Graduation Process and Beyond
Graduation is not an automatic process. Students should apply to graduate no later than the application deadline. You must be in good financial standing with the University to receive your diploma. In addition, students in F-1 status MUST apply for a Last Semester of Study Reduced Course Load (RCL) in his/her last semester if fewer courses (less than full-time) are needed and required to complete the course of study. Click here to learn more about the graduation process and the Last Semester of Study Reduced Course Load (RCL).
Students in F-1 status can engage in OPT after graduation (post-completion OPT). You do NOT need an employment offer to apply for OPT. Please note that you need to apply for post-completion OPT in your final semester. The process can take up to four months. Click here to learn more about OPT eligibility, OPT application process, timelines, and deadlines.
We advise students to review the graduation process web page and/or the OPT web page BEFORE they meet with an OIPS advisor. In most cases, the information on the web pages will answer your question(s).
Please note that graduation and Last Semester of Study Reduced Course Load (RCL) requests for law students are processed through the Law School’s Records Office and OIPS. This page focuses on the graduation process for all international students except Law students. Click here to learn more about the graduation process for law students.
* The final step is only required for students in F-1 status who will study less than full-time in their final semester.
** The timelines should be used as a guide only. Please ALWAYS consult the timelines posted on the website of the Office of the University Registrar (https://registrar.gmu.edu/students/graduation/timelines/) and talk with your academic advisor to discuss your program requirements.
Step by Step Process
Step 1: Run your degree audit or evaluation on Patriot Web
- Login to Patriot Web
- Select Student Services
- Select Student Records
- Select Degree Evaluation Menu
- Select Degree Works
Step 2: If applicable, speak with your academic advisor to resolve any outstanding requirements
Step 3: Apply for graduation on Patriot Web
Step 4: If applicable, request a Last Semester Reduced Course Load (RCL) Authorization from OIPS. Please note that Last Semester RCL processing will ALWAYS start at beginning of August for Fall term and beginning of January for Spring term.
Final Steps and Reminders
When OIPS receives the Last Semester Reduced Course Load (RCL) request from you, we will do the following:
- We will verify that you have filed your intent to graduate with the Office of the Registrar.
- We will verify that you have met all degree requirements to complete your program at the end of the current semester if you successfully pass the courses for which you are registered.
- Once the Office of the Registrar has cleared your degree evaluation, OIPS will shorten the program end date on your I-20 to indicate the end of the current semester as your expected date of completion. The I20 will also give you authorization to take less than a full course of study.
- If you have followed all the steps above, normal processing time is 5-10 business days.
- If you believe you will not complete your program as expected, you will need to notify an OIPS advisor promptly.
- Federal regulations specifically state that the OIPS advisor’s approval must be secured prior to the student dropping below a full course of study. A student who drops below a full course of study without the prior approval of the DSO is considered out of legal immigration status. Do NOT drop below a full course of study until you have a new I-20 with an approved RCL endorsement on page 2.
Last Semester of Study RCL Scenario
Anne Smith, an international student from Ireland, is pursuing an MA in Graphic Design. She started her degree in Fall 2022 and plans to graduate in Fall 2023. Late March 2023 she reviews her degree requirements on the college's website and she assumes she has one core course left to graduate (3 credits). In April 2023, she registers for her final course for Fall 2023. She knows that she will have to request a Last Semester of Study Reduced Course Load (RCL) to maintain her legal status but she is not quite sure when she should complete the paperwork (you cannot drop below a full course of study until OIPS has approved your request). After her finals in December, she decides to travel to Ireland for the break. Mid-January she travels back to Fairfax and visits OIPS to inquire about the RCL process. She learns that she needs to run a degree evaluation, apply for graduation and submit a RCL request form. When Anne runs her degree evaluation, she finds out that she has not met all the requirements to graduate. She needs to resolve an issue with a faculty member who is currently out of the country. The faculty member will be back on the first day of classes. This means that Anne will have no choice but to register for a full course of study (6 additional credits - a total of 9 credits) to maintain her legal status until she has met all the requirements to graduate. Only then will she be able to request a RCL. In the end, Anne manages to resolve the issue, apply for graduation and receive an approved RCL endorsement from OIPS. However, Anne was not able to drop the two extra classes until one week after the final add/drop date and she lost 33% of her tuition.
Anne could have run her degree evaluation and apply for graduation as early as April 1, 2023 (click here to view the graduation application deadlines). This would have saved her a lot of trouble and money. Make sure that you plan ahead and start the process early!
If only one course is needed to complete your program of study, the final course cannot be a fully online class:
- If only one course is needed to complete your program of study: you must take a traditional class (taught on campus)
- If two courses are needed to complete your program of study: you can take one fully online course and one traditional course (taught on campus), or you can take two traditional classes (taught on campus)