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George Mason University
2002-03 University Catalog

Academic Policies and Procedures Affecting Both Undergraduates and Graduates

Degree Conferral

Degrees and Degree Components

Degrees and certificates that are awarded by George Mason University are in programs and at levels authorized by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. The university confers degrees at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. An academic program may include a degree program and additional majors, minors, or certificates. The university offers no certificate program below the bachelor's level; some post baccalaureate certificates, however, may be awarded concurrently with the bachelor's degree. See the chapter on Programs of Study.

Definitions of Degree Components

Degree program, major/field: A program of study that normally requires at least 30 credits of course work in the specified field. The primary program name (degree and major/field) appears on the diploma.

Track: A second-order component of a degree program approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

Concentration: A second-order component of a degree program or a component of a track. Undergraduate concentrations are approved by the unit at the undergraduate level, or by the Graduate Council at the graduate level.

Certificate: A non-degree program complementary to a degree that requires at least 24 undergraduate or 15 graduate credits. Certificates are approved by the school, or college at the undergraduate level, and by the university Graduate Council at the graduate level. The name of a completed certificate program appears on the transcript after the conferral of an undergraduate degree.

Minor: A complement to a bachelor's degree program/major normally requiring at least 15 credits in a field other than the student's major.

Option: The choice of a thesis or nonthesis path in graduate programs.

Catalog Requirements for Degrees

All degree candidates may choose to graduate under the terms of the catalog in effect at the time of conferral of the degree. Not all programs and degree components are available in all catalogs. For any one degree, all requirements must be met as stated in a single catalog.

Bachelor's degree candidates who have been continuously enrolled (allowing absences from Summer Terms and/or single semesters) may choose to graduate under the terms of any catalog in effect at or after their admission. Students who have been inactive for five or more years or who have attended another institution without prior approval from their academic dean/director must graduate under a catalog in effect at or after their re-enrollment.

Master's and doctoral degree candidates who have been continuously enrolled may choose to graduate under the terms of any catalog in effect at or after their admission. Students who have been inactive more than one year, however, must graduate under a catalog in effect after they have been granted permission to re-enroll, or must petition their unit dean or director to graduate under an earlier catalog. The final decision rests with the unit dean or director.

Application for Degree

All students should initially declare and then maintain an "expected graduation date" from George Mason through 4GMU, (703) 993-4468. In their final semester, students who expect to complete degree requirements must confirm their intent to graduate through the registrar's web site by the end of the fifth week of classes for that semester. August graduates are processed according to the deadlines for the previous spring semester. Some programs require a paper application, which is due in the Office of the Registrar eight to ten weeks after the first day of classes. Paper applications are obtained through the registrar's web site ( Separate applications for each degree or certificate are required. Additional majors and/or minors, available in bachelor's programs only, also require separate applications and must be earned concurrently with the primary major.

For a degree to be conferred, all course work must be completed, even if the course work is not being applied to the degree. Master's students must complete non-course degree requirements including credit-by-exam, oral exams, theses, scholarly papers, and comprehensive exams prior to the conferral (graduation) date. Doctoral students must have met all requirements well before the conferral date. For detailed deadlines, refer to dtwebguide.htm.

Students must have active registration status the semester or Summer Term of graduation; if all course work has been completed, a special registration must be obtained. (See Special Registration for Non-enrolled Students in the Registration and Attendance section.) Degree applications will not be automatically extended if graduation is postponed; students must reapply for each conferral date.


Commencement exercises provide an opportunity for students and their families to share in the conferral of academic degrees. Students wishing to participate in commencement exercises should reserve a place for themselves in the academic procession and reserve tickets for their guests through 4GMU, (703) 993-4468. The system will accept their reservation two business days after the degree application has been filed.

Bachelor's and master's candidates who declare their intent to graduate in August but who have not yet completed all degree requirements may participate in the commencement ceremony in anticipation of the completion of the degree. Their names are marked with an asterisk identifying them as candidates pending completion of all requirements. Doctoral students may participate only if they have successfully completed all degree requirements including defending and submitting a signed final copy of their dissertation by the deadline. Students who have completed all degree requirements except for a required internship may participate if they will have completed the internship by September 10.