General Registration Policies
Only students who have been officially admitted and matriculated into a degree program approved by The Graduate School may register for courses to earn credits toward a Graduate School degree. Students may not simultaneously pursue any other degree programs at Northwestern or elsewhere unless part of an approved dual degree or approved ad hoc combined degree. The Office of the Registrar maintains a complete, up-to-date online class schedule, which can be found by selecting the "View the Quarterly Class Schedule" link on CAESAR. A quarterly reference copy is also available.
On this page:
- Full Time Study
- Part Time Study
- Authorized Courses
- TGS General Registrations
- Non-TGS Courses
- Change of Registration
- Course Withdrawal
- Summer Registration
- Continuous Registration Policy
- Taking Courses at Other Universities (Traveling Scholar Program)
- Grades and Grade Requirements
Full-time study is defined as no fewer than three and no more than four course units of credit per quarter. Most courses carry one unit of credit.
PhD students who, in exceptional cases, have received written approval of the program and Dean of The Graduate School to study on a part time basis must meet the continuous registration requirement as well as all degree requirements, including coursework and milestones.
Master's students who have the program's approval to study on a part-time basis may meet the minimum coursework requirement by registering in one or two course units per quarter.
All students register online through CAESAR by the published registration deadlines. Registration deadlines are listed on the University Academic Calendar. For courses requiring program consent, students should contact the department offering the course to obtain permission numbers.
Only courses listed in CAESAR with a career of "The Graduate School” are authorized for graduate credit and only those courses can be used to meet the minimum coursework requirement of nine quality letter-graded, graduate level courses (i.e., ABC grading, not P/NP or S/U). Courses are arranged in levels designated by number:
- 300-level courses are primarily for advanced undergraduate students; some 300 level courses are approved for graduate credit.
- 400-level courses or seminars are primarily for graduate students, but the major part of the work is not research.
- 500-level courses are graduate courses in which the work is primarily research done by an individual student under faculty direction.
The number following the three-digit course number indicates whether the course is part of a sequence:
- 0 = one-quarter course
- 1,2 = two-quarter sequence
- 1,2,3 = three-quarter sequence
The number of units for which a student is registered determines if a student is in full-time status. Most courses carry one unit. Students are considered to be full-time if they are registered for at least three units of credit.
Some registrations (e.g., 499 Independent Study or Projects and 590 Research courses) allow the student to register for anywhere from one to four units for the course. By registering for such courses for a total of three to four units, it is possible for a student to take only one or two courses and still be considered full-time.
General courses of The Graduate School are designated with a subject code, "TGS." These TGS General Registrations are not graded and do not carry academic credit.
TGS 500-0 Advanced Doctoral Study
Available to doctoral students who are primarily doing research and are receiving funding. Provides full-time status. Students may register for TGS 500-0 Advanced Doctoral Study via CAESAR when they have completed coursework requirements or during summer quarters.
TGS 512-0 Continuous Registration
Available to students who have completed the program coursework and are continuing in their degree program (writing a thesis or dissertation and/or performing research required for the degree), but not receiving funding. TGS 512-0 Continuous Registration is a full time registration intended for students who are continuing to work in a full-time capacity toward degree completion.
TGS 512-0 Continuous Registration is $100/quarter and allows for:
- Continuation of the student's Net ID and email account
- Access to University facilities such as libraries, labs, and sports facilities
- Maintenance of one's visa status
- The ability to defer student loans
- The ability to take additional cost-of-living loans (federal and alternative) as determined by their financial state; and
- Ability to enroll in NU-SHIP (Northwestern University Student Health Insurance) and be charged the annual premium
Note that students enrolled in TGS 512-0 Continuous Registration:
- are not eligible for TGS Activity Fee or its attendant services, including legal services and U-Pass
- are not eligible for the health insurance subsidy
- may not register for any additional units of study
- must be making progress toward degree completion
TGS 588-0 Resident Master's Study
Available to master's degree students who are receiving funding administered by the University. Provides full-time status, but does not carry any units of credit. This registration requires The Graduate School’s permission. To request TGS 588-0 Resident Masters Study enrollment. Students should first consult with the program Director of Graduate Studies or adviser, then email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students may take courses outside of The Graduate School career. Courses not authorized for TGS credit do not count toward The Graduate School's minimum coursework requirement.
- Students taking non-TGS graduate classes in the School of Education and Social Policy, McCormick School of Engineering, Bienen School of Music, School of Communication, or taking undergraduate classes may register using CAESAR by obtaining a permission number from the program offering the class.
- Registration for classes in other schools, including Kellogg School of Management, School of Professional Studies, and the Law School are handled through the respective schools' registrars. To request enrollments in other schools, students should contact Student Services.
- Registration changes are permitted during the add/drop period, as published in the University's academic calendar. Students who fail to register for a fall, winter, or spring quarter will be automatically discontinued and must apply for readmission.
- Students may drop a course after the add/drop period and before the "last day to drop a course" deadline listed in the University Academic Calendar. Students may request to withdraw from a course after the drop deadline but before the withdrawal deadline listed in the University Academic Calendar.
- The University cannot give refunds or reduce tuition bills for any courses dropped after the fifth day of classes. See the Student Financial Services policy on enrollment changes for additional information.
- A student may request permission from The Graduate School to withdraw from a course or courses after the published drop deadline (the end of the sixth week of the quarter) until 5pm two Fridays before the published last day of classes, per the University Academic Calendar. When the Thanksgiving or other University holidays conflict with this deadline, withdrawal petitions must be submitted by the last class/business day of that same week. The University Academic Calendar lists the exact withdrawal deadline for each quarter.
- Students may not request withdrawal after the due date for the final assessment (exam, paper, project, etc.) has been reached. Students will be asked to attest that the due date for the final assessment (exam, paper, project, etc.) in the particular course(s) has not been reached, as that may fall before the deadline for withdrawal. Students who request withdrawal after the final assessment date has been reached will be in violation of the policy on academic integrity.
- All approved withdrawals will result in a W (withdrawal) grade being posted to the transcript. A grade of W does not factor into the GPA, but remains permanently on the transcript. In no case will tuition be refunded when a student withdraws from a course or courses.
- If the deadline to withdraw has passed, students should consult with the class instructor about the option of taking an incomplete or how to best complete the course.
- To submit a request to withdraw from a course after the drop deadline students should submit the request form. The form must be approved by both the student’s faculty adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Once the form is received and approved by The Graduate School, the course instructor(s) will be notified of the student’s withdrawal from the course.
- This process is distinct from requesting to withdraw entirely from the University. Students in The Graduate School who wish to withdraw from their program and the University must submit the Program Withdrawal Request form via TGS Forms in GSTS.
Students must register for summer quarter if they are:
- Receiving funding in the form of a stipend
- Advised to do so by the Office of International Student and Scholar Services in order to maintain their visa status
- Advised to do so by the Graduate Financial Aid office in order to receive or defer loans
Students in The Graduate School do not have the option to register for courses as auditors.
All active students in The Graduate School must be registered at Northwestern University in each of the fall, winter and spring quarters until all degree requirements have been completed. (See the master's and PhD sections of this catalog for information about degree completion.) Students who are working toward degree completion but are not required to enroll in coursework may register for the appropriate TGS general registration. Students on an approved leave of absence are not subject to the continuous registration policy during the leave period.
Students who wish to register at other universities for classes that are not available at their home institution may do so via two programs:
- Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) Traveling Scholar Program
- Chicago Metropolitan Exchange Program (CMEP)
General Rules and Procedures for Traveling Scholars
- Students who wish to take courses at other universities through the CME or BTAA programs must be enrolled full-time in a PhD program at Northwestern.
- Students may only take classes at host institutions that are not offered at the home institution.
- Eligible students must first consult with their adviser who will determine whether the off-campus opportunity is likely to enhance the student's course of study and ascertain that it is not, in fact, available on the home campus.
- The student's home adviser and the host campus faculty contact must agree to allow the student to enroll in a course via the Traveling Scholar Program before the student submits the online application.
- Traveling scholars remain registered at their home universities, paying the regular tuition and fees charged when they are in residence. Traveling scholars are not billed tuition by the host institution, but may be assessed fees for certain services or benefits.
- Credit earned by traveling scholars is accepted by Northwestern University for the equivalent level credit upon receipt of grade reports or transcripts from the host university. Credit toward a degree will be at the discretion of the student’s academic program.
- Visits of traveling scholars may not exceed two semesters or three quarters regardless of the number of courses taken.
- Students must submit the appropriate application form at least six weeks before the start of the course:
- Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) Traveling Scholar program application (for Northwestern University students who wish to attend a course at University of Chicago or a Big Ten Academic Alliance institution)
- Chicago Metropolitan Exchange Program (CMEP) application (for Northwestern University students who wish to attend a course at University of Illinois at Chicago)
- Applications must be approved by:
- Student’s academic adviser
- Student's Director of Graduate Studies or Department Chair
- The Graduate School
- Host institution
- If approved, students will receive information about next steps in order be enrolled at the host institution. If enrolled at the host institution, the student will be enrolled in the corresponding traveling scholar registration status at Northwestern University.
- Once the course is completed at the host institution and a grade assigned, a final, official transcript will be provided to Northwestern University. The Northwestern University transcript will be updated to reflect the host institution course information and final grade.
- Students who need to drop a course at a host institution must:
- Consult with the host school contact to determine if a drop is allowed
- If permitted, make a formal request to the host institution to drop the course
- Notify email@example.com that the course at the host institution has been dropped (only after the drop is confirmed by the host institution)
Students in The Graduate School must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Grades given for completed, credit-bearing graduate courses not taken on a pass/no credit (P/N) basis are:
|X1||Failed to earn credit: missed final examination|
|Y1||Failed to earn credit: work incomplete|
Note that X, Y, NR, and F grades do not count toward the minimum coursework required for a degree.
The following notations are ignored in computing the grade point average:
- P: Pass with credit
- N: No grade, no credit
- K: In progress
- S: Satisfactory: noncredit course
- U: Unsatisfactory: noncredit course
- W: Withdrawn by permission
- NR: No grade reported by instructor
- X, Y: Incomplete
Pass/No Credit Option
Students will follow individual program requirements regarding graded coursework. Courses may be taken Pass/No Pass (P/N) only when this grading basis is available for selection in CAESAR. No individual exceptions will be allowed.
- 590 research registrations must be taken on a P/N basis. A grade of K (in progress), not a Y (incomplete), is given when the work for 590 is in progress.
A grade of Y may be given when a student does not submit all assigned work in a course; a grade of X may be given when a student fails to take the final examination. It is up to the course instructor to determine whether an incomplete (X or Y) grade is appropriate. Typically, a grade of Y or X is reserved for students who experience extraordinary, catastrophic events beyond their control and is assigned only in extreme and unusual cases.
Students should make up incomplete work within one calendar year for a class in which an X or Y grade has been assigned. Course instructors and/or individual academic programs may impose stricter timelines for completing work. Outstanding incomplete (X or Y) grades may lead to probation and/or may prevent graduation.