In Absentia

You may apply for in absentia status to conduct approved research or study 100 miles or more away from the Cornell campus while still under the guidance of your special committee. This status is available to research degree students whether enrolled in Ithaca (including Geneva) or Cornell Tech.

To apply for in absentia status, submit an In Absentia Request with a study plan approved by your special committee outlining how you will accomplish your degree requirements. Approval by the Graduate School is required. In absentia students are charged $200 tuition/semester.

When you are in approved in absentia status you are eligible for fellowships, assistantships (excluding TAships), the student health plan, and educational loans. The same limitations on employment apply for in absentia students as for on-campus students; time away from campus is expected to focus on making academic progress.

Common reasons students change their status to in absentia:

  • Conducting research for an extended period of time at a location far from campus.
  • Traveling to another institution for an extended period of time to use library, archival, laboratory, or other resources to advance your scholarship.
  • Taking courses at another university that are not available at Cornell.

In absentia status will not be approved for reasons related to immigration or finances; there must be an academic justification for holding in absentia status.

While in approved in absentia status you may not take classes or engage in research at another Cornell Graduate School campus location.

In Depth

Who is eligible?

  • Ph.D. students: Must have completed two semesters of enrollment at a Cornell campus.
  • Research master’s students: Must have completed at least one semester of enrollment at a Cornell campus.
  • Professional master’s students: Not typically eligible, except by special permission of their program.
  • Non-degree students: Not eligible.
  • International students: Eligible per the requirements listed above.

How to initiate the process?

File an in absentia request to change your status. Include a study plan outlining the project you will undertake while in absentia, including dates, location, and financial resources you will use. Include a schedule of how you will complete your academic degree requirements. The plan must be approved by your special committee.

Requests must be received by June 15 for fall in absentia and November 1 for spring in absentia. Requests filed after the deadline will be considered on a case-by-case basis, and students will be subject to finance charges and fees. Requests cannot be accepted after the start of the academic term.


You may request in absentia status for a maximum of two academic semesters at a time. In absentia status is not automatically extended; you must submit a new request justifying the need for the extension. If you request an extension, your study plan must include what research you have completed and what research still needs to be done.

You may be in absentia for no more than a total of eight academic semesters. You can maintain enrolled student status over the summer by enrolling in GRAD 9016 via Student Center.


Tuition is charged at $200 per semester.

Time to degree

Time in absentia counts toward time to degree.

Financial support

The original offer of financial support that you received when you were admitted continues if you maintain satisfactory academic standing.

Employment limitations

You are expected to abide by the same limitations on additional responsibilities and work as students enrolled on-campus: no more than five hours per week for students on GA, or RA; no more than eight hours per week for students on training grants, fellowships, or GRAs. Students outside the U.S. are not generally eligible to hold assistantship appointments.

Health insurance

Cornell requires all students to have quality health insurance. Students will be automatically enrolled in Cornell’s Student Health Plan (SHP), but if you do not need or want coverage and have been approved for full-year in absentia, you may request a waiver from the Office of Student Health Benefits. Visit their website for more information, or contact with questions.

Access to Cornell facilities and personnel during in absentia

You will maintain access to Cornell facilities and personnel while in absentia; however, you are limited on the amount of time you may spend on campus. See limitation below. For students managing mental health while away from campus, please visit this resource.

Travel while in absentia

If you are traveling outside the U.S., register at Cornell’s Travel Registry, a secure system to record travel plans and contact information that supports emergency communications and emergency travel assistance while abroad.

Cornell’s free assistance program provides emergency evacuation assistance, medical referrals worldwide, and travel assistance in emergency situations. 


  1. You may return to campus for a maximum of three weeks each semester to meet with your special committee while on in absentia status.
  2. You will be required to show your progress and accomplishments during your time away from campus.
  3. A Ph.D. student may not complete more than two of the required semesters of enrollment while in absentia. A master’s degree student may not complete more than one of the required semesters of enrollment while in absentia.

Learn more about in absentia

Review the Code of Legislation.



Graduate Student Services Office