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Guidelines for Successfully Completing Your Degree

General Procedures and Strategies

This list is not strictly sequential. Several procedures often occur during the same semester. Please see your advisor if you have any questions.  Make sure that the graduate program administrative assistant receives a copy of any required forms for your file. In order to better track your progress through the program, we have developed a Doctoral Tracking Sheet that does list many of these activities in the order in which they should be accomplished. It is particularly important that you do not, for example, take Dissertation Proposal hours (PSY 797) before you have successfully defended your comprehensive project (Oral Comprehensive Defense).

Download and complete this tracking sheet once per year and submit it along with your other supporting materials for the Annual Progress Review.

  • Take required classes.

    Contact your advisor and arrange a meeting at least once each semester to discuss the courses you are taking. Discuss elective coursework with your advisor.

    Generally, course offerings will follow the two-year Course Sequence, although changes may occur due to sabbatical leaves, and so forth.

    Make sure that you pay attention to prerequisites as listed in the Course Description section of the UNC Catalog. If you believe that 

    you can substitute a prerequisite course in another program or at another institution, discuss it first with your advisor and then with the instructor of the advanced course for which the prerequisite is listed.

    Familiarize yourself with the general procedures of the Graduate School in the catalog.

  • (Optional) Apply for a scholarship or a teaching assistantship.

    If you would like to be considered for a scholarship, fill out a Graduate Scholarship Application on the Graduate School website (under Forms). Note that various restrictions apply for each scholarship.

    Interested in a graduate teaching assistantship? Read more about it on the Psychological Sciences Teaching Assistantship page.

  • Start your research apprenticeship.

    Your research apprenticeship culminates in a written product that is determined by mutual agreement with your research advisor. The entire project should be finished before the completion of 36 credit hours in the doctoral program.

  • Complete your plan of study.

    Decide on your choice of advisor and your comprehensive exam committee. Co-advisors are acceptable.

    See the Information Regarding Your Plan of Study, including the actual Plan of Study form, on the Graduate School website (under Forms).

    The Graduate School recommends completing a plan of study your second semester on campus, but many faculty members advise their students to do this later, since changes are usually necessary.

    Complete the Plan of Study form; have your advisor (or co-advisors) sign it; and submit it to the Graduate School. Give copies to your advisor and the Psychological Sciences graduate program administrative assistant for your file. Your advisor may need to submit a memo to the Graduate School for any course substitutions.

    If you need to revise your plan of study at some point, just fill out the form again. Give copies to your advisor and to the Psychological Sciences office; keep a copy for yourself; and submit the revised form to the Graduate School.

    Meet with your advisor to go through your coursework. Identify the courses you have completed and match them up against the program requirements. Determine the coursework you need to complete.

    Begin to think about your research specialization(s) and possible projects for your (written and oral) comprehensive exam papers.

  • Form your doctoral committee.
    • Complete a Request for Appointment of Doctoral Committee form from the Graduate School website. Have your advisor sign it. Give a copy to the graduate program administrative assistant for your file and submit the original form to the Graduate School.
    • It is required that you have a minimum of four members on your committee, one of which is a faculty representative from another area who is nominated on the appointment form.
    • At least two members of your doctoral committee must be from the School of Psychological Sciences.
    • All your committee members must have Graduate Faculty (GF) status, and your committee chair (or one of your co-chairs) must have Doctoral Research Endorsement (DRE) status.
    • The Graduate School will send you a letter confirming the formation of your committee.
  • Complete your written and oral comprehensive exams.

     See the Comprehensive Exams page for more information.

  • Start/continue discussions with your advisor regarding your dissertation topic.

     You may restructure your committee if necessary. See the Graduate School website for the Request to Change a Doctoral Committee Member form.

  • Complete your dissertation.

     See the Dissertation page for more information. 

  • Apply for graduation late in the semester before the semester in which you plan to graduate.
    • A graduation fee is required, and if you do this the same semester you plan to graduate, a late fee may also apply.
    • The Application for Graduation in a Doctoral Program form can be picked up from the Graduate School Office or downloaded on the Graduate School website (under Forms).
    • If you would like to be hooded at graduation, arrange this with your advisor. You will need to rent/buy Graduation Regalia.
    • Graduation ceremonies are held in May and December.
  •  Further resources