Graduation timeline

Planning for Graduation

Brought to you by the BE REFS – Updated July 27, 2018

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)
An important note: your committee has two weeks to provide comments on your thesis after you submit it to them, and until that’s happened they still have the right to change your defense date.

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)
    • Note: your committee has two weeks to approve your thesis and provide feedback after you’ve submitted it to them. They can also not approve the thesis and push your defense back. If you are worried that this may happen, be sure to submit your thesis much earlier.
  • 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. The BE 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 July 2018, this is Forest White)
  • 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