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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 s/he 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

Q. What are the first 2 things that I need to do when thinking about scheduling my thesis defense?
A. Consult the deadline page on the UNC Graduate School website and Log in to ConnectCarolina → In your Student Center, under the “Academic” tab, choose “Apply for Graduation” in the drop-down box, and then click the double arrows. Pay special attention to the due date for submission of electronic doctoral dissertations as this is a hard-deadline. If you do not think that you will be able to submit your final thesis in-time for the deadline, you will have to apply for the next semester graduation (and pay special attention to the next semester thesis submission deadline).

Q: What do I do next?
A: Schedule your public/private defense date (date, time, room). Select a day and time all committee members can be present. Be aware of Neuroscience Center events like Thursday seminars and symposiums that may potentially conflict. Then check out the SOM room calendars for room availability. Once room is selected, fill-out a SOM room reservation form to secure the space. Finally, be sure to send over the information to Denise Kenney such as date time location of defense, defense talk title and recent photo.

Q: What are the 3 signed and completed Graduate School forms that I need in order to get cleared for graduation?
A: Exam form, Committee form, Program degree form.

Q: What other things do I need to be aware of for final graduation clearance?
A: You must complete the mandatory Graduate School exit survey. Also, it is helpful to make sure your PI submits the final grades for the defending semester in a timely fashion. Special note: NBIO students are only required to be registered in the fall and spring semesters, however if a student defends in the summer they are required to be registered in the summer. It is a strict policy that the student be registered in the semester that they defend in. Please refer to the Graduate School Handbook for further information.