Steps to Your Doctorate

For those of you new to CSU, welcome! Otherwise, welcome back Grad Rams!

Review all the steps in the following guide during an initial meeting with your department advisor, and/or program coordinator. Subsequent meetings are normally necessary as you progress to degree completion. Advisors, departments, and programs may also have additions or modifications to this guide.  

Step 1 - Register for classes 

As a graduate student, you must be registered every fall and spring semester in a credit-bearing course or enrolled in continuous registration (CR). If you are graduating in the summer term, registration is required in a course or CR is required. Please review the Continuous Registration and Graduation Enrollment Policies page for additional information.   

Please indicate your anticipated graduation date in Registration Ready (RegReady) when registering for courses. The anticipated graduation date is used by units such as the Office of Financial aid. Follow the instructions in step 7 below when you are ready to apply to graduate.  

Step 2 - Select your advisor and committee 

Choose your faculty advisor and your committee members in consultation with your department before completing the GS6 Program of Study. Your committee composition must meet Graduate School requirements, as described on the Graduate School requirements webpage.  

Step 3 – Fill out your GS6 Program of Study form 

Before completing the GS6, it is necessary to consult with your department. The GS6 may not be required for your program, and you may need to meet other deadlines or requirements as specified by your department.    

The GS6 defines your degree requirements such as:  

  • coursework  
  • final defense 
  • dissertation 
  • advisor and committee members  
  • accepted transfer credits   
  • other requirements  

The GS6 must be submitted to the Graduate School before or during your third semester — completing it as early as possible is to your benefit. Visit our GS6 Program of Study page and Forms page for more details and familiarize yourself with the academic Deadline Dates for your anticipated graduation term.  

Step 4 – Take your preliminary exam 

An exam determines whether a candidate is qualified to continue toward the doctorate. The exam must be completed at least two semesters prior to the doctorate candidate’s final examination/defense.  

The GS16 Preliminary Exam form is signed by members of a doctorate candidate’s committee after the student has completed their preliminary examination and must be received by the Graduate School within two working days after the exam has concluded.The committee must be up to date prior to the exam (see step 6). 

Step 5 – Review dissertation formatting guidelines

Review your committee in your Graduate Degree Plan in RAMweb to ensure it is current.   

Prior to starting your dissertation, please review the formatting guidelines for resources and requirements.  

Step 6 – Review committee

The GS9A Petition for Committee Member Changes form records any changes that have been made to your committee since your GS6 Program of Study form was approved by the Graduate School.  

You may change your advisor or committee member(s) after your GS6 Program of Study form has been approved by the Graduate School.  

Step 7 – Complete the GS25 Application for Graduation form

To apply or reapply to graduate, you must submit the GS25 Application for Graduation form to the Graduate School by the academic deadline date of the semester that you intend to graduate. Academic deadline dates are published at: 

The GS25 records:  

  • the term you intend to complete your degree requirements  
  • how you want your name printed on your diploma  
  • course changes that may need to be made to your GS6 Program of Study  
  • other discrepancies that must be addressed    

Access the GS25 in RAMweb. You will complete the required information in RAMweb and submit the digital form with all required signatures to the Graduate School. Review the GS25 Application for Graduation page and Forms page for additional details.   

Regularly review your Graduate Degree Plan with your advisor for any course requirements, discrepancy grades that need to be addressed, any non-course requirements that need to be satisfied and any other discrepancy. 

Step 8 – Take your final examination/defense

A final exam is required for all doctoral candidates and must be completed by the academic deadline date of the semester that you intend to complete your degree requirements.   

The GS24 Final Exam Results form must be signed by members of your committee after you have completed the final examination/defense. View additional procedures and information. The GS24 form must be submitted to the Graduate School within two working days after the results of the examination are known, and prior to the academic deadline date of the semester that you intend to graduate.  All committee member signatures must meet the deadline for submission of the digital form to the Graduate School.  

Step 9 – Complete your dissertation submission form

The GS30 Thesis/Dissertation Submission form is signed by the members of your committee when your dissertation is approved and ready for electronic submission. The GS30 must be submitted to the Graduate School by the academic Deadline Date of the semester that you intend to complete your degree requirements.  

Doctoral students must also submit a Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) Certificate.  

Optional embargo request 

The GS30 includes an optional Embargo Restriction Request for students requesting to delay public release of their dissertation, usually due to a pending patent or publication.  

Step 10 – Submit your dissertation electronically through ProQuest/UMI

As you write your dissertation, review the Thesis and Dissertation resources on our website.   

Submit your dissertation electronically to ProQuest/UMI. Your document must be approved for formatting prior to the academic deadline date of the semester that you intend to complete your degree requirements. You may have required formatting corrections in your document, so we recommended submitting it in advance of the academic deadline date.   

Step 11 – Attend the Graduate School Commencement ceremony 

We invite you to celebrate your achievements at the Graduate School Commencement Ceremony. The Ceremonies are held each spring and fall semester (a ceremony is not held in the summer semester). You may attend either the fall or spring ceremony to accommodate your schedule or as you work to finish your degree requirements. Details are published on the Commencement page. We look forward to celebrating with you!