Graduate Policies & Procedures

Medical withdrawal: procedure

An approved medical withdrawal can be granted for mental and physical conditions (including complications related to pregnancy and post natal newborn care) that prevent or hinder the student from completing or otherwise making satisfactory progress towards academic goals. The decision to request medical withdrawal can be made by one or a combination of persons or offices (see “How to Apply” below).

Medical withdrawal is granted jointly by MIT Medical and the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education, and is not intended as a device to shield a student from unsatisfactory progress or any other academic irregularity.

Students are limited to applying for one regular semester at a time with a twelve-month maximum. Normally, this would encompass two semesters plus one summer. Students should anticipate two to three weeks for the approval to be granted and for notifications to be sent. Students should provide the ODGE with a current mailing address so that notification can be sent via US mail, as necessary.

How to apply: A petition for medical withdrawal can be initiated by one or a combination of the following persons/offices: the student (in consultation with his or her health care clinician); the student’s clinician, program, or department office; or the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education. The health care clinician may be a physician, psychologist, or nurse practitioner.

Two pieces of documentation are required from the student in order to initiate a formal petition. The first is a letter from the clinician, on official stationery, addressed to the Dean for Graduate Education, Room 3-138. The letter should state that in the clinician’s opinion a medical withdrawal is warranted, but details of the illness or condition are not required. Letters from clinicians outside MIT are also accepted and should be addressed appropriately if they are sent by US mail. The second is a letter or email of support from the department from which the student is seeking a medical withdrawal. This letter must include a statement that describes the sources of financial support for the student. The ODGE will handle subsequent communications with sponsors, especially for federally funded fellowships. Once the two pieces of documentation have been received, the ODGE forwards them to the appropriate office at MIT Medical: that is, petitions regarding apparent mental health issues are forwarded to the Chief of Mental Health. All other petitions are forwarded to the Director of Student Health.

MIT Medical will review the petition and other relevant medical records and will consult with faculty and with the Dean for Graduate Education as appropriate. If the student has received medical care outside the MIT Medical Department, additional medical records may be requested for the review. After the review is complete, MIT Medical will make a recommendation to the Dean.

The professional recommendation from MIT Medical will include as appropriate what steps are expected to encourage recovery. Successful follow through on these recommendations will weigh heavily in consideration for the request to return from medical withdrawal status. Once a withdrawal has been granted, the ODGE will notify all essential offices on campus, including the Registrar and the MIT Health Plans Manager for Finance.

Students are encouraged to maintain contact with the academic department or program office during the period of medical withdrawal.

Each term, the student is expected to provide an update from the attending health care clinician to the Dean for Graduate Education on medical status. Effectively, these updates renew the withdrawal status.

Returning from a withdrawal: Returning from an approved medical withdrawal is the same process in reverse, with a clinician’s letter recommending that the student return to his/her studies and the department acknowledgement sent to the ODGE. Students should try, if possible, to anticipate their resumption of studies and plan accordingly to avoid registration problems. Normally, the student should initiate a request to return from withdrawal by July 1 for the fall term or December 1 for the spring term. Typically, formal notification will be sent to the student via US mail.

MIT Medical will review the clinician’s letter(s), relevant MIT records, information from health care providers outside of MIT, and consult as needed with other individuals. After the review is complete, MIT Medical will make a recommendation to the Dean for Graduate Education about return from withdrawal. Students may not register without the Dean’s explicit consent.

Since funding and/or research within the department may have changed over time, the department will need to examine carefully the viability of the student returning to his or her prior research project. The student is strongly encouraged to consult with the department about such matters.

Special conditions for students on withdrawal: Students on approved medical withdrawal are no longer registered at the Institute and are therefore subject to certain restrictions. These restrictions involve access, housing, and funding. In addition, there are visa and immigration restrictions for international students. Below is a brief summary of the key restrictions for students on a medical withdrawal.

Student Financial Services: A student on an approved medical withdrawal is no longer registered for classes and no longer eligible to receive funding from or through MIT, including research assistantships or teaching assistantships. Under most circumstances, external fellowship funding is also suspended. The student is encouraged to contact the fellowship administrator for applicable policy, since some fellowships pay stipends directly to students.

Once Student Financial Services (SFS) receives notification from the ODGE that a medical withdrawal has been granted, federal loans for the term are pro-rated to the effective date of the withdrawal. A student who drops below half time is expected to make payments towards his/her federal student loans. The six-month grace period, which typically begins once a student has graduated, will begin on the effective date of the withdrawal. It is important to note that for federal loan purposes, all students are permitted only one six month grace period before being expected to make payments on their loans. Students on withdrawal for more than six months will be required to make payments on their loans; otherwise they will be found in default. Students are advised to stay in close touch with an SFS representative to avoid possible delinquency notices caused by a medical withdrawal.

Student medical insurance: Students on medical withdrawal may retain their coverage; however, they can expect to pay approximately double the cost for the semester(s) they are on withdrawal. Students are billed for the MIT Student Extended Insurance Plan plus the basic MIT student health plan fee, the latter of which is normally free to registered students. (See the web site for the MIT Medical Department for current rates.) Students who have waived the extended insurance plan may not enroll at the time of withdrawal.

Athena access: Athena accounts for students on medical withdrawal are marked for deactivation. The Athena Accounts Office does a general account deactivation once a year in January based on lists of registered students supplied by the Registrar. Those students whose accounts are marked for deactivation are first notified via an alert when they log into the system. If a student does not acknowledge the alert, Athena Accounts will send a specific account deactivation message requesting that the student contact them directly. If a student asks not to have his/her account deactivated, the student’s advisor may sign the student on as his/her guest. This status can be maintained as long as the advisor is willing to be listed as the student’s sponsor. Sponsors are emailed in late summer so that the deactivation lists for the fall can be prepared.

International students: Medical withdrawals for foreign national students need to be updated each term, with a new clinician’s letter in the file. The maximum amount of time a foreign national student can remain in the US in “student status on medical leave” is one year (which is defined as a consecutive twelve month period). If the condition persists, the position of the US federal government is that the student must return to the home country, or country of legal residence. When the medical condition improves sufficiently so that the student can resume full time study, new documents may be needed to re-enter the US. Consult the International Students Office early in the application process for current regulatory information.