2011-2012 University Catalog 
2011-2012 University Catalog

Degree Application, Conferral and Commencement

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Application for Degree

In the semester prior to the expected completion of degree requirements, students must confirm their intent to graduate through Patriot Web. The deadline to file the intent to graduate is generally three to four months prior to the conferral date. Specific deadlines are published on the registrar’s web site registrar.gmu.edu. Some graduate programs require a paper application. Applications, as well as complete instructions and deadlines regarding graduation, are available on the registrar’s web site. Separate applications for each graduate degree or certificate are required.

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 degree 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. Master’s theses and doctoral dissertations are due in the library well before the conferral date. For more information, go to thesis.gmu.edu.

Students must have active registration status in the semester or summer term of graduation. Students not registered for course work in the term of graduation must obtain a special registration. (For more information, see the Registration, Attendance, and Grading  section of this chapter.) Degree applications will not be automatically extended if graduation is postponed; students must reapply for each conferral date.

Degree Conferral

Mason awards degrees and certificates in programs and at levels authorized by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). 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 level; some post baccalaureate certificates, however, may be awarded concurrently with the bachelor’s degree. For more information, see the Programs of Study listings.

Definitions of Degree Components

  • Degree program, major, or 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 or field) appears on the diploma for bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Only the degree name appears for doctoral degrees. An undergraduate who desires to graduate with a BA or BS degree in two or more subjects must meet departmental requirements for the major in each field. For each major, at least 18 credits used to fulfill its requirements must be applied only to that major, i.e., cannot be used to fulfill the requirements of a concentration, minor, undergraduate certificate, or another major.
  • Concentration: A second-order component of a degree program or a component of a track. A concentration consists of at least 12 hours that are not applied to any other concentration. Undergraduate concentrations are approved by the unit at the undergraduate level or by the Graduate Council at the graduate level.
  • Certificate: A nondegree program complementary to a degree that requires at least 24 undergraduate or 12 graduate credits. For each undergraduate certificate, at least 15 credits used to fulfill its requirements cannot be used to fulfill the requirements of a major, concentration, minor, or another undergraduate certificate. The name of a completed certificate program appears on the transcript after the conferral of an undergraduate degree. Certificates are approved by the school or college at the undergraduate level and by the Graduate Council at the graduate level.
  • Minor: A complement to a bachelor’s degree program or major normally requiring at least 15 credits in a field other than the student’s major. Of the courses presented for a minor, at least 8 credits must be applied only to that minor and may not be used to fulfill requirements of the student’s major, concentration, an undergraduate certificate, or another minor.
  • Option: The choice of a thesis or nonthesis path in graduate programs.

Catalog Requirements for Degrees

Catalog year refers to the setting of course and non-course requirements within academic programs as stated in the school and college section of a specific catalog. Catalog year does not set academic policies other than program requirements in place, however. For more information, see the Knowledge of University Policies section of the Student Rights and Responsibilities  section. 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. The only exception is that Bachelor’s degree students may select a minor from another catalog year for which they are eligible, as noted below.

Bachelor’s degree candidates may choose to graduate under the terms of any catalog in effect during their enrollment in degree status. Students who have been inactive for five or more years or who have attended another institution without prior approval from their academic dean or director must graduate under a catalog in effect at or after their re-admission and during their enrollment in degree status.

Master’s and doctoral degree candidates who have been continuously enrolled may choose to graduate under the terms of any catalog in effect during their enrollment in degree status. Students who have been inactive more than one year, however, may be required by their program to graduate under a catalog in effect after they have been granted permission to re-enroll. In no case may a student choose the requirements of a future catalog year that take effect after the student’s degree is anticipated.


Commencement provides an opportunity for students and their families to share in the conferral of academic degrees. Students who wish to participate should check the web site at events.gmu.edu for current information about all Commencement details including tickets, regalia, and schedules. Note that there is only one commencement ceremony each year, in May. Bachelor’s and master’s degree 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 degree completion. 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.