School of Graduate Studies


Graduate Student Handbook

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Working Your Program

Selecting Your Courses

Contact your advisor to determine which course work would most effectively complete your program in the shortest amount of time. 
  • Whenever your curriculum allows, select courses that relate to your interests.
  • Choose research topics that will be applicable to your future career.
  • Think early about a topic and a feasible research method for your culminating project. Often topic and research method courses are available in specific disciplines.  
  • Learn about the professional aspects of your field and become involved in related courses of study, conferences or internships as soon as possible. This improves learning and enhances career possibilities.
  • Our Course-by-Course Planning sheet may help. 

Program of Study

Every graduate student must file a Program of Study with the School of Graduate Studies before the completion of 15 credits. The completed form must be signed by the student and approved by the advisor.

  • It identifies any course substitutions requested.
  • It identifies transfer credits you want considered.
  • It identifies any exceptions to requirements for completing the program.
  • It identifies your culminating project.
  • This Program of Study also customizes your degree audit and becomes your contract with the University.
  • Both sides agree to uphold their parts of the commitment: you to complete the agreed upon classes, and the University to grant you a degree.
  • Because of the binding nature of this document, it can only be changed by petitioning Graduate Studies.

Advisor change

  • Often your graduate program director will be your default advisor.
  • A Change of Advisor must be approved by the new advisor, the chair or graduate director of the academic unit, and the School of Graduate Studies.

Culminating Projects

  • For master's students the selection of one of the three culminating project options (Plan A, B, or C) is made at the time the Program of Study is filed.
  • Doctoral students will complete a dissertation.

Project Options

Plan project options vary according to the program and department.

Plan A:

  • Thesis.
  • Creative Work.
  • Field Study (specialist degree).

Plan B:

  • Comprehensive Examination.
  • Starred Paper.
  • Capstone Project or professional program.

Plan C:

  • Project/Portfolio.
  • Internship/Portfolio. 


Resident Requirements

  • Candidates for the master's degree, specialist degree, or sixth-year program must earn a minimum of 20 semester credits in in residence.
  • For doctoral programs, a minimum of 45 credits must be earned in residence at St. Cloud State University.
  • Courses offered at graduate study centers or through cohort groups established by the University are considered resident credit.
  • Established ITV and web-based programs are also considered resident credit.
  • Individual departments may establish residence policies requiring a period of full-time study. Students should consult with their adviser to determine specific departmental requirements.

Time Allowed for Program Completion

All of the courses on your approved Program of Study must be completed within the seven-year time limit.

Program of Study Course Changes

All course changes must be approved by petition. Verbal approval by your adviser is not sufficient.

Prerequisite Courses

Courses designated as deficiencies or prerequisites at the time of admission cannot be used on a Program of Study.

Transfer Credits

A maximum of 9 semester credits of graduate work completed at other accredited universities or extension credits earned from this university may be considered for application to the master's degree, specialist degree or sixth-year program.

Doctoral students should consult the policy of their graduate program for the number of acceptable transfer credits.

  • The grade recorded must be a B or above, or an S or P in S/U or P/F grading systems.
  • An official transcript sent directly to the School of Graduate Studies by the institution awarding the credits is needed before an approved transfer credit could be added to the transcript at St. Cloud State University.
  • With the prior approval of the graduate advisor and the School of Graduate Studies, a maximum of 15 semester credits of appropriate graduate credit may be transferred from other universities of the Minnesota State System or from accredited universities through bilateral or international agreements and applied to a program at St. Cloud State University.
  • If the student has already had the Program of Study approved, a petition would need to be submitted and approved to have transfer credit considered.
  • Academic Policies offers complete information on transfer credits.

St. Cloud State Credits

Credits Earned Before Admission

Only six graduate credits earned at St. Cloud State University before formal acceptance to a graduate program, or the credits completed in the first semester of registration (whichever is greater), will be permitted to apply toward completion of a graduate program.

  • In unusual circumstances credit earned in excess of these figures may be considered for approval by the graduate dean through the petition procedure.

Upper Division Undergraduate Courses for Graduate Credit

Under certain circumstances, upper division (300- or 400-level) undergraduate courses may be applied to master's degree requirements through the 501 Credit by Arrangement.

The student must submit an advisor-approved petition to the graduate dean prior to registering for the course if it is not on the approved program of study.

  • An arranged/independent study course form approved by the instructor, the department chairperson, and the graduate dean is needed to register for the course.
  • The student also must make arrangements to complete the special graduate requirements of the course.
  • Students who receive approval must register for [name of department or program] 501 [title of course].
  • A maximum of six credits earned under the 501 course number may be applied to a master's degree program.
  • This procedure is open only to students admitted to a graduate degree program.

Credit by Correspondence or Examination

Credits earned through correspondence or by examination are not accepted toward a graduate degree.

Independent Study

Independent study is available for advanced students wishing to work out a special problem in the major area of concentration. These courses carry the designation: [name of department or program] 600, Special Problems.


Satisfactory Academic Progress

  • Graduate students are considered to be making satisfactory academic progress if they maintain at least a 3.00 cumulative GPA.
    • A 3.25 grade point average is required for the Specialist degree in Education Administration. 
  • Students who have not achieved the required grade point average are not eligible to take either the oral or written final culminating examinations.
  • Continuation in the program of study may be denied at any time during the program by not maintaining the standard of scholarship of the University.

Unsuccessful Grades

Courses with these letter grades will be treated as credits attempted and not successfully completed.

  • I (Incomplete).
  • IP (In progress).
  • N (No grade reported).
  • W (Withdrawal).
  • F (Failure).
  • U (Unsatisfactory).

Courses with these letter grades will count as credits completed but will not be accepted toward graduate program completion.

  • C-
  • D+
  • D
  • D-
  • F

Additional Courses if Standard of Scholarship Has Not Been Maintained

Graduate students, accepted as candidates for the master's degree, specialist degree, sixth-year program, and doctoral degree, whose records show less than a 3.00 average (3.25 for the Specialist in Educational Administration) at the completion of the approved program of courses may register for a maximum of nine additional semester credits to be earned in courses approved by petition.

  • The credits will be selected with the adviser and may include repeated and new courses.
  • If, after the completion of these nine additional credits, the average is still less than a 3.00 (3.25 for the Specialist in Educational Administration), the student will be dismissed from their program.

Receiving an Incomplete

  • The course instructor must agree to provide you with an incomplete grade (I, IP, RC).
  • All incompletes must be completed and grades submitted by the instructor.
  • Remind your professor to submit a grade change for all incompletes, IP or RC grades. This includes dissertations, field studies, theses, creative works and starred papers.

Completion Issues

Completion of Attempted Credits

Graduate students must complete at least 66.67 percent of all credits attempted at the University.

Students whose completion rate falls below 66.67 percent will be placed on probationary status and will have a registration hold placed on their record.

  • To register for classes, these students will need to submit an advisor-approved petition outlining plans to improve completion rates or to demonstrate progress toward the degree.

Repeating a Course for Improvement of a Grade

Graduate students may not repeat a course for graduate credit without the written permission of their adviser in a petition and the approval of the School of Graduate Studies. 

  • If a course is repeated, both marks are used to determine the total grade point average. The resulting grade from the first repetition of the course is averaged with the original grade in the computation of grade point average. 
  • A student who fails in the first course of a sequence cannot take the following courses in that sequence until the course has been completed with a passing grade.
  • The original grade will appear on the student’s transcript with a mark of R indicating that the course was repeated. 
  • Graduate students should note that a “U” is figured in the grade point average as an “F”.
  • The repetition of a course in which a “U” was earned will also be marked with an “R” on the transcript. 
  • Courses in which the mark of “S” is given are not included in the computation of the grade point average. 

Repeating a Course

Students may only receive credit once for the completion of a course unless otherwise stated in the course description.

The maximum number of credits allowed is stated in the course description.  For each enrollment the student receives credit hours and a grade.

Academic Forgiveness

St. Cloud State will provide options for qualified students to have their GPA improved through academic forgiveness. Students who experience a less than successful start to their academic careers or graduate program may benefit from available one-time academic forgiveness options. Students requesting one-time academic forgiveness are still subject to SCSU policies about academic progress, as well as the academic and professional competencies required by the program, college, or school. (Examples of students who might benefit from this redress include individuals who left SCSU under suspension or on warning, students whose prior GPA is preventing access to their desired program of study or to other academic opportunities, or graduate students who had extenuating circumstances or may have been admitted to a program that wasn’t the best fit for their knowledge or skill set.)

Avoiding Problems

Checking Your Program's Accuracy

Ensure information recorded on the Program of Study is accurately by checking a copy of your transcript available through Records and Registration.

Common Delays

  • A course listed:
    • May not have been taken for graduate credit.
    • May have a grade below “C.”
    • May not meet the seven-year limit.
  • Too many credits earned under non-degree admission (Only six credits earned under non-degree admission can count toward the degree).
  • Failure to complete at least 66.67 percent of credits attempted at the University.      
  • The Program of Study includes deficiency or prerequisite courses.
  • The Program of Study includes undergraduate courses.
  • The Program of Study does not meet the required minimum degree program hours.
  • The Program of Study was submitted for a program to which you have not been admitted.
  • You might not have been admitted as a degree-seeking student.
  • Courses listed do not match those on your transcript(s).
    • Department codes, course numbers, titles and credit hours must appear exactly as they appear on the transcript.
  • Missing signatures.
  • Missing official transcripts for all transfer courses or such transcripts indicate courses do not qualify for transfer credit.

Graduation and Commencement

Find information about graduation and commencement in the Completing a Graduate Program section.