The following is a short description of the general process of degree completion. Every graduate student will complete these steps in nearly this order.
If you've already been admitted, congratulations, welcome, and read on. If you haven't, you may want to visit our Admission information.
Graduate education is distinguished by its currency of knowledge. No matter which department/school or program you're in or which degree you're seeking, you'll encounter knowledge that is among the most current in your field. In order to assure this currency, you're expected to complete your degree within a fixed period of time. Any extension beyond this time requires the approval of your department/school and the Graduate School. Extensions are not routinely granted, will only be granted for cause, and require a clear timeline for completion and measurable benchmarks.
|Degree||Maximum time to completion|
|Master of Fine Arts||8 years|
A graduate student is expected to be in good standing during the entire time of enrollment. The criteria for good standing include those set by the Graduate School and articulated in the Graduate Catalog which states, in part, "A student must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 in graduate work at this university to be in Academic Good Standing at the graduate level." See the graduate catalog for details. Individual departments/schools and programs may have additional discipline-specific criteria for good standing, for example, a minimum grade in a clinical practicum. Failure to maintain good standing may result in probation, loss of funding, or termination from graduate studies.
Each program advises students differently. Contact your graduate coordinator to make an appointment for advising. During this time you and your advisor will agree on a program of study that fits your academic goals. You may select courses, research groups, exit options (see below). These decisions will define your future graduate studies. Think about your goals carefully and be sure your program of study will lead you to realize them.
Graduate programs have one of three structures: course-only, comprehensive exam, or thesis/dissertation. Not every program offers all three options.
Graduate students in the course-only option will typically take more credits than students in the other options. One of their final courses will typically be capstone experience (for instance, a project, paper, or performance) during which they synthesize their course material to produce some final scholarly or creative project. The comprehensive exam option allows students the same synthesizing opportunity, but by way of a written and/or oral exam. These two options vary widely by department and program. If you are following these exit options, consult with your graduate coordinator for details on the structure and timeline for completion.
With the thesis/dissertation option, students produce a scholarly or creative work based on original investigation. This is the option most frequently identified with graduate studies. Through a thesis/dissertation you join the scholarly conversation in your discipline. These high rewards come with high expectations.
(If you are in a master's program, you should be aware that, although this varies by discipline, many doctoral programs will expect you to have completed a thesis before they will admit you.)
You're expected to complete the coursework for your program of study within the maximum time described above. Registration for summer and fall classes begins mid-spring, for spring classes in mid-fall. You should register as soon as possible to assure the best choice of classes and to help programs determine demand for sections. Registration takes place on-line through My.IllinoisState.edu, a personalized web portal. If a class is full, students may be able to arrange an override by contacting the department/school. The Registrar's Office maintains general instructions on registration.
Our families often think of a thesis/dissertation as a very long book report...and sometimes it's best to let them think that. The process provides for a careful and supervised way to create, defend, and disseminate original research, scholarship, and creative endeavors. We describe the process in detail in the Thesis and Dissertation Assistance section of this website.
You're almost done! The University has three graduation dates per year: in December (fall semester), May (spring semester), and August (summer semesters). No matter when during the semester you actually complete your degree requirements and apply for graduation, your diploma will be issued on one of these three dates.
Commencement ceremonies are held only twice a year: in December and May. Apply to participate in the ceremonies during the semester you complete all your degree requirements. Master's candidates who complete a degree in May or August participate in the May ceremonies; those who complete in December participate in the December ceremonies. Doctoral candidates participate in the ceremony immediately following the completion of requirements.
Your participation in commencement is optional. An application for degree completion, graduation fee, and commencement participation form must be on file by the deadline to participate in the commencement ceremony. Complete details for participating in the ceremony can be found on the graduation services website.