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Graduate Degrees: Overview

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General Requirements

For each Stanford advanced degree, there is an approved course of study that meets University and department requirements. The University's general requirements, applicable to all graduate degrees at Stanford, are described below. University requirements pertaining to only a subset of advanced degrees are described in the "Master's" tab and "Doctoral" tab in this section of this bulletin.

See the "Graduate Programs" section of each department's listing for specific department degree requirements. Additional information on professional school programs other than Ph.D. and master’s degree programs is available in the bulletins of the Graduate School of Business, the School of Law, and the School of Medicine.

Enrollment Requirements

Graduate education at Stanford is a full-time commitment requiring full-time enrollment, typically at least eight units in each academic quarter. Unless permission is granted by the degree program (for example, for field work) enrolled graduate students are required to maintain a significant physical presence on campus throughout each quarter a student is enrolled. Prior to requesting approval to be physically distanced from campus, students should consult with the degree program as well as other university offices about potential funding, visa or other implications. Degree programs and individual faculty should include expectations about physical presence on campus in the advising expectations that are made available to students (see GAP 3.3, Academic Advising).

When considering a student’s request to be physically remote, the degree program should carefully consider the student’s ability to meet the coursework, research and teaching requirements of the program such that they can make satisfactory academic progress. In cases where the student is not able to make satisfactory academic progress and meet the requirements of the program, a leave of absence may be appropriate. Degree programs are not obligated to approve a student’s request to be away from campus.

Graduate students are required to enroll in courses for all terms of the regular academic year (Autumn, Winter, and Spring quarters) from the admission term until conferral of the degree. The only exception to this requirement occurs when the student is granted an official leave of absence (see GAP 5.3, Leaves of Absence, and GAP 5.4, Program Discontinuation and Reinstatement). 

Matriculated graduate students are expected to enroll for at least eight units during the academic year; degree programs may set a higher minimum. Petitions for programs of fewer than 8 must be signed by the student’s degree program and submitted for consideration to the Office of the Registrar. Graduate students are normally expected to enroll in no more than 24 units. (Students in programs in the Schools of Humanities & Sciences, Engineering, Earth Sciences and Education will pay tuition for each unit over 18. The Schools of Medicine, Law, and Business do not charge for units above 18.) Registration for more than 24 units must be approved by the degree program.

Requests to enroll for fewer than eight units during the academic year are approved only in specific circumstances, including enrollment in the Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.) program, or the Honors Cooperative Program (HCP) through the Stanford Center for Professional Development (the Honors Cooperative Program). See GAP 5.2, Part-Time Enrollment.  

Failure to enroll in courses for a term during the academic year without taking an approved leave of absence results in denial of further enrollment privileges unless and until reinstatement to the degree program is granted and the reinstatement fee paid. 

Registration in Summer quarter is not required and does not substitute for registration during the academic year. Degree programs may require students to enroll in the Summer quarter. Students possessing an F-1 or J-1 student visa may be subject to additional course enrollment requirements in order to retain their legal status in the United States.

In addition to the above requirement for continuous registration during the academic year, graduate students are required by Stanford to be registered:

  1. In each term during which any official degree program or university requirement is fulfilled, including qualifying exams or the university oral exam. The period between the last day of final exams of one term and the day prior to the first day of the following term is considered an extension of the earlier term, with the option of considering the two weeks preceding the start of Autumn Quarter as part of Autumn Quarter (rather than as part of Summer Quarter).  
  2. In any term in which a dissertation/thesis is submitted or at the end of which a graduate degree is conferred.
  3. Normally, in any term in which the student receives financial support.
  4. In any term for which the student needs to use university facilities.  
  5. For international students, in any term of the regular academic year (summer may be excluded) for which they have non-immigrant status (i.e., a J-1 or F-1 visa).

Individual students may also find themselves subject to the registration requirements of other agencies (for example, external funding sources such as federal financial aid). Most course work and research are expected to be done on campus unless the degree program gives prior approval. 

Completing requirements in the two weeks before Autumn Quarter

Degree programs have the option to include the two weeks before the start of Autumn Quarter as part of Autumn Quarter for the purposes of completing milestones and programmatic requirements. The following considerations apply to this exception:

  1. The student must enroll in the subsequent Autumn Quarter in the applicable standard enrollment category prior to the completion of the milestone; a leave of absence is not permitted for that Autumn Quarter. 
  2. A student exercising this option will not be eligible for Graduation Quarter status until the following Winter Quarter at the earliest. 
  3. This exception is permitted only for milestones administered by the degree program, such as qualifying examinations or university oral examinations. 
  4. This exception does not apply to deadlines administered through Stanford University, such as filing the Application to Graduate, or Dissertation/Thesis submission.
  5. Degree programs are not obligated to exercise this option solely because a student requests it.