Graduate Catalog
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Graduate School Policies
Enrollment and Registration Procedures
Course Enrollment and Changes in Enrollment


Registration (Course Request; for continuing students occurs during an eight-day period in the middle of each semester during which current students may request and be registered electronically for classes for the next semester. Registration for new students begins prior to the start of the new semester. For registration procedures, see

Schedule Adjustment

Students may adjust their schedules on a space available basis using web DROP/ADD (available through HokieSPA, an electronic schedule adjustment program. The Add Period is restricted to a short period at the beginning the semester, the Drop Period lasts for a larger proportion of the semester; deadlines for these electronic transactions that can be done by the student are published in the Timetable of Classes for each semester, see Important Dates and Registration Information at:


Force-Add form permits enrollment in a class, over the set capacity for that class, within the Add period. This transaction is done with the "force-add" form in the department offering the course, and requires the instructor's (or, in some departments, departmental) permission. Force-adds are processed by the department offering the course during the Add Period in the first week of classes of each semester.

Late Adds and Drops

Late Adds and Drops: In unusual circumstances when adjustments to the student's schedule are needed after the last date to add or drop a course, permission is required from the instructor, the student's advisor and a graduate dean (see the current Timetable for deadline dates). The request for the Late Add or Drop and an explanation of the extenuating circumstances necessitating the late change should be submitted to the Dean's office by the student's Advisor or the Graduate Program Director of the department.

Graduate Withdrawal

Course withdrawals late in the semester: If a late withdrawal from a course (after the Drop period for electronic drops) is approved it will be designated as a Graduate Withdrawal (WG on the transcript) and will not carry a grade penalty; this option is only allowed prior to the Friday of the last week of classes for the semester. Use this form:

If a student wants to Withdraw from all courses for the semester or if a student who is enrolled for a single course wants to drop that course, a Resignation/Withdrawal form (see below) must be submitted to the Graduate School for approval and to the Registrar's office by specific deadlines. 


A student may resign/withdraw without academic or tuition penalty by completing an official Virginia Tech Resignation/Withdrawal form on or before the first day of the semester/summer session (for relevant dates, see the Registrar's Office website: The Student Withdrawal/Resignation Form is available at Resignation/withdrawals received at the Registrar's office after 5 pm on the first day of the semester result in partial tuition and fee charges (see Bursar's office refund policy

Resignation/withdrawal after the specified date for withdrawing without grade penalty requires permission of a Graduate Dean and is only permitted because of extenuating circumstances. The student's grade report and transcript will show that he/she was enrolled for the term and that he/she resigned on the specific effective date. Resignation/withdrawals may have consequences for assistantship and scholarship awards as well as visa status, so these considerations should be investigated prior to completing the forms. Resignation/withdrawals do not affect the student's ability to enroll in the subsequent semester. 

The Graduate School (VP/Dean and Associate Deans) reviews and approves the appropriate date of the withdrawal.  For medical withdrawal with official Schiffert review, the date recommended by Schiffert or Cook is accepted. For withdrawal or resignation from the university (all courses in a given semester, consideration is given to the length of time the student was enrolled in the course and utilized university (faculty, staff) time and resources, the date the form was submitted and the percentage of refund allowed by the Registrar’s office, and the reasons for withdrawal.  Decisions by the Graduate School can include a retroactive withdrawal or adjustments to the specified deadlines for refund.

Student responsibility for enrollment

Student responsibility for enrollment. Each student is responsible for verifying his/her enrollment in courses and for making any changes in that enrollment. Students should check their enrollment in specific courses during the first week of classes of a semester (the Add Period) when any corrections can be made electronically. Faculty cannot add or drop students from their rolls and cannot add or drop a student by including or removing his/her name on the final grade sheet.

Continuous Enrollment

Unless on approved in absentia or leave of absence status, graduate students in degree programs must be registered continuously at VT during the academic year (fall and spring semesters) and pay the prescribed tuition and fees (See Policy PPM 291). Students working on research/scholarly activity toward their thesis or dissertation should enroll in the number of credit hours that reflects the extent of a student’s study or research activity. The minimum enrollment is for 3 credit hours at VT except in the case of a student who qualifies for Start of Semester Defense Exception. If the student holds a Graduate Assistantship, scholarship, or other form of financial support, the enrollment requirement is typically set by the conditions for that support. Students on Graduate Assistantships must be enrolled for a minimum of 12 credits per semester (see Academic Eligibility to Hold a Graduate Assistantship).

Individual graduate programs may seek approval from the Graduate School to temporarily or permanently exempt some or all of their students from this policy. Such exemptions may be granted to programs that are dominated by distance learning, to programs that are specifically directed at part-time students, to salaried employees qualifying under Policy 4800, or for other appropriate  reasons.

Graduate students who need to break continuous enrollment can do so by applying for a leave of absence or by participating in programs and activities approved by the Graduate School that require absence from the University (in absentia status).

Students who fail to follow this process will be resigned from the university by the Graduate School, and will then need to apply for readmission in order to continue their studies. Readmission requires a positive recommendation from each student's home academic unit, and is not guaranteed.

Leave of Absence

Students sometimes experience situations in which they cannot be continuously enrolled (e.g., health, family emergency, change in parental status, military service, financial hardship, personal or academic reasons, or other reasons). A student may request a leave of absence to suspend activities associated with course work or thesis/dissertation research (see Policy PPM 292). Students on leave of absence are not entitled to use University resources not normally available to the public or alumni (e.g., may not consult with advisors or work on courses or research).  
The  Leave of Absence Request Form must be submitted two weeks before the beginning of the semester for which the leave is requested. The leave of absence must be approved by the student’s advisor and the Department Head or Graduate Program Director for the department before submission to the Graduate School. If the leave of absence request is approved, the continuous enrollment requirement will be relaxed during the period of leave. The Leave of Absence form indicates when the student will return to the program and any conditions the department or the Graduate School may stipulate for the student’s readmission within that time. Leaves of absence may be granted for up to one year at a time. If a leave longer than one year is required, students will need to apply to the Graduate School for readmission.

International students should consult an immigration advisor in the Cranwell International Center or in the Washington DC Metro Area before requesting a leave of absence.

In Absentia Status

Graduate students in good standing who for academic reasons need to spend an entire Fall or Spring semester away from campus can apply for and be granted in absentia status (see Policy PPM 293). In absentia status is granted for work that is directly related to a student's academic course of study and that is integral to her or his degree. Examples include field research, clinical internship, or laboratory work with research collaborators at remote institutions. In absentia status is approved by each student's home academic unit and then by the Graduate School. During each Fall or Spring semester in absentia, students must register for one credit hour.

To qualify for in absentia status, students must be stationed a minimum of 50 miles away from Blacksburg, and must not work on or in conjunction with any of Virginia Tech's satellite campuses and facilities. Students can remain in absentia for two consecutive semesters, but must then return to residency at the University for a minimum of one semester. Exemptions may be granted by the Graduate School when longer periods of absence are required.

In absentia status is not available to students who have not adhered to the continuous enrollment requirement, are supported by an assistantship, or are participating in an exchange program or dual degree program with an officially designated partner institution.

Graduate Cooperative Education Program

See Presidential Policy Memorandum 27 at

All students are expected to make reasonable academic progress towards a degree while participating in a Graduate Cooperative Education Program. The responsibility for monitoring students' academic progress is shared by their department and the Graduate School.

A Graduate School manages the graduate co-op program on behalf of the university.

The department or degree conferring unit must be involved in negotiating a co-op agreement. 

All graduate cooperative programs must be approved by the department or degree conferring unit.

As consistent with these specifications, departmental policies with regard to registration, course load, course number, course credit, program of study, and advising will remain the province of the cooperating department.

Nothing will be included in the agreement that will intrude upon the privileged relation between the faculty advisor/major professor and his/her student.

All students involved in graduate cooperative programs will be enrolled in the zero-credit course "Graduate Cooperative Education Program," GRAD 5944 (master's students); GRAD 5944P (part-time/short-term master's); or GRAD 7944 (doctoral students); GRAD 7944P (part-time/short-term doctoral).

See additional details at

Change of Campus

Students who wish to study at a different campus, but remain in the same major, should submit a Change of Campus form   International students in F1 or J1 status should consult with their international advisors in the Cranwell International Center or Greater Washington DC Metro area as appropriate.

Simultaneous Graduate Degrees

Students wishing to work toward two graduate degrees in different departments/programs should submit an Application for Simultaneous Graduate Degree form. See also Credit Hour Requirements; Simultaneous Degrees.

Registration at the Time of Examinations and for Degree Completion

Graduate students must be registered at VT for at least the minimum number of credits (3 credit hours) in the semester or summer session when they take an examination required by Graduate School Policies and in the semester when a degree is completed (see Continuous Enrollment). Students who have a thesis/dissertation ready for defense by the beginning of a semester, may schedule that defense early in the semester and qualify for Start of Semester Defense Exception (SSDE, 1 credit); see Start of Semester Defense Exception  under Examinations and see Dates for Degree Completion at: Students are not required to be enrolled for the purpose of certificate completion alone.

When a student has not been registered for more than one calendar year, an Application for Readmission is required whether or not the student has been on a formal Leave of Absence. The Readmission process requires a review of the student's progress and of the Plan of Study to determine what changes, justification of old course work, committee changes or other conditions may be required for readmission to the degree (the forms required for these processes are at:  The minimum enrollment is 3 credits. 
Changes of Status

A change from one type of degree status to another, while remaining in the same major, requires a Change of  Degree Level Request form .  An example of a status change is: Master's to Ph.D. in the same major. International students in F1 or J1 status should consult with the international advisors in the Graduate School for the proper SEVIS changes. For departments where the non-thesis option is available, a master’s degree candidate is allowed to change status from the thesis to the non-thesis option (or vice versa) only once. The Thesis Option Change Request form  requires accompanying documentation from the department that verifies the appropriateness of the change of status.

A change from Commonwealth Campus or Non-degree status to Master's or Ph.D. requires an Application for Admission and submission of official transcripts (if these weren't previously submitted) and all other required application materials  (

Change of Graduate Program

Change of Graduate Program (between departments)

A change from a degree in one graduate program/department to a degree in another program/department requires the approval of the Graduate Program Director or Department Head of both the old and the new programs and the Graduate School.

Students wishing to change programs should consult with the department they wish to enter to determine the likelihood of acceptance prior to beginning this process. The department the student wishes to enter may see the original application materials by making a request to the Graduate School and may request additional materials from the student.