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Health Leave


A health leave of absence is a voluntary separation from the university for health reasons, and allows you to “stop the clock” on your academic responsibilities while you take care of your health needs.

Please note: Maternity and paternity leaves are covered under the Parental Accommodation Policy 1.6.

You should take a health leave when your health is negatively affecting your academic performance. Talking with Cornell Health and the Graduate School can help you determine when this course of action is appropriate for you. Some common signs that a health leave might be helpful for you:

  • Your medical condition has made it difficult for you to focus or concentrate.
  • Your medical condition has left you lacking the motivation needed to successfully pursue graduate studies.
  • Your medical condition has made it difficult to complete your academic or research requirements.

Allowed length of health leaves:

  • Each health leave can be up to 12 months.
  • Health leaves may be renewed annually for up to four years total. 

In Depth

If you think your health is negatively affecting your academic performance, we suggest you discuss your concerns with your health care provider with a focus on how your health is impacting different aspects of your life, including your academic performance. A common indicator that something is negatively affecting your life is a decreased ability to focus or concentrate or finding yourself less motivated. 

How to initiate the process

Talk to your health care provider. Then, talk to Cornell Health. Cornell Health will review your situation and determine if a health leave is your best course of treatment. If you need help initiating the process, please contact Janna Lamey.

Length of leave

Cornell Health will review your plan and determine how long the leave should be with a maximum of 12 months with annual renewal possible for up to four years total. Typically, students with mental health concerns should allow a minimum of 6 months on a health leave prior to returning.

Time to degree

Time away does not count toward time to degree.

Financial support

Financial support is not available to a student on a health leave. The amount remaining from the original offer of financial support at time of admission is available to you upon return from health leave, if you are in good academic standing. Note: For U.S. citizens with educational loans, the repayment grace period starts the date the loans become active.

Health insurance

SHP continues until the end of the health insurance plan year. Payment of premium is negotiated.

If you have SHP and need medical services, you may be seen at Cornell Health until the end of your plan year. After the plan year, you will no longer have access to Cornell Health services; however, you may call Cornell Health for a referral to a local community provider.

If you need psychological services while on leave, you will be referred to other providers.

You are eligible to enroll in SHP for a period of up to 12 months while not enrolled as a student by contacting the Student Insurance Office at (607)255-6363 or

Cornell access

If you are on a health leave, you will no longer have access to campus facilities and services that you would normally access with your netid. However, you may request library privileges with support from your academic advisor and director of graduate studies, and pay any applicable fees. Net ID access continues for up to 3 years.

Academic plan

Within 3 months of the approved health leave, your graduate field will provide you and the Graduate School with an academic plan that may include a variety of milestones. You must complete any milestones listed prior to being considered for readmission to registered student status within the field after your health leave. This plan may also state that no academic activity is expected during the leave period.

International students

Discuss your plans with International Services. It is possible for most international students to remain in the United State legally while getting medical treatment for up to a year.

Learn more

See the complete FAQ.



Janna Lamey
Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Life