, for a student with an approved GLA this is a pro forma step to update status with Penn State; no re-evaluation of academic credentials will occur.
  • If a student with an approved GLA that is about to expire does not notify the Associate Dean for Graduate Education of their intentions to resume formal studies or request an extension to the GLA, it will be assumed that the student no longer wishes to continue in graduate school and has permanently withdrawn from their program.

Translation Note

If any physician’s documentation provided is not in English, the student must give permission for a Penn State employee with appropriate language skills to translate the document. All HIPAA and FERPA privacy standards apply.

Action Steps

  • A student requesting a GLA must submit the request in writing, along with a completed, signed GLA form (see links below). The written request should include all pertinent details. If the leave is for health reasons, a physician’s statement, including the date the leave will begin, and including the proposed duration of the leave must be provided. The student must meet with and present a copy of the request to their adviser. The student and adviser must discuss and document the following:
    • Any actions that must be taken to preserve laboratory progress before the student leaves
    • The date the leave becomes effective (note: the student’s stipend will end on this date)
    • The likelihood of the student returning to their current research project at the end of the leave
  • Once the student and adviser have signed the form, it should be signed by the student’s program director and submitted to the Associate Dean for Graduate Education.
  • The Associate Dean for Graduate Education will review the GLA request, after which the student will receive official notice of whether the request has been approved. If approved, this notice will:
    • Summarize any conditions pertinent to the student’s leave
    • Set a date (30 days before the student is scheduled to return) by which time the student must notify the Associate Dean for Graduate Education of their intent to return as scheduled or request an extension.
  • Thirty days prior to the date of return from the GLA, the student must notify the Associate Dean for Graduate Education. Students must pay any outstanding balance on their student account before reenrolling.


  • Stipend. The student’s stipend will end on the date the GLA becomes effective.
  • Health insurance. If the student has attended scheduled classes for 30 calendar days during the semester (or worked in the laboratory for 30 days during which classes were scheduled), the student may maintain health insurance through the remainder of the semester by paying the student’s portion of the insurance premium(s) for the balance of the semester.
  • Thesis adviser. It is generally expected that a student will have the same thesis advisor when they return to their studies who will provide their stipend and tuition support as before (although their thesis project may change). In rare cases the student may need to identify a new thesis adviser. In these cases the Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Studies will provide up to four months of stipend support for the student to identify a new thesis adviser.
  • Housing. In general, students must be enrolled full-time to maintain eligibility for University housing. If a student requesting a leave of absence is currently living in University Manor housing, and is expected to return to full-time studies by the start of the next semester (fall, spring or summer), the student may keep their University Manor housing provided they notify the housing office and continue to pay the rental fee in compliance with their current University Manor apartment lease.
  • Continuous enrollment. When appropriate, the Associate Dean for Graduate Education will petition Graduate Enrollment Services to waive the continuous enrollment requirement.
  • Dissertation time limit. Time limits to degree completion (eight years from Candidacy Examination, six years from Comprehensive Examination) will generally not be extended.

GLA Form

  • The student is responsible for completing a GLA form and obtaining any required signatures, as well as completing any other required forms.
  • If the student is currently registered for courses for the fall or spring semesters, including 600 or 601, the student must complete the University Withdrawal Form (Penn State Access ID login required).
  • The University Withdrawal Form is not required during the summer semester unless the student is registered for classes.
  • The Office of Graduate Education will make a copy of the fully signed form for the student. The original will be placed in the student’s academic folder.
  • History

    • Oct. 7, 2010: Approved, graduate program directors
    • Feb. 16, 2011: Approved, basic science chairs
    • April 26, 2011: Approved, College of Medicine senior leadership team
    • Aug. 10, 2011: Approved, Executive Council
    • Sept. 7, 2011: Approved, Faculty Organization
    New Parent Leave Expand answer

    For new parent accommodations, please complete this online form. Note that after you complete the form, an email is sent to your adviser; they must take action to approve your request, so please work with them to ensure that is completed so your request can be processed.