Preparing to Graduate

In the last few Graduate Connections articles, we have worked our way through comprehensive exams and the thesis or dissertation defense. Graduation is within reach. Let’s review what you’ve done to get to the next stage of your academic career.

You have invested the past several months and years into researching and writing about your research. You committed to a project and with guidance from your adviser or mentor, have written the thesis or dissertation to present to your committee. You’ve carefully formatted your manuscript according to the guidelines published on the Graduate Studies web site. Accomplishing all of that is an important step toward completing your degree, but it is also important to make sure you have submitted the appropriate paperwork needed for graduation.

Review your Completed Coursework Forms

The semester prior to the one in which you wish to graduate is a great time for doing that final check of your Program of Studies (for doctoral students) or Memorandum of Courses (for master's students). You will want to use your unofficial transcript found in MyRED to check against your latest, approved official version of your Program of Studies or Memorandum of Courses to determine if all the courses listed have been or are in the process of being taken. Checking it now will give you and your adviser time to make amendments to your program if needed. Your adviser will need to send an email to the appropriate program specialist in the Office of Graduate Studies to update the document.

The final semester or year can be one of negotiations, revisions, and responsibilities. Not being current with your milestone paperwork may impact your ability to graduate. There are resources available to help you as you approach the final tasks so that doesn’t happen. A brief review of some of items you may want to do are discussed in the following paragraphs.

As you enter your final semester, all milestone forms should be up to date so the relevant program specialist in Graduate Studies (Dr. Eva Bachman for doctoral or Ed.S. degrees, Terri Eastin for master’s degrees) is aware of your progress and ability to continue. If you have questions about whether you’ve met these steps you should contact your adviser, program’s graduate support staff member, or the Program Specialist in the Office of Graduate Studies to determine what you’ve filed to this point.

Review Needed Forms and Schedule your Defense

Early in your final semester, you should consult the Graduate Studies’ web site to determine what forms are needed and the deadlines for filing forms, removing incompletes, defending your thesis or dissertation work and depositing the final required paperwork. You should discuss your plans with your adviser and/or supervisory committee to determine schedules and commitments that may impact the scheduling of your defense. You will also need to submit your thesis to dissertation to the Office of Graduate Studies for formatting review, so plan accordingly.

The semester goes by quickly so you’ll want to make a plan moving from your planned defense date backwards to the current time to determine your schedule of tasks to be done. For example, in the fall semester, graduation is usually the 2nd or 3rd Saturday in December. The depositing deadlines are always two weeks prior to the date of graduation. The deadline to file the final oral exam forms are 4 weeks (master’s) or 2 weeks (doctoral) prior to the depositing deadline. Following these steps will ensure that you are cleared to hold the defenses.

Provide the Document to the Committee

If you are a master’s student writing a thesis or a doctoral student you will also need to consider the time needed for your committee to read the document prior to the defense. It is wise to ask your committee members how much time they want to read your document. It is courteous to give them no less than 2 weeks, but they may want more. You will need to plan this into your calendar. With this consideration, your document should be ready to go to your committee no later than six weeks prior to graduation. Remember that you may have some edits to your thesis or dissertation following the defense, so it can often be helpful to schedule your defense with at least a few days before the deadline so that you have time to complete the edits satisfactorily.

During all the steps, the program specialists are available for questions and assistance, please feel free to call them. Their information is available on the Graduate Studies’ web site.