The graduate experience, involving as many dimensions as it does, requires careful and comprehensive planning. This planning is done by the student, the advisor, and the graduate committee. Of course, it should take place early in the graduate career. The necessity for planning underlies the advisory system, the limitation on the number of credits that may be transferred, and requirements that certain amounts of the work in any degree program must be completed at CSU after admission to the Graduate School. These are all explained below.

Comprehensive planning assures that the greatest possible benefit will be gained from graduate study. Depending on discipline, career objectives, and particular curricular needs, unique study plans may be arranged for students on an individual basis.

Just as the scope of activities involved in earning a graduate degree is extensive and complex, so is the necessary evaluation of student performance. Students must not only demonstrate the ability to earn satisfactory grades in their courses, but must also show that they possess those more elaborate abilities and skills essential to the various academic and professional fields. The advisor and graduate committee have the primary responsibility for assessing these broader dimensions of student progress.

The requirements set forward in this section are those of CSU as a whole. However, the various programs may have additional requirements not listed here. These requirements must also be met in completing a degree. Please consult the department for appropriate information. See the Areas of Study within the Graduate Degrees section in the Graduate School website.

Summary of Procedures for the Master's and Doctoral Degrees

NOTE:  Each semester the Graduate School publishes a schedule of deadlines. Deadlines are available on the Graduate School website. Students should consult this schedule whenever they approach important steps in their careers.

Step Due Date
1. Application for admission (online) Six months before first registration
2. Diagnostic examination when required Before first registration
3. Appointment of advisor Before first registration
4. Selection of graduate committee Before the time of fourth regular semester registration
5. Filing of program of study (GS Form 6) Before the time of fourth regular semester registration
6. Preliminary examination (Ph.D. and PD) Two terms prior to final examination
7. Report of preliminary examination (GS Form 16) - (Ph.D. and PD) Within two working days after results are known
8. Changes in committee (GS Form 9A) When change is made
9. Application for Graduation (GS Form 25) Refer to published deadlines from the Graduate School Website
9a. Reapplication for Graduation (online) Failure to graduate requires Reapplication for Graduation (online) for the next time term for which you are applying
10. Submit thesis or dissertation to committee At least two weeks prior to the examination or at the discretion of the graduate committee
11. Final examination Refer to published deadlines from the Graduate School Website
12. Report of final examination (GS Form 24) Within two working days after results are known; refer to published deadlines from the Graduate School website
13. Submit a signed Thesis/Dissertation Submission Form (GS Form 30) to the Graduate School and Submit the Survey of Earned Doctorates (Ph.D. only) prior to submitting the electronic thesis/dissertation Refer to published deadlines from the Graduate School website.
14. Submit the thesis/dissertation electronically Refer to published deadlines from the Graduate School website
15. Graduation Ceremony information is available from the Graduate School website

Forms are available online.

The Advisory System

Since thoughtful planning is vital to a graduate student career, a comprehensive arrangement for advising has been established. Each student is initially assigned a faculty member as advisor by the head of the department in which the major is pursued.

A permanent advisor will be selected from among departmental faculty once initial entry to the program has been completed. (The temporary advisor may assume this role if appropriate.)

The advisor is the chief source of advice in the planning process. This individual works closely with the student throughout the graduate career on all matters related to the degree program.

A close, cordial, and professional relationship is therefore of the utmost importance. Both student and advisor should work at achieving mutual understanding and respect.

Except for those pursuing Plan C master’s degrees, each student has an individual graduate advisory committee. Members of the committee should be chosen on the basis of the student’s interests, the student’s experience with faculty members, and the advisor’s knowledge and expertise. The makeup of a graduate committee must be approved by the department head and, of course, agreed to by the potential members themselves. It is well for the student to assume the responsibility of securing these approvals and agreements.

The purpose of the committee is to make available to the student a broad range of knowledge and expertise. It aids in general advising of the student and assists in planning the major elements of the program. The committee also evaluates student progress throughout the graduate career. It may provide assessments at various stages and it administers the final examination. The committee is not responsible for reminding students of published deadlines nor for monitoring procedural details. The student should manage such matters independently.

The committee must consist of at least three faculty members for a master’s degree program and at least four for a doctoral degree program. The members are as follows:

  1. The advisor who serves as chairperson of the committee and who must hold academic faculty rank as a professor, associate professor, or assistant professor1 of any appointment type within the department or program granting the degree;
  2. One or more additional members from the department;
  3. Any non-departmental faculty member who may be appropriate; and
  4. One member from an outside department who, appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School, represents the Graduate School. The outside committee member appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School must hold a tenured, tenure-track, contract, continuing, transitional, joint, or emeritus/emerita faculty appointment at CSU. The outside member should serve as an impartial external evaluator on the committee, ensuring quality of scholarship and fairness in process.
  5. Non-CSU employees may obtain faculty affiliate appointments in an academic department in order to be eligible to serve on graduate committees. They may also be appointed to such committees through a nomination process that is reviewed and approved by CoSRGE (Faculty Council Committee on Scholarship, Research, and Graduate Education). 

Departments may specify in their Codes whether Senior or Master Instructors may serve as graduate student advisors.

Please contact the Human Resource staff member of the appropriate department to determine the appointment designation of a potential committee member.

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of some scholarship at CSU, conflicts of interest in advisory committees between members or between the student and one or more members may not be avoidable. When a conflict of interest exists, a written report must be submitted by the chair of the advisory committee to the Dean of the Graduate School that includes: 1) the names of those involved in the conflict of interest, 2) the nature of the conflict of interest, 3) a plan to manage the conflict of interest. Failure to disclose a conflict of interest is a violation of CSU Policy (Faculty and Staff Manual: D.7.7., Appendix 2, Appendix 6). Individuals who are not academic faculty but who have special expertise may serve on committees in addition to the prescribed members, but may not vote regarding examination results. 

Plan C master’s students are required to have an advisor but not a committee.

The advisor is identified and the committee is appointed through filing a GS Form 6 with the Graduate School. It is the student’s responsibility to identify an advisor and a committee, all of whom are willing and qualified to serve. The student’s department chair or designee will use their best efforts to facilitate selection of the committee and subsequent changes therein. With notification, temporary replacement of a member may be arranged. A member, including the advisor, may resign from the committee in accordance with any applicable provisions in the student’s departmental code. In such cases, the affected student and their department chair will be notified promptly by the departing member. It is then the student’s responsibility to obtain a replacement. Any permanent changes are recorded through the filing of GS Form 9A with the Graduate School.

Persons who are not academic faculty (as defined in the Academic Faculty and Administrative Professional Manual) of CSU may be appointed full voting members of graduate student advisory committees in the following manner. A person may be nominated for membership on a specific student’s committee. This is accomplished by submission of the following materials to the department head: 1) a resume, 2) relevant supporting material, 3) a statement from the nominated individual that indicates whether or not there is a conflict of interest with any of the committee members or student. If there is a conflict of interest, the chair of the advisory committee must submit a written plan to manage the conflict of interest. If, using procedures and criteria outlined in the departmental code, the department head judges the appointment appropriate, they shall forward a recommendation and all materials to the Dean of the Graduate School. The Dean of the Graduate School shall bring the nomination to the appropriate Faculty Council Committee, which shall act on the nomination.

A person so approved shall be eligible to serve on the committee for the duration of the student’s work toward the degree. The Graduate School shall maintain a roster of such appointments. Although approval is granted with respect to a particular student’s committee, such members may serve on other student committees in the same department with additional departmental approval provided that such service shall not extend beyond five years of the original appointment.

Such non-faculty appointments are subject to the following restrictions.

  1. Such an appointee may not serve as an outside member of graduate committees.
  2. Service may not be as the sole advisor of the student.
  3. The appointee must have a degree equivalent to that sought by the student. In the case of professional doctorate graduate committees, an appointee without an equivalent degree may be nominated if the appointee has a substantial and relevant employment record in an applied setting.
  4. The appointee must not be a student at CSU. 
  5. No more than one such person may serve on any graduate student’s committee.
  6. The person appointed should be an addition to the minimum number now required on graduate committees and not a replacement for required faculty. The advisor may invite others to participate in the examination in a nonvoting, advisory capacity.

Program of Study

Each student must prepare a Program of Study, a document which lists all courses taken in pursuit of the degree. This is the formal statement of what is done to achieve the degree, the summary of all academic planning. The advisor and the committee are heavily involved in the development of the Program of Study. The Program of Study must be filed with the Graduate School before the time of the fourth regular semester registration. Students who fail to meet this requirement may be denied subsequent registration. For Accelerated Master's Programs (AMP)  Admission students, program of study forms (GS Form 6) must be filed by the end of the second week of the students’ first semester after admission to Graduate School. Courses listed and approved on this form for graduate requirements will be automatically excluded from the undergraduate degree program of the student. The Graduate School reviews each program of study (GS Form 6) and determines whether the program of study conforms to University policy. That is, an early graduation check is performed. Problems are reported to students so that they can be corrected at an early date.

While it is important to plan the Program of Study early in the graduate career, it is not necessarily permanently fixed. Plans may develop and change. Modifications must be formally recorded, however, and the advisor, department head, and the Graduate School must approve. Courses which have been taken and for which a grade has been received (A through F, I, S or U) may not be removed from the Program of Study. Changes in program of study or committee membership should be made with extreme care since no additional comprehensive checks are made until the time of graduation.

The Program of Study is submitted on GS Form 6; any changes are recorded on GS Form 25, Application for Graduation.

Scholastic Standards

To meet the requirements for graduation and to remain in good academic standing, a student must demonstrate acceptable performance in course work after being admitted to a graduate program. This requires a cumulative 3.000 grade point average (GPA) in each of the following GPA categories:

1.  Overall course GPA, defined as the GPA calculated from all regular and non-regular courses graded traditionally (A through F).

  • Regular courses with course numbers less than X82.
  • Non-regular courses with numbers X82 to X99. 

2.  Regular course GPA, defined as the GPA calculated from all regular courses graded traditionally.

3.  Program of Study overall GPA, defined as the GPA calculated from all traditionally graded regular and non-regular courses listed on the approved program of study.

4.  Program of Study regular GPA, defined as the GPA calculated from all traditionally graded regular courses listed on the approved program of study.

A minimum GPA of 3.000 in categories 1 and 2 are required to remain in good academic standing. For graduation, a minimum GPA of 3.000 is required in all four categories.

Separate GPAs are calculated based on courses taken as a master’s or doctoral student. For example, changing from a master’s degree to a doctoral degree, or vice versa, will create separate GPAs based on grades received in coursework taken at each degree level.

In addition, good academic standing requires satisfactory progress in the overall graduate program. Students’ individual graduate advisory committees may render judgments as to whether satisfactory progress is being made toward the degree, taking into account all aspects of academic performance and promise, not necessarily coursework alone. A positive judgment is required to remain in good academic standing.

Failure to maintain good academic standing due to a cumulative grade point average less than 3.000 results in being placed on an Academic Dismissal Warning.  The Academic Dismissal Warning period extends for one semester beyond the one in which this status is acquired. Exceptions to the Academic Dismissal Warning period are:

  • New regularly admitted students will not be placed on Academic Dismissal Warning until they have completed 12 regular credits or two semesters of graduate work, whichever comes first, and
  • Students who were admitted after waiver of the minimum undergraduate GPA requirement are considered provisionally admitted. Such students must achieve a regular and overall GPA of 3.000 or higher their first semester or they will be dismissed from their programs and the Graduate School.

During the Academic Dismissal Warning period, the student must register for traditionally graded courses that affect the grade point average. With permission of the student’s advisory committee, the student may register for continuous registration instead of traditionally graded courses. Continuous registration may be used to extend the Academic Dismissal Warning period for a maximum of two semesters, after which traditionally graded courses must be taken. Students on Academic Dismissal Warning are subject to dismissal by the academic department or the Dean of the Graduate School at the end of the Academic Dismissal Warning semester unless good academic standing has been regained. This requires adequate improvement in cumulative grade point averages (3.000) and/or satisfactory progress as determined by the student’s graduate advisory committee. Students not making satisfactory progress due to their grade point average are encouraged to contact their advisors and/or advisory committees in order to set up a meeting to create a progress plan.

Accelerated Master's Programs (AMP) students in combined bachelor’s/master’s degree programs who have accumulated at least 120 credit hours of course work and who fail to maintain a 3.000 GPA in their graduate course work as outlined above will be placed on Academic Dismissal Warning by the Graduate School and will have one semester in which to improve their cumulative grade point averages to no less than 3.000 in their graduate course work. Failure to bring the cumulative graduate GPA to at least 3.000 will result in dismissal from the Graduate School with no re-enrollment permitted prior to completion of the bachelor’s degree. AMP students who are dismissed from the Graduate School, and who are still in good standing within their undergraduate programs, will be permitted to complete their undergraduate degrees. These students can petition the Registrar to reinstate courses to be applied toward their undergraduate degrees.

Grades of C or higher must be earned in all courses on a Program of Study. Outside of the Program of Study, D grades may be accepted in background courses, but such courses must be included in the computation of the cumulative grade point average. There is no repeat/repair option in Graduate School. If a student repeats a course that is on the Program of Study, both courses will be listed on the Program of Study. The Program of Study GPA will be calculated with the higher course grade only, and not with the average grade of both courses. The grades for both courses are included in the GPA calculation for the overall course GPA and regular course GPA from courses taken within and outside of the Program of Study. Graduate students may take 100 and 200 level courses for general enlightenment or to satisfy a background requirement. These courses are not to be included in the student's program of study, and grades earned in such courses will not be considered in computing the graduate grade point averages described above. Once admitted to a graduate program, grades earned in courses 300 level and above will be considered in computing the graduate GPA. Standards and requirements for off-campus graduate study are the same as those standards and requirements on campus. The academic department head has the basic responsibility for the implementation of this policy. Note that only courses with a grade of B or better may be accepted as transfer courses and such courses are not included in the student's calculation of grade point averages.

For thesis, dissertation, research, and independent study graduate courses, the number of student credit hours earned will be determined using a base rate of 48 hours of student effort per credit hour. The faculty advisor, or other department official, shall estimate the total number of hours of student effort required over the length of the semester. This effort shall include consultation with the advisor, as well as library, laboratory, field, or studio work. The total number of hours shall be divided by 48 and the resultant quotient (rounded off to a whole number) shall define the number of credits to be awarded.

Diagnostic Examination

A diagnostic examination is administered by a number of departments before the first registration to determine the areas in which there may be inadequate preparation. Results from the diagnostic examination are used in planning remedial course work when needed and in preparing the Program of Study (GS Form 6).

Final Examinations

Each candidate for a degree, except for Plan C master’s students, must pass a final examination which must be held by the published deadlines of the student’s graduating term. The examining committee is normally the student’s graduate committee with the advisor serving as chairperson. If a department chooses to administer a common examination to its Plan B master’s candidates, a departmental faculty examining committee may serve this function. The common exam must be cumulative in nature and rigorous to assess mastery of program learning objectives. Plans and arrangements for a common final examination for Plan B candidates must be approved and on file with the Graduate School in advance of the examining date.

Voting at all final oral examinations shall be limited to the members of the student’s committee, and a majority vote is necessary to pass the examination. A tie vote is interpreted as failure to pass the examination. Committee members who are not academic faculty do not have a vote on the final examination.

Providing the committee approves, a candidate who fails the final examination may be reexamined once and, for the reexamination, may be required to complete further work. The reexamination must be held no later than 12 months after the first examination. The examination must not be held earlier than two months after the first examination unless the student agrees to a shorter time period. Failure to pass the second exam results in dismissal from the Graduate School.

The student is responsible for submitting the Report of Final Examination (GS Form 24) to the Graduate School Office within two working days after results are known; this must be by the published deadline of the student’s graduating term.

Participation in final examinations by the student and/or one or more members of the examining committee may be virtual via electronic link so long as all are participating simultaneously and all committee members and the student have agreed to this in advance.

Time Limit

There is a ten-year time limit for completion of the master’s or doctoral degrees.

Courses to be applied toward fulfilling the requirements for the master’s and doctoral degrees, including any which may have been transferred from another institution, must have been registered for and completed within the ten years immediately preceding the date of completion of requirements for the degrees.

Continuous Registration

All students admitted to a graduate program at CSU are required to be continuously registered in the fall and spring semester throughout their degree programs. This policy applies from the time of first enrollment through the graduation term. Students may fulfill this requirement by registering for any graduate credit- bearing course (regular or non-regular). As an alternative, students may opt for a Continuous Registration (CR) status. Registration for CR status is accomplished in the same way as registration for courses. Section ID numbers appear in the class schedule under the CR subject code. Students registering for CR will be assessed a fee for each semester of CR registration. Students who register for CR on or after the first day of the term will be charged a Late Registration Fee. Students must be either enrolled for at least one credit or must register for CR during the term (fall, spring, summer) they graduate.

Students enrolled in CR have access to library services and campus computing services; they pay a mandatory University Technology Fee.  CR students may also choose to purchase CSU student health insurance and/or access the CSU Health Network for a fee.

The maximum number of CR semesters a student may enroll in during their degree program is ten (10).  When a student is in their first (1st),  fourth (4th) and eighth (8th) semesters of CR, the student’s advisory committee is required to review the student’s progress and intentions related to degree completion, with input from the student.  Upon completion of the review, a report that provides a student plan which includes academic expectations and an accompanying timeline for satisfactory progress for the degree will be forwarded to the department head/chair and student.  A registration hold will be placed on a student with more than 10 semesters of CR unless the student’s department head has submitted the student’s progression plan and a petition to the Dean of the Graduate School to extend the number of CR semesters to a specific number beyond 10. 

Students may register for CR for the following reasons:

  1. They do not require the use of University resources (other than those listed above), but are actively working on their degree requirements.  Students who are utilizing CSU facilities to conduct their research must not enroll in CR; instead, they must enroll in the appropriate number of research, thesis or dissertation credits. See Contact Hour Guidelines on the Curriculum & Catalog website for information regarding faculty contact time needed to generate credit hours.
  2. They will not be working on their degree requirements, but will be leaving the University for professional or personal reasons (e.g., mission service, medical or parental leave, work) or an official assignment for CSU.

Subject to the established time limits for the earning of graduate degrees and the various academic requirements, CR registrants need not apply for readmission should they wish to take additional graduate courses. Such students are ensured a place in their graduate programs as long as they remain in good academic standing. However, students who do not register will need to apply for readmission for their next semester of enrollment.

The availability of the CR option shall not supersede any other registration requirements to which students may be subject at the University, Department, or Program level. For example, the credit bearing registration requirement for graduate assistantships applies to all students appointed to these positions. Similarly, some units may adopt more stringent CR policies than that expressed here.

Graduate Enrollment Requirement 

Graduate degree candidates must be either enrolled for at least one credit or must register for CR during the term (fall, spring, or summer) they will graduate.

Posthumous Degree

In exceptional circumstances, the Board of Governors of Colorado State University may award degrees posthumously