Things to know at least the semester before you defend and/or graduate
As you approach graduation there are important rules and dates to keep in mind. The University considers graduation the cycle/semester the written thesis is filed, not the final oral thesis defense date. Most of the time these two events happen in the same semester but they do not have to. On occasion a student may defend the oral component of the thesis in one semester but must file the written thesis by the appropriate deadline the “next cycle”. The cycles are Fall, Spring, and Summer (3 per year). This is especially important for students who defend in the Spring, since they must file their written thesis by the Summer (typically July) deadline.
There is only one “hooding” graduation ceremony in May for graduate students. Individuals graduating in non-May cycles may attend the following May’s session if they desire.
The University requires all students be registered in the cycle/semester the student defends the oral component. Students are usually registered except for the Summer. Therefore, a student defending the oral component in the Summer must also register as a student the summer session in which the oral defense occurs. (Although the student should match the summer session they are registered with the oral defense date, there is only one written defense filing deadline each Summer.) Importantly, the University does not allow a student to register as a student the cycle after completing the oral defense. This means if a student stays in the same lab after the oral defense they must arrange an employment position. Commonly, the scenario of defending the oral thesis one semester, but filing the written thesis the next is used by students who have a job position already lined up but were unable to file/complete the written thesis by the required semester deadline.
If a student fails to file the final written thesis no later than the next cycle deadline after the final oral defense the University generally will not consider the student a graduate. Given all the constraints above, doing both the oral and written final defense in the same semester is preferable but not required.
Be aware the student and student alone must very early in the semester of planned graduation log into their ConnectCarolina account and complete self-service information for intent to graduate. Do NOT miss these deadlines. Procedures and deadlines for each cycle/semester can be found at https://gradschool.unc.edu/academics/resources/graddeadlines.html.
Working Backwards to Time Graduation Events
A strict deadline for graduating is filing the thesis; this date is set by the grad school and PhD programs have no say in this. Check the academic calendar, but this date is typically a month or so before the end of the semester (or end of summer session): https://gradschool.unc.edu/academics/resources/graddeadlines.html
The formatting of the thesis is determined by the grad school – not the program. There are many strict rules, however, the grad school will work with the student if the thesis is submitted before the deadline to allow formatting changes AFTER the thesis is submitted. (It is typical that minor changes to the thesis are made after submission.) What is in your thesis is between you and your thesis committee. The thesis committee must literally sign off on your thesis before it is filed with the grad school. A complete grad school guide on the thesis formatting can be found here: https://gradschool.unc.edu/academics/thesis-diss/guide/
Working backwards, in order to get comments on your thesis you must submit it to your committee at least 2-weeks before your final private defense. Once you have passed your private final defense you should work with your committee to schedule your public defense. Notify the student services manager to advertise the event and help book a room if necessary. Comments/corrections by your thesis committee to your thesis are generally delivered by the committee at/no later than your public defense. Remember, you cannot file the thesis with the grad school until your committee has literally signed off on the form. Bottom of this page: https://www.med.unc.edu/cellbiophysio/cell-biology-and-physiology-curriculum/student-information/milestones-timeline-and-forms/
So the timing of these events is up to you and your committee. Do not forget the first event (which only you can do) is clicking intent to graduate in your Connect Carolina account. (that deadline is very early in the semester! ~a month into the semester/cycle) https://registrar.unc.edu/academic-services/graduation/applying-for-graduation/
In case you missed it, the top of this page explains the rare cases when thesis filing happens the semester/cycle after the private/public defense. (However, this is rare and does not work for most students.)