Current PhD Student FAQs

Where can I go for advising and assistance with planning my academic program?

You should work with your assigned faculty advisor to explore and define your academic and research goals. In addition, the PhD Student Services team will help you with issues related to course selection, registration, academic policies, and university procedures. Shannon Williams, Director of Student Engagement, can also help you track your progress toward degree completion.

Can I change advisors at any point?

Initially, advisors are assigned by the program administration based on students’ interests and on the need to balance the advising load among the faculty. You will work with your advisor to explore and define your academic and research goals. As a result of these discussions, you may choose to change advisors, ideally to the faculty member who will chair your field research and dissertation committees. You may change your advisor at any time with the agreement of both professors.

How do I add or drop a class after classes have started?

The add and drop periods are published each semester on the registrar’s academic calendar, and schedule changes can be made using Patriot Web during the schedule adjustment period. Generally, you may add a course through the first week of a 14-week semester and drop a course up to four calendar weeks after the first day of class (for a partial refund). After the drop deadline has passed, students are only permitted to withdraw from classes for extenuating, non-academic circumstances.

How can I add my name to the waitlist for a course?

Certain classes in the Schar School have a waitlist option. If you attempt to register for a course that is full and a waitlist exists for that particular course, Patriot Web will permit you to add your name to the waitlist. The waitlist is an automatic process. Each time a student drops the course, Patriot Web will issue an override to the first person on the waitlist, permitting that student to register for the course same as on New Student FAQs. The override is in effect for three days. If you receive an override and fail to register for the course during the three day time frame, the next student on the list is issued the override.

Please refer to the Schar School’s Student Guide to the Patriot Web if you need further guidance.

What are typical course loads?

The university considers nine credits to be a full-time load at the graduate level. Students taking fewer than nine credit hours are classified as part-time, unless they hold a research or teaching assistantship. International students on F-1 or J-1 visas are required to carry nine or more credits each semester. Students wishing to take more than 12 credit hours should meet with their academic advisor and PhD Student Services to discuss course load.

I want to take a class at another university in the area. What do I need to do?

George Mason University is one of fourteen cooperating members of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. If you are interested in a course at one of the other consortium schools, you should first discuss it with your advisor. You will then need to work with PhD Student Services, Mason’s consortium services office, and the home department at the consortium school offering the course. It helps to begin this process well in advance of the scheduled start of the class. Visit Mason’s consortium website for information. Shannon Williams can provide you with the appropriate forms.

How do I take a semester off from the program?

The Schar School does not grant a formal leave of absence from the doctoral program. Students who wish to take leave from the program should write the Doctoral Program Director beforehand, explaining their circumstances. The school will evaluate each student’s situation when the student wishes to re-enroll. Should a student need to withdraw mid-semester, it is critical either to complete courses or go through formal withdrawal procedures so that future enrollment may be possible.

Can my GPA result in termination from the program?

Students enrolled in a Schar School doctoral program must maintain good academic standing. A student who receives a B- or below in a foundation/core course must retake the course during the next term that it is offered. Doctoral students are encouraged to consult the Student/Faculty Handbook for additional information regarding program requirements. The following is a list of reasons that will lead to a student’s automatic termination from the program:

  • Receiving a grade of F in a single graduate-level course
  • Receiving a grade of B- or below in a single foundation/core course after the second attempt
  • For Political Science and Biodefense PhD students, receiving a grade of B- or below in two or more courses
  • For Public Policy PhD students, receiving a grade of B- or below in two or more 800-level courses, even if re-taken
  • Plagiarizing on the Comprehensive Qualifying Examination, Field Statement, Field Exam, Dissertation Proposal, or Dissertation
  • Failing the comprehensive qualifying examination after the second attempt
  • For Public Policy PhD students, failing the field examination after the second attempt

I’m ready to defend my proposal/dissertation. What do I need to do?

Please refer to the Milestone Guide webpage, and contact Shannon Williams with further questions.

When do I complete my graduation application?

You will receive instructions for completing the steps to graduation, including the graduation application, via email during the semester in which you intend to graduate. The application cannot be completed prior to that point. Additional details about the graduation application process can be found on the registrar’s web page.