How to leave MIT (and come back)

Over 30 students have taken time off from the Institute through the “leave of absence” designation implemented by the Committee on Academic Performance last spring.

These students have left to pursue job opportunities, internships, or just take some time away from MIT. The leave of absence designation means that they can return to the Institute at any time over the next two years with minimal paperwork.

The leave of absence gives students flexibility to take time off for any reason — including work, travel, volunteering, or personal time — with the guarantee that they can return to the Institute when they choose. Students can take at most one leave of absence during their time at MIT, and their leave can last for up to two years.

“The idea behind the leave of absence is that students wanted an easy way to come and go from the Institute, and I think we’ve created a process that’s really simple,” David Randall, senior associate dean of student support and wellbeing, said.

Students must declare a leave of absence within ten days of the registration date of the term they would like to take off. A student planning to take spring semester off, for example, would have to declare their intention to do so by Feb. 16.

But once a student has decided to take leave, the rest of the process is straightforward: it entails filling out an online form (available on the S3 website) with a name, course number, and a few other details. The final question (which isn’t marked required) asks what the student plans to do on leave. In all, it took this reporter one minute and 14 seconds to fill out the form. Had I pressed ‘submit,’ I could theoretically be spending the next year away from MIT, doing conceivably anything. Tempting.

In addition to the form, students will also have to make arrangements with the financial aid office and cancel their housing for the semesters away. This can be done in consultation with S3 deans, who can help guide students through the process.

Notably, while consultation with S3 deans is encouraged, approval is not required.

Returning from a leave of absence is similarly straightforward: the form (also online at the S3 website) asks whether the student will be requesting housing in a dorm or an FSILG, and students can fill in a description of what they’ve done during their leave. Otherwise, it’s identical to the leave request form.

To return in the fall semester, the form must be submitted by June 15; that deadline is Nov. 15 to return in the spring semester.