Graduate Catalog
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Graduate School Policies
Enrollment and Examinations

Enrollment and Examinations

The minimum enrollment for students working on writing their thesis/dissertation (including consulting with their advisor and/or committee during a semester or summer session) is 3 credit hours. Graduate students must be enrolled for the minimum number of credits in the semester or summer session in which they take an exam and in the semester in which they complete a degree:

  • 3 credit hours during a semester or summer session
  • 1 credit hour for students who qualify for Start of Semester Defense Exception (SSDE, see below) in the semester of their final exam

Qualifying for Start of Semester Defense Exception

Start of Semester Defense Exception (SSDE) is a special enrollment category for students who have fulfilled all requirements, including advisory committee review and agreement that the thesis or dissertation is ready for defense, and are registering only to take the final oral examination.

To qualify for start of semester defense exception, a student must have:

  • completed all requirements (including passing grades on all courses on the plan of study), except for the final exam and
  • submitted the final copy of the thesis/dissertation to the advisory committee within the first three weeks of the semester and at least two weeks before the defense and
  • received permission from the advisory committee, who have read the document and consider it ready for defense (to the extent that the student can make corrections and submit the ETD within two weeks of the defense) within the first three weeks of the semester and
  • been enrolled in at least three credit hours the preceding semester and
  • submitted the SSDE form to the Graduate School by the Friday of the third week of classes or no later than three weeks prior to the defense, whichever date comes first

Scheduling a Final Exam within the Start of Semester Defense Exception Timeline

To defend under SSDE, a student must schedule and attend the defense according to the following timeline:

Within the first three weeks of the semester:

  1. Submit SSDE form to the Graduate School
  2. Wait for the Graduate School to enroll student in 1 cr (students cannot enroll themselves)
  3. Submit Application for Degree in HokieSPA
  4. Submit Request for Final Examination (at least two weeks prior to the exam date) in the Electronic Signature System

Within the first five weeks of the semester:

        International students who qualify for SSDE must defend (complete final exam) to maintain immigration status.

Understanding Potential Implications of Start of Semester Defense Exception

If a student registers for SSDE, his/her enrollment status will be less than full time, which may affect the following:

  • financial aid or loan deferments
  • employment opportunities (not eligible for assistantships or fellowships)
  • visa status (for international students)

Students should consult with the Graduate School and/or Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to understand the consequences and additional requirements that may result from enrolling under start of semester defense exception.