Graduation timeline

Planning for Graduation

Brought to you by the BE REFS – Updated July 6, 2017

Purpose: this short document lists important dates and details for BE graduation as a guide for students (but make sure to check the details yourself!)

What you need to do to graduate:

  • Get your PI on board – have a conversation with them (and your thesis chair)
  • Figure out the logistics and deadlines related to graduating (sign up for the “thesis only” class, get on the degree list, figure out your health insurance and stipend)
  • Have a final thesis committee meeting at least 2 weeks before your defense (but recommended to be 6 months from your defense date)
  • Write your thesis
  • Have your defense

Timeline in brief:

  • 12 months out: decide you want to graduate. Get your PI and thesis committee on board.
  • 6 months out: have a final thesis committee meeting, decide on a graduation target, start writing your thesis, put yourself on the MIT degree list
  • The semester of your defense: sign up for the “thesis only” class, look at the MIT graduation checklist for logistics
  • Days to weeks before your defense: get thesis approved by your committee, print out your thesis, complete all forms (see checklist / handbook)

Extended timeline and advice:

  • Decide on your timeline: there’s a September, February, and June date for degree awards
    • The GAP meeting to review degree candidates occurs three times per year
    • Your stipend will end when you turn in your thesis. Make sure that works with you.
    • Health Insurance will extend for a period after graduation: (this depends on when you hand in your thesis, not when you graduate)
      • June Graduation: Ends Aug 31
      • December Graduation: Ends Jan 31
  • 12+ months out: get your PI / Thesis committee chair on board with you graduating
    • Good to start setting them up for a timeline starting from your 4th year committee meeting (Gantt charts are your friend)
  • 6 months out:
    • Have final thesis committee meeting to agree on graduation timeline and set defense date
      • Ask your thesis committee for feedback on content of the defense
      • Final committee meeting must be at least two weeks before the defense
    • Fill out online form to put yourself on the June or September or February degree list
      • Check the MIT academic calendar for dates to register – it’s at the start of the semester
      • It’s free to sign up on the degree list, but it costs $50-85 if you sign up late. So sign up even if you aren’t sure, and then you can remove your name later.
    • Check deadlines by which you (1) must defend and (2) submit your thesis and (3) submit your thesis title (within the thesis submission application as a separate process).
      • The online schoolwide deadlines are earlier than what is needed by the department. For example, for May 2017 the stated deadline was May 6 but the actual deadline was May 26, the last day Dalia can turn in grades.
      • Defend, at the latest, a week before the final final deadline.
  • The semester of your defense:
    • Register for “thesis only” class
    • Schedule your defense date
  • Three months out: start writing your thesis
    • This is also a good time to discuss your advisor’s thesis expectations, which vary widely
    • Set your official defense date
  • One month out: if you want to get feedback on your thesis, circulate your thesis to your committee
  • Two weeks out: submit thesis to your committee
    • Get your committee to sign your “thesis approval form” (this isn’t actually checked)
  • At your defense: have your thesis chair sign a thesis verification form


MIT Graduation checklist:

MIT Graduation Requirements and dates:

MIT Academic Calendar for dates related to graduation:

BE Handbook: (pg 24)

BE PhD requirements:

Thesis Writing Handbook:

Thesis FAQ:

Thesis Library UMI:

Writing your thesis:

  • Look at MIT Library thesis specifications
  • Look over BE Handbook thesis specifications
  • If your thesis needs to be withheld due to patent disclosures being filed, contact Marlene Mack at the TLO office (
    • The only valid reasons: patent related, in the process of publishing a book, or security concerns to student; it CANNOT be related to just wanting to publish a paper
    • Have to submit form before thesis is submitted
  • You have to pay a $115 thesis fee. Department won’t pay for it, but maybe your lab will reimburse you.

Printing your thesis:

  • Can print your thesis at MIT CopyTech. Self-service printing is free on archival bond paper for black and white at Copy Tech. Color printing can also be self-service for 39 cents a side.  They accept MIT account numbers if you plan to have your lab pay.
  • You can also buy the paper and print it yourself
  • Find the clips and cardboard covers at the BE office (free).

Turning in your thesis:

  • Minimum two copies are needed on archival bond paper (acid-free).
  • Graduate program chair needs to sign each cover page (As of June 2017, this is Mark Bathe, Associate Professor of Biological Engineering, Graduate Academic Program Chair)
  • Advisor needs to sign each cover page.
  • Turn in to BE department before May 26 if graduating by June 2017. Sue and Dalia keep a stockpile of cardboard covers and clips.
    • Dalia will give you a receipt once all materials are complete
    • Needs to be turned in with UMI Proquest form