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Ph.D. Students and Registration Policy

The following table provides general guidance about registration choices. Students should have conversations with their graduate chair or program director to make the best decision.

Common Activities of Ph.D. Students
Common activities of Ph.D. students during a fall or winter semester (this list is not exhaustive) What should I do?
Taking a course at U-M Register at U-M
Preparing for comprehensive, preliminary or qualifying examinations Generally register at U-M as 990 and elect credit hours that reflect your effort in the term
Conducting research with your advisor’s collaborators at another institution, but not as an official student there Register at U-M
Working on your degree while living outside the Ann Arbor area Register at U-M
Collecting data or conducting research Register at U-M
Analyzing data or writing Register at U-M
Working on publications Register at U-M
Completing an internship or working in a national laboratory Register at U-M
Teaching at another institution while working on your dissertation Register at U-M
Formally enrolled in a course or language at another institution that is at least 7 weeks long in a fall or winter semester. Activity is endorsed by your graduate program since it is relevant to your Ph.D. work Extramural Study status
Taking a semester off for personal needs Leave of Absence – Personal Reasons
Exploring a short-term opportunity that is not related to your graduate study Leave of Absence – Personal Reasons
Wanting to be a stay-at-home parent Leave of Absence – Family Necessity or Dependent Care Reasons
Wanting to care for your sick child Leave of Absence – Family Necessity or Dependent Care Reasons
Wanting to care for an ill family member Leave of Absence – Family Necessity or Dependent Care Reasons
Addressing a physical or mental illness that interferes with your ability to work on your degree Leave of Absence – Medical Reasons
Fulfilling military service obligations Leave of Absence – Military Reasons

Policies and Resources

Ph.D. students have consistent access to all of the University’s resources and services, even during the summer when they are not registered.

Ph.D. students on an approved leave of absence or hold Extramural Study status will remain eligible for limited services that foster continued connection to their graduate program or facilitate the return to active study at U-M. Some services are paid for by the University, while others are available for an additional cost.

Download a select list of the resources and services available to Ph.D. students.

Questions about Registration

Do Ph.D. students need to register in every term?

Ph.D. students register for all fall and winter semesters from matriculation to degree completion. The only exceptions are students on an approved leave of absence and those who hold Extramural Study status. Students will only register for the spring/summer semester if they take a course, achieve a milestone, or defend their dissertation.

Students should work with faculty and staff in their graduate program to determine their appropriate student status (registered, leave of absence, Extramural Study status) given their activities during the semester. All students should register prior to the first day of classes in each fall and winter term.

A comparison chart of different Ph.D. student statuses is available.

What if a student is in a dual degree program outside of Rackham?

Registration in another U-M Ann Arbor graduate or graduate professional program satisfies the registration requirement.

What happens if a student does not register?

Students who are not registered, on an approved leave of absence, or who hold Extramural Study status by the last day of classes in a fall or winter semester will be presumed to have withdrawn and will be discontinued from their Ph.D. programs.

What does it mean to discontinue from a Ph.D. program?

When a student discontinues from a Ph.D. program, they are no longer a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan and his or her funding commitments expire. The student is no longer eligible for University services or faculty guidance.

If a student discontinues from a Ph.D. program, can they return at a later date?

Former students can apply to return to their program of study. The graduate program’s faculty admissions committee decides whether to readmit an individual. If the student is reinstated, the student is assessed a reinstatement fee with the registration. More details about Reinstatement to a Ph.D. program are available on the Rackham website.

Questions about Other Options and Considerations

When should a student consider a leave of absence?

There are four types of leaves of absence: medical reasons, family necessity/dependent care reasons, military service, and personal reasons. Ph.D. students are eligible for a leave of absence during a fall or winter term any time after the first semester of their graduate career. If approved, the leave substitutes for the registration requirement at U-M.

Students are encouraged to register whenever possible. They may work with their program to find ways to balance their studies with other needs and continue to make degree progress, such as working at a slower pace or delaying milestones. Students should talk to their graduate chair or program director to consider alternatives to a leave of absence at U-M.

What if a student needs to take courses at another university as part of his or her Ph.D. work?

Extramural Study status is granted to students who enroll at another institution to complete academic coursework related to their U-M Ph.D. degree. If the course is relevant to the student’s Ph.D. work, is seven weeks or longer, and falls within a fall or winter term, students may apply for this status. Their graduate program chair or director must confirm the relevance of the study to the Ph.D. degree. If approved, students with Extramural Study status register at the institution where they are taking courses. The registration at the other institution substitutes for the registration requirement at U-M.

What if a student is conducting research, has an internship, or just wants to live outside of Ann Arbor?

Ph.D. students are able to conduct research and pursue other scholarly activities in locations throughout the country and around the world. If students are engaged in degree-related activities during a fall or winter semester time period, then they will remain registered during that time regardless of where they are living or working.

Students should consult with their graduate program if they will not be in Ann Arbor, since some programs may require teaching in certain years or research in a specific location (e.g., research laboratory is located on campus). However, this does not affect the registration requirement with Rackham.

What if a student plans to become a parent?

Rackham’s Graduate Student Parental Accommodation Policy allows students to remain registered while using a six-week period of accommodation immediately following the birth or adoption of a child. In addition, students can consult with their faculty advisors and graduate programs to explore options to work at a slower pace or delay milestones beyond the parental accommodation period in order to continue to make degree progress. Students who use the parental accommodation period subsequently can take a leave of absence for dependent care, if desired.

Contact Academic Records and Dissertations

0120 Rackham Building
915 East Washington Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1070
Phone: 734.763.0171
Fax: 734.936.3335


Academic Records and Dissertations is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The office is closed Saturdays and Sundays and on the following holidays: Thanksgiving (Thursday and the following Friday), Christmas through New Year's, Memorial Day, Independence Day (July 4), and Labor Day.