Course Registration Procedures

Registration Overview

In order to register for courses correctly, graduate students should understand the requirements of the program for which they are enrolled. Each program has its own registration requirements and curriculum and specific questions should be directed to a graduate student’s advisor or their program or department.

Incoming students may register at the beginning of their initial semester or during the summer before entry, following the department’s guidelines. All continuing students should register for classes during Advance Registration in the middle of the prior semester (November for spring courses, March for summer and fall courses) using Penn InTouch. All course listings can be found in the University Catalog.


Items of note:
1. Before registration begins, graduate students should read over and understand the specific requirements of their degree program
2. Registration follows the requirements of the student’s total academic program
3. Correct billing is contingent upon correct registration


All students are required to be continuously registered while in graduate school, except under the following exceptional circumstances:

  1. A student takes a leave of absence (full policy here)
  2. Withdrawal from the University

Students who do not register each semester will be dropped from Engineering and the University.


995 Registration: Ph.D. Dissertation

Ph.D. candidates are placed on dissertation status (995) after their Dissertation Proposal is accepted and approved; they are Advanced to Candidacy. Students registering for a PhD dissertation (course number 995) must get approval through their department. Once the Advancement to Candidacy is met, a student may take 995, which also carries full-time status with zero (0.00) credit units, until the completion of degree. (Effective Spring 2009).

A dissertation showing high attainment and power of independent research must be written upon some topic in the field of the major subject. This study must represent a definite contribution to human knowledge; it may be either positive or negative in character. Dissertations based on joint work with other researchers are allowed provided that in such cases a unique and separate dissertation is presented by each degree candidate. The candidate must include a concise account of his or her contribution to the whole work. Authorship of a dissertation by more than one degree candidate is not allowed. The dissertation shall be presented to the graduate group in complete form by the dates specified in the Degree Calendar.


Course Unit Registration Requirement

Master’s- Maximum enrollment for a master’s program is 4 CU’s. A petition and satisfactory GPA (3.0 minimum) is required for more than 4 CU’s after completion of one semester. Tuition is charged per course at the master’s level.
Ph.D.- Ph.D. students will register for four course units to fulfill their course requirements until they have reached full research. Only three units of 999 (Dissertation/Research) are required to maintain full time status.


Auditing a Class

Graduate students who wish to enroll in a course without letter grade, must register as an auditor. Auditors pay the regular tuition charges, but receive no credit for the course. Assignments and exams are not required if properly registered and the instructor is notified.   Audited courses cannot count towards the degree.  Once the course is completed, a grade of “AUD” will appear on the transcript. **Submatriculants are held to the undergraduate rules and are not allowed to audit courses.


Course Drop/Add/Change Period 

Graduate students may add or drop courses during the specified time period each semester.  Tuition will automatically be refunded for a dropped course only if the course is dropped prior to the end of ‘Course Selection Period’.  This date can be found on the University’s Three-Year Academic calendar. Please note the difference between the drop period (for undergraduates) and the course selection date (for graduate students). Graduate students will not have registration access in Penn In Touch after this date.  Reminders will be distributed via email from the RAS Graduate Office. **Submatriculants are held to the undergraduate drop/add deadline for their graduate level courses.


Withdrawal from Courses

Graduate students may withdraw from a course after the course selection period is over but no later than the final day of class.  No petition for withdrawal will be considered after the final day of classes. The student should submit the form entitled, “Petition for Withdrawal from a Course.” A “W” will appear on the transcript for the course. Submatriculants are held to the undergraduate deadlines for their graduate level courses.


Reduced Course Load (RCL)

International students who wish to drop below 3 CU’s are required to request a Reduced Course Load (RCL) with the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) Office. Full information on RCL can be found here and questions can be directed to a student’s individual ISSS advisor.


Graduate Program Requirements

Each graduate program has its own administrative structure, curriculum, and its own set of requirements for graduation. For information about these requirements, please consult the relevant informational brochures or websites of each graduate program.


NOTE: There are courses that appear at the graduate level that are being offered by other parts of the University that will not be approved for SEAS graduate degree requirements. These include courses being offered in specialized and professional training programs, such as the Organizational Dynamics Program, the Wharton Certificate Programs for Working Professionals, and the Wharton Evening School. Check with your department for approval before you enroll in a course outside of SEAS.