Policies of the CHD

The basic degree requirements and other matters pertaining to graduate study are summarized in GSAS Policies. Included in the current document (including the "CHD", "PhD", and "SM and ME" pages under "Graduate Policies" on the SEAS website) are SEAS-specific policies, procedures, and degree requirements.  Issues relating to acceptable graduate-level courses, cross-registration, part-time study and dissertation research in absentia are also discussed.  The actions of the CHD are based on the requirements and regulations detailed in this document.  The current CHD policies are posted on the SEAS website; it is the student’s responsibility to familiarize themselves with current policies, which are usually revised annually, in August.

Meetings of the CHD

The CHD monitors progress towards attainment of the degree.  The CHD meets approximately once a month during the academic year to review the set of courses each student intends to use for meeting SEAS degree requirements (their “program plan”) and to act on other pending business.  Exceptions to the rules must be submitted via petition and can be granted only by the CHD.  Petitions to the CHD must be in writing (including via PDF submitted electronically), and must have the approval of the student's faculty advisor(s).  Ordinarily, the CHD will not act on any matter submitted for its consideration through the Office of Academic Programs (SEC-Allston, Rm: 1.101) fewer than ten working days prior to a given meeting. The Office of Academic Programs will communicate deadlines to the graduate students in advance of each meeting.


Each SEAS graduate student is assigned a first-year or "field" advisor who is a member of the SEAS faculty upon starting the program based on the topics of study interests outlined in the application.  The field advisor is primarily responsible for helping the student to plan a strong, coherent program in that field.  In each semester of the first year, a student is required to have the advising hold in my.harvard lifted by their advisor.  For M.E. and Ph.D. students, the research advisor will lift the advising hold in subsequent year(s).

Definitions: SEAS faculty, Academic Standing, Grading Scale

SEAS faculty

The phrase “SEAS faculty” is used throughout this document. The definition of SEAS faculty is a SEAS faculty member who is a member of the ladder faculty (Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor), including emeritus faculty.

Academic Standing

For purposes of this document, “satisfactory academic progress” is defined as a student taking an appropriate number of courses, earning acceptable grades in those courses, and, if applicable, making adequate progress toward their qualifying exam, research, and thesis or dissertation.  The research advisor will be consulted about any question of satisfactory progress in the research component of the program.

Grading Scale

For SEAS purposes, a student's performance in letter-graded courses is evaluated based on the 4-point GPA system described in GSAS Policies.  Individual grades of C- or better are satisfactory grades.  SEAS does not include SAT/UNS grades in its GPA calculation; students should note that the informal GPA displayed in their my.harvard record does factor in SAT/UNS grades.

An excused ABS grade is equivalent to a B and a temporary INC grade is equivalent to a C- when determining cumulative average grades at the end of a given semester.  Students must make up an excused ABS during the succeeding term, and are expected to resolve temporary INC grades promptly, both according to the policies and deadlines stated in GSAS Policies.  An excused ABS or temporary INC grade that is unresolved by the stated deadlines becomes a permanent ABS or INC on the student's record, equivalent to a grade of E; the course in question may be retaken for credit at a later time only if the student is allowed to continue in the program.  The EXC grade is not permitted for courses taken in a SEAS graduate program.

Applying to receive the degree

The Application for Degree must be filed on my.harvard.edu by the deadlines available on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Graduation & Diplomas page – typically early August for a November degree, late November for a March degree, and late March for a May degree.  Students will be informed of the exact deadlines by the Office of Academic Programs, however, students are responsible for knowing the deadlines.  The Registrar’s Office does not typically accept late degree applications.

Independent Study Courses: 299r

The CHD reviews the content of any 299r course when it is included on a program plan. 299r courses are arranged in advance of the semester by the student and a faculty member.  The Office of Academic Programs must be informed about a student registering for a 299r at the beginning of each semester, via a “299r form” submitted by the student outlining the scope of the course and indicating the faculty member responsible for submitting the grade at the end of the semester. The form, must be signed by the 299r instructor and returned to the Office of Academic Programs no later than course registration day for that semester. Students must also enroll in the 299r course along with their other course selections in my.harvard.

Cross Registration

Many SEAS students have occasion to cross-register for one or more MIT graduate courses; fewer avail themselves of other opportunities for cross-registration.  The following restrictions on cross-registration, constituting SEAS’ interpretations of the stipulations in GSAS Policies must be satisfied by graduate students in SEAS degree programs.  They apply to all courses taken by cross-registration, cumulatively where appropriate.

The reasons for taking graduate-level courses by cross-registration must be explained in the student's supplementary statement accompanying the degree Program Plan.  Ordinarily, only graduate-level courses comparable in level of technical content to SEAS 200-level courses may be taken by cross-registration.  MIT courses comparable to Harvard reading and research courses may not be taken by cross-registration.  Courses taken by cross-registration should cover subjects not otherwise available in FAS: that is, they should not be taken in place of or in addition to any comparable FAS course without good and sufficient reasons.  Ordinarily, a SEAS graduate student may not cross-register for any course that is not directly related to their degree program.  GSAS limits the number of courses that may be taken by cross-registration to no more than half of the student's total program of study.  The SEAS interpretation of this is that no more than half of all letter-graded courses, exclusive of SEAS letter-graded reading and research courses, may be taken by cross-registration.  The operative limit may be smaller than this in order to satisfy other SEAS requirements on degree programs described elsewhere in this document.  For specific policies on including courses from MIT or elsewhere on a Program Plan, see the Ph.D. or the S.M./M.E. course requirements sections.

Harvard Summer School and GSAS Special Student coursework

A limited number of acceptable graduate-level courses taken as a Special Student in GSAS or when registered in the Harvard Summer School may be included in SEAS graduate program plans if completed with an honor grade (“B-“ or higher); however, acceptable offerings are rarely available through the Summer School. Students needing remedial work, in computer programming for example, may nonetheless find Summer School or Extension courses of interest. Not more than a total of four graduate-level courses taken as a Special Student or in the Summer School may be included in a Master's program plan. Harvard University employees who take courses for academic credit under the Tuition Assistance Plan are treated as though they had registered as Special Students, for purposes of SEAS graduate degree programs, should they subsequently be admitted to GSAS.

Employment Policies

SEAS policy is that no full-time student may accept employment other than Teaching Fellowships and Research Assistantships during the academic year, either inside or outside the University, which involves a time commitment of more than ten hours per week without the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).  No restrictions apply to employment during the summer, except that employment as a full-time Research Assistant precludes other employment.  Ph.D. candidates who have passed their qualifying examinations may not be granted part-time status for the purpose of accepting employment without the permission of the DGS.  

Ph.D. Funding

Please see the Financial Aid and Funding Policies available on the Office of Academic Program's document wiki. Also note the list of external fellowships.