General Registration Policies

Only students who have been officially admitted to The Graduate School may register for courses to earn credits toward a Graduate School degree. The Office of the Registrar maintains a complete, up-to-date online class schedule, which can be found by selecting the "View the Quarterly Class Schedule" link on CAESAR. A quarterly reference copy is also available.

4.1 Full Time Study

Full-time study is defined as no fewer than three and no more than four course units authorized for graduate credit per quarter. Most courses carry one unit of credit. Students must successfully complete all the course units for which they are registered in order to receive full credit toward residency. See the Grades and Grade Requirements below for further information. After completing course requirements, eligible students may maintain full-time status at reduced tuition by registering, as appropriate, for TGS 588, Resident Master's Study; TGS 500, Advanced Doctoral Study; or TGS 512, Continuous Registration.

4.2 Part Time Study

PhD students who, in exceptional cases, have received written approval of the program and Dean of The Graduate School to study on a part time basis must meet all degree requirements, including residency, coursework, and milestones. Part time students must complete the equivalent of eight quarters of residency, or 24 units, taken as coursework and 590s within their programs. The distribution of those units will determine the amount of time required to complete residency. Note the continuous registration requirement.

Master's students may meet the minimum residency requirement by combinations of one-third or two-thirds quarters of residency - that is, one or two course units per quarter.

4.3 Registering

All students register online through CAESAR. Registration deadlines are listed on the Academic Calendar. For courses requiring program consent, students should contact the department offering the course to obtain permission numbers.

4.4 Authorized Courses

Only courses listed in CAESAR with a career of "The Graduate School” are authorized for graduate credit and only those courses can be used to meet the minimum coursework requirement of nine letter-graded, graduate level courses. Courses are arranged in levels designated by number:

  • 300-level courses are primarily for advanced undergraduate students; some 300 level courses are approved for graduate credit.
  • 400-level courses or seminars are primarily for graduate students, but the major part of the work is not research.
  • 500-level courses are graduate courses in which the work is primarily research done by an individual student under faculty direction.

The number following the three-digit course number indicates whether the course is part of a sequence:

  • 0 = one-quarter course
  • 1,2 = two-quarter sequence
  • 1,2,3 = three-quarter sequence

The number of units for which a student is registered determines if a student is in full-time status. Most courses carry one unit. Students are considered to be full-time if they are registered for three to four units of credit.

Some registrations (499 Independent Study or Projects, and 590 Research courses, for example) allow the student to register for anywhere from one to four units for the course. By registering for such courses for a total of three to four units, it is possible for a student to take only one or two courses and still be considered full-time.

4.5 TGS General Registrations

General courses of The Graduate School are designated TGS. These TGS General Registrations are not graded and do not count toward the accumulation of quarters of residency required for a degree.

4.5.1 TGS 500 Advanced Doctoral Study

Available to doctoral students who have completed the residency requirement of eight quarters of full-tuition registration within their program and are receiving aid from the University. Provides full-time status. Students may register for TGS 500 via CAESAR.

4.5.2 TGS 509 International Summer Institute

Required for all international PhD students designated as International Summer Institute Fellows.

4.5.3 TGS 512 Continuous Registration

Available to students who completed the program coursework and are continuing in their degree program (writing a thesis or dissertation and/or performing research required for the degree), but not receiving University or external funding. TGS 512 is a full time registration intended for students who are continuing to work in a full-time capacity toward degree completion.

TGS 512 is $100/quarter and allows for:

  • Continuation of the student's Net ID and email account
  • Access to University facilities such as libraries, labs, and sports facilities
  • Maintenance of one's visa status
  • The ability to defer student loans
  • The ability to take additional cost-of-living loans (federal and alternative) as determined by their financial state; and
  • Ability to enroll in NU-SHIP (Northwestern University Student Health Insurance) and be charged the annual premium

Note that students enrolled in TGS 512:

  • are not eligible for TGS Activity Fee or its attendant services, including legal services and U-Pass
  • are not eligible for the health insurance subsidy
  • may not register for any additional units of study
  • must be making progress toward degree completion

4.5.4 TGS 588 Resident Master's Study

Available to master's degree students who are receiving financial aid. Provides full-time status, but allows no accumulation of credit or residency toward the master's degree. This registration requires TGS permission.

4.6 Non-TGS Courses

  • Students taking non-TGS graduate classes in SESP, McCormick, Music, Communication, or taking undergraduate classes may register using CAESAR by obtaining a permission number from the program offering the class.
  • Registration for classes in other schools, including Kellogg, SCS, and the Law School are handled through the respective schools' registrars. To request enrollments in other schools, students should contact Student Services.

4.7 Change of Registration

  • Registration changes are permitted during the add/drop period, through the fifth day of classes. In the Summer Session, the add/drop period extends through the fourth day of classes. Students who fail to register for a fall, winter, or spring quarter will be automatically discontinued and must apply for readmission.
  • Students may drop a course after the add/drop period and before the "last day to drop a course" deadline listed in the Academic Calendar. The University cannot give refunds or reduce tuition bills for any course dropped after the fifth day of classes.  See the Student Financial Services policy on enrollment changes for additional information.

4.8 Course Withdrawal

  • A student may request permission from The Graduate School to withdraw from a course or courses after the published drop deadline (the end of the sixth week of the quarter) until 5pm two Fridays before the published last day of classes, per the University academic calendar. When the Thanksgiving or other University holidays conflict with this deadline, withdrawal petitions must be submitted by the last class/business day of that same week. The University Academic Calendar lists the exact withdrawal deadline for each quarter.
  • Students may not request withdrawal after the due date for the final assessment (exam, paper, project, etc…) has passed and students will be asked to attest that the due date for the final assessment in the particular course(s) has not been reached. Students who request withdrawal after the final assessment date has been reached will be in violation of the policy on academic integrity.
  • All approved withdrawals will result in a W (withdrawal) grade being posted to the transcript. A grade of W does not factor into the GPA, but remains permanently on the transcript. In no case will tuition be refunded when a student withdraws from a course or courses.
  • If the deadline to withdraw has passed, students should consult with the class instructor about the option of taking an incomplete or how to best complete the course.
  • To submit a request to withdraw from a course after the drop deadline students should submit the request form. The form must be approved by both the student’s faculty advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Once the form is received and approved by The Graduate School, the course instructor(s) will be notified of the student’s withdrawal from the course.
  • This process is distinct from requesting to withdraw entirely from the University. Students in The Graduate School who wish to withdraw from their program and the University must notify TGS Student Services in writing.

4.9 Summer Registration

Students receiving financial support administered by the University must be enrolled during the summers. Summer enrollment may also be required as a result of visa or loan status.

4.10 Auditing

Course auditors are not given formal recognition by either TGS or the Registrar. The auditing of any graduate course without formal registration by full-time graduate students in good standing is permitted depending on the limitations of space and facilities, and permission of the instructor.

4.11 Continuous Registration Policy

All active students in The Graduate School (TGS) must be registered at Northwestern University in each of the fall, winter and spring quarters until all degree requirements have been completed. (See the Master's and PhD webpages for information about degree completion.) Students who are working toward degree completion but are not required to enroll in coursework or 590 Research may register for the appropriate TGS general registration (see section 4.5, TGS General Registrations). Students on an approved leave of absence are not subject to the continuous registration policy during the leave period. 

4.12 Language Courses During the Academic Year

Students may take 100-, 200-, and 300-level language classes through the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg college of Arts and Sciences during the academic year. Students must take these classes as their fourth class in a given term, if full-time status is needed. Students beyond course work would take these language courses in addition to TGS 500 registration. All language courses must be taken for a grade.

4.13 Taking Courses at Other Universities

Students who wish to register for classes at other universities may do so via two programs:

  • Traveling Scholar Program - full-time PhD students may register at any of the Big Academic Alliance (former CIC) participating universities
  • The Chicago Metropolitan Exchange program - for graduate students who are interested in registering for classes at UIC or the University of Chicago. The Chicago Metropolitan Exchange Program (CMEP) allows graduate students in a doctoral program, or in a participating training program that is jointly supported by the Exchange Scholar’s home and host institutions, to enroll at one of the three participating institutions and take advantage of academic courses that are not available at their home institution.

These programs enable a full-time graduate student in any of the participating universities to register for courses at other institutions upon the recommendation of the student's advisor and with prior agreement between the advisor and the course instructor. Applications must be finalized at least six weeks prior to the start of classes at the host university.

Graduate students interested in the Traveling Scholar Program or the Chicago Metropolitan Exchange Program must first consult their advisor who will determine whether the off-campus opportunity is likely to enhance the student's course of study and ascertain that it is not, in fact, available on the home campus. Questions should be directed to Antoaneta Condurat.

4.14 Grades and Grade Requirements

A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required for all work presented for a graduate degree. Grades given for completed, credit-bearing graduate courses not taken on a pass/no credit (P/N) basis are:

Grade Grade Points
A 4.0
A- 3.7
B+ 3.3
B 3.0
B- 2.7
C+ 2.3
C 2.0
C- 1.7
F 0
X Failed to earn credit: missed final examination 0
Y Failed to earn credit: work incomplete 0

The following notations are ignored in computing the grade point average:

P: Pass with credit

N: No grade, no credit

K: In progress

S: Satisfactory: noncredit course

U: Unsatisfactory: noncredit course

W: Withdrawn by permission

NR: No grade reported by instructor

X, Y, NR, and F: Do not count toward the accumulation of quarters of residency required for a degree.

4.14.1 Pass/No Credit Option

Students will follow individual program requirements regarding graded coursework. Courses may be taken Pass/No Pass (P/N) only when this grading basis is available for selection in CAESAR. No individual exceptions will be allowed.

  • 590 research registrations must be taken on a P/N basis. A grade of K, not a Y, is given when the work for 590 is in progress. The one-year deadline to make up an incomplete does not apply to the K grade.

4.14.2 Incomplete Grades

A grade of Y is given when a student does not submit all assigned work in a course; a grade of X is given when a student fails to take the final examination.  All X or Y grades are incompletes and must be made up within one calendar year of the date the grade is incurred.