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Academic Planning

Academic Planning

Effective academic planning is crucial as you commence your graduate journey. Review the items below that outline beneficial steps for your degree progression


  • Advising

    Graduate students are encouraged to communicate regularly with their advisors to ensure successful progression through their respective programs.   

    Graduate Coordinator (Program Coordinator)

    Though the responsibilities of Graduate Coordinators may vary slightly among departments, they typically are responsible for overseeing graduate student admissions, program development, and are responsible for knowing graduate student policies and information.

    Graduate Coordinators are a graduate student’s first point of contact should a graduate student have any questions. They also work closely with the Office of Graduate Studies and Research (OGSR) on a wide range of matters surrounding the graduate student lifecycle. Graduate students should seek program department advising early in their graduate careers and regularly connect with advisors throughout their study. 

    Thesis/Project Chair (Advisor)

    Your Chair is the faculty member who is the key individual to supervise the preparation and completion of your thesis or project. The chairperson has the primary responsibility of assuring that the work of the committee effectively fulfills both the expectations of service to the student and service to the academic discipline or disciplines and professional fields of practice involved.

    Office of Graduate Studies and Research (OGSR) Team

    The OGSR Team helps graduate students by providing support, information, and assistance to aid them in navigating through administrative policies. OGSR also serves as a resource for Graduate Coordinators and program faculty.

  • Grade System

    Definitions of Letter Grades for Graduate Students

    A (Excellent): Performance of the student has been at the highest level, showing sustained excellence in meeting all course objectives and exhibiting an unusual degree of intellectual initiative.  

    B (Good): Performance of the student has been at a high level, showing consistent and effective achievement in meeting course objectives.  

    C (Satisfactory): Performance of the student has been at an adequate level, meeting the basic objectives of the course.

    F (Failing): Performance of the student has been such that minimum course requirements have not been met. 

    Plus/Minus Grading: The use of plus/minus grading is not required. It is used at the discretion of the individual instructor. The following decimal values of plus/minus grades are used in the calculation of grade point averages:

    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

    Nontraditional Grading for Graduate Students

    CR (Credit): Awarded for grades equivalent to B- or better.

    NC (No Credit): Awarded for grades equivalent to C+ or less. 

    I (Incomplete Authorized)​: The symbol I signifies that a portion of required coursework was not completed within the prescribed time due to unforeseen, yet fully justified, reasons and that there is still a possibility of earning credit. It is the student’s responsibility to initiate the process by notifying their instructor about their intentions and following the process to its completion. An incomplete must normally be made up within one calendar year immediately following the term in which it was assigned.

    IC (Incomplete Charged): The IC symbol is used when a student who received an authorized incomplete fails to complete the required coursework within the allowed time limit. The IC replaces the I and is counted as a failing grade for grade point average and progress point computation. Note that the IC is not used if the course was taken for Credit/No Credit or if the faculty member assigns a specific letter grade at the time the Incomplete is assigned (see Incomplete Authorized).

    RP (Report in Progress): The RP symbol is used in connection with courses that extend beyond one academic term. It indicates that work is in progress, but that assignment of a final grade must await completion of additional work. Except for graduate degree theses and projects, work is to be completed within one calendar year immediately following the end of the term in which the RP was assigned. Failure to complete the coursework within the prescribed time period will result in the RP being changed to an F (or NC, if the class was taken for Credit/No Credit). In graduate thesis and project courses, the RP grade will not change to an F or NC until the student has exceeded the time-to-degree limit of the graduate program.

    W (Withdrawal): You will be assigned a W for a course if you withdraw after the drop deadline and file the appropriate petition. A W is not counted in your GPA.

    WU (Withdrawal Unauthorized): If you withdraw from a course without submitting an official withdrawal petition, you will receive a WU symbol. The WU symbol counts as an “F” for GPA calculation.

    SP (Satisfactory Progress): This symbol signifies that the student’s work is satisfactory to date, but the assignment of a precise grade must await the completion of additional coursework. Students must complete the work within the time specified and must not exceed one calendar year from first enrollment.

    Note: Although a "C" grade is defined as "Satisfactory", some graduate programs do not consider course grades lower than a "B-" as a "Passing Grade". Please review your program policies for specific grade requirements.

  • Grade Requirements

    Grade Point Average (GPA)

    The grade point average (GPA) is a measure of academic scholarship and performance. The grade point average is computed by multiplying the number of units earned by the quality-point value of the grade assigned. The total quality points are then divided by the number of units attempted.

    A minimum grade point average GPA of 3.0 (i.e. a B grade) is required in order to graduate and maintain good academic standing.

    Note: Although a "C" grade is defined as "Satisfactory", some graduate programs do not consider course grades lower than a "B-" as a "Passing Grade". Please review your program policies for specific grade requirements.

    GPA Calculator

  • Academic Standing

    A minimum grade point average GPA of 3.0 (i.e. a B grade) is required in order to graduate and maintain good academic standing.

    A graduate student will be placed on academic notice if, during any academic term, the student fails to maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 in all units attempted subsequent to admission to the program.

    At the close of each traditional semester, departments will be notified should any of their students fall below the 3.0 cumulative GPA requirement. The student shall be advised of academic notice status promptly and shall be provided with the conditions for removal from academic notice and the circumstances that would lead to disqualification, should academic notice not be removed. 

    Students should meet with their Graduate Coordinator promptly should their be any concerns regarding their academic standing.

  • Academic Requirements Reports (ARR)

    Students have access to all their academic information and progress through the Academic Requirements Report (AAR) found in the Student Center of their on-line MyCSUSM account. The ARR lists all your program requirements needed to complete your degree and students are encouraged to run the report often to ensure timely progression. Click HERE for instructions on how to run your ARR.

    For assistance or correction on the ARR, please contact your Graduate Coordinator.

  • Transfer Credits

    Per Title V: California Code of Regulations, no less than 21 semester units (32 quarter units) shall be completed in residence (at CSUSM).

    Upon approval of your graduate program, transfer credits may be awarded for postbaccalaureate courses taken at another accredited university, as long as the courses meet degree requirements and fall within the time limit window. Not all programs will accept transfer units so please check with your department.

    If transfer units are approved, they will be applied to your Student Record by the Office of the Registrar's and then directed to the appropriate degree requirements on your ARR by your department. It is the student's responsible to follow up with your department to ensure the units have been applied.

    NOTE: Units transferred in from a quarter institution will hold a lesser value (i.e., 4 quarter units= 2.67 semester units).

  • Advancement to Candidacy

    Each program has specific steps the student must complete to Advance to Candidacy. For example, they must propose their thesis/project idea. Some departments or programs may require that students have a certain GPA or have finished a certain number of units. Since each program is different, students should check with their Graduate Coordinator to understand what is required to advance.

    Once the student has advanced, their Advancement to Candidacy milestone on their ARR will be cleared by their department.

    • Students typically cannot enroll in thesis units without having advanced to candidacy.
    • Students may not also not advance if they are on Academic or Administrative Notice.
  • Culminating Experience

    Every master’s degree program is required to include a culminating experience. The form of this experience differs according to degree programs, but all master’s students must satisfactorily complete either a thesis, a project, or a comprehensive examination.

    A thesis is a written product of the systematic study of a significant problem. It clearly identifies the problem, states the major assumptions, explains the significance of the undertaking, sets forth the sources for and methods of gathering information, provides an analysis of the data, and offers a conclusion or recommendation.

    A project is a significant undertaking appropriate to the fine and applied arts or to professional fields. It evidences originality and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization, and a rationale. It is described and summarized in a written document that includes the project's significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion or recommendation.

    A comprehensive examination is an assessment of the student's ability to integrate the knowledge of the area, show critical and independent thinking, and demonstrate mastery of the subject matter. The results of the examination evidences independent thinking, appropriate organization, critical analysis and accuracy of documentation. A record of the examination questions and responses shall be maintained in accordance with the records retention policy of The California State University.

    A finished master’s thesis or master’s project is a scholarly work that is the product of extensive research and related preparation. The University will make master’s theses and master’s projects publicly available online in the University’s institutional repository, ScholarWorks at CSUSM. Electronic theses and projects provide increased visibility of research produced at the University. The immediate and widespread availability provides worldwide access to scholarship.

    Once the student completed a thesis/project/comprehensive examination, their Culminating Experience milestone on their ARR will be cleared by their department.

  • Enrollment Verification
    You may download and print an official Enrollment Verification Certificate directly from MyCSUSM. Visit the Office of the Registrar for instructions.