Advisement and Plan of Study
Choosing an adviser
If you have not identified an adviser in the admission
process, you should ask your department to assign a temporary
adviser in your first semester. Most departments hold mandatory
advising sessions as a part of their department orientation.
You can also conduct an online search of the faculty websites.
Taking a course taught by a faculty member in an area of
interest to you is also a good idea. Speak with current
students, look for advisees past and present, and ask others in
the department about faculty. Set up a meeting with the
professor, explore research interests, and ascertain whether
the professor is willing to act as your adviser.
We recommend that you locate an adviser by the end of your
Later, if you would like to change your adviser, handle it
professionally. Set up a meeting with your current adviser and
communicate your new goals and interests to him or her. Tell
them about your new adviser and why the association seems more
Your Graduate Plan of Study
The graduate program is affords each student an opportunity
to plan a course of study suited to his or her own objectives.
To assure a coherent program in accord with the student’s
maturing capacities and aims, each student is to maintain, with
the adviser’s assistance, a Plan of Study for the degree for
which he or she is studying.
The Plan of Study should be submitted during the student’s
second full-time semester. To be considered valid, the Plan of
Study requires the approval of the adviser and the designated
departmental person. The Plan of Study is to be prepared on the
forms provided by the Office of Graduate Education. Upon
approval by the adviser and the designated departmental person,
the department will transmit the original to the registrar,
with copies going to the Office of Graduate Education, the
student, and the adviser. The student should also keep a copy
for himself or herself.
Each student who has filed a Plan of Study should register
in the usual manner and in accordance with the plan. If there
are any significant changes, a revised Plan of Study must be
submitted promptly following the same procedure outlined
Reporting poor academic performance
If you receive a grade of a "C" or less in any course, the
Office of Graduate Education will contact your department or
adviser, who in turn will ask to meet with you. They must
prepare a report on your overall academic progress for the
Office of Graduate Education, (OGE). A single "C" grade will
rarely result in dismissal from the program, though it may
prompt your department and OGE to set conditions you must meet
in the next semester to continue in the program.
Changing your degree (change of
You can obtain a Change of Status form through the
Registrar's Office, your Department, or the Office of Graduate
Education. This form is used for a variety of academic
situations, including change in degree. Your department, OGE,
and at times also Health Services or the International Services
for Students & Scholars Office (ISSS) must approve the form
before the Registrar's Office can update your student file with
the new degree information.
If you don't finish your thesis by the May completion date,
you can submit your thesis by the August completion date. You
may then attend the graduation ceremonies the following year.
(For example, if you finished in August 2003, you may attend
the May 2004 Commencement ceremony.)
If you don't finish your thesis by the August deadline, you
will need to register full-time in the following fall semester
in order to graduate. Full-time students must register for a
minimum of twelve credits, and pay full tuition costs and fees.
Part-time students must register for at least one credit at the
part-time tuition rate and also pay student fees if
If faced with financial hardship, the Rensselaer Union has
an Emergency Student Loan fund where students can request a
cash loan. Your bursar account must be in good standing to be
If there are circumstances that cannot be accommodated by
the loan fund, you may seek campus employment in a non-academic
position, or work outside of the institution. International
students are restricted to only campus employment, and only
that of a non-academic nature. Under no circumstances can you
be employed on a part-time basis for work that would normally
be performed by a teaching or research assistant.
Leaves of absence
You should contact the Office of Graduate Education about
taking a leave from your graduate program, and always discuss
the leave with your adviser and department beforehand. A leave
of absence covers one semester at a time, with a maximum
two-year limit. If you take a leave of absence, the Registrar
changes your student status to "Inactive." This means that you
forfeit your campus privileges, including housing, meal plans,
email, and library access. In most cases, the time limit to
completion of your degree is not changed by a leave of absence.
Your department and the Office of Graduate Education will
review your file before readmitting you from a leave, assuring
that all admission criteria have been satisfied.