Current Student Policies

Overview

This section contains policies that are applicable to graduate students in the Physical Sciences Division, including information on:

The Student Manual is the official statement of University policies, regulations, and expected standards of conduct applicable to all students. Students are expected to be familiar with these policies.

In all instances, conduct involving a possible violation of University policies and regulations and other breaches of standards of behavior expected of a student in the Physical Sciences Division should be brought promptly to the attention of the PSD Dean of Students. The Physical Sciences Division follows the Area Disciplinary System outlined in the Student Manual.

Dean's Summons

From time to time, a Dean or their designee will require the immediate presence of a student to address a matter of genuine urgency. In such cases, the Dean or designee may issue a summons requiring the student to appear in person at a specified time and place, regardless of the student's other commitments. Failure to appear as required by the summons is a serious matter and may result in a restriction of registration or referral to an area Disciplinary Committee.

Divisional and Departmental Policies

In addition, PSD graduate students are required to comply with specific divisional, departmental, or program policies where such exist, including training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR).

Academic Policies

Good Standing and Academic Probation Policy

Good Standing

In order to be in Good Standing in the Physical Sciences Division, students are expected to complete required courses, maintain GPA minimums, adhere to deadlines, and fulfill requirements as set out by each individual program or department. If a student has any questions about relevant degree milestones or maximum timelines for completion of requirements for a PhD or Master’s program, they are encouraged to contact the program directly or to reach out to the Dean of Students office at any time.

Students are expected to maintain Good Standing and make academic progress toward the degree throughout their graduate career.  If a student is deemed not to be in Good Standing based on the criteria outlined above, the student may be placed on Academic Probation upon the recommendation of the faculty in their program and approval of the department or program chair.

All PSD PhD students receive full funding as part of their offer of admission (via a University of Chicago source or external fellowship, award, prize, or grant) as long as they continue to make satisfactory academic progress. This funding support includes a stipend, annual insurance premiums, and the quarterly Student Services Fee. This support may take the form of a teaching assistantship, research assistantship, or stipend fellowship. All such assignments form part of the student’s academic and professional training and accepting an assignment is a requirement of remaining in good academic standing. Since these assignments are integral to the student’s academic and professional development, students are not permitted to decline funding in any given quarter of their degree program. Students on outside fellowship will receive a supplement from the program if their outside fellowship funding totals less than the funding amount noted in the offer of admission.

Academic Probation

Students on Academic Probation will be informed in writing about the expectations for how they may return to Good Standing and given a timeline for completion of those requirements, generally a minimum of one quarter.  A copy of this document, along with the student’s confirmation of receipt and acknowledgement of the terms of the probation letter shall be sent to the Dean of Students.

Students who are unable to meet the expectations outlined in the Academic Probation letter may not be permitted to continue in the program.

Current Contact Information

In general, students are expected to be in residence in Chicago for the duration of their studies, though limited exceptions do exist (e.g. Pro Forma status, etc.). The Dean of Students Office in the Physical Sciences Division requires students to either provide a current local (the greater Chicago area) residential address or to notify the Dean of Students Office that they will be residing elsewhere in a given quarter. Students must also provide a current phone number where they can be reached.

The Dean of Students Office will reach out during first week of each quarter to students who do not have a local residential address listed in their my.uchicago.edu profile. Those students must provide an update to the Dean of Students Office about their current location and update their my.uchicago profile. Students who do not meet this requirement will have a registration hold placed on their records during week three of the quarter. This hold can be removed once a student provides the required information in their my.uchicago profile.

Disability Accommodations

The Divison's guidance on using disability accommodations and quarterly procedures can be found on the SDS Accommodation Process page

The University's policy on disability accommodations can be found in the Student Manual.

Student Disability Services (SDS) welcomes students to self-identify as an individual with a disability. SDS staff will engage with you in an interactive process to identify the necessary services and accommodations to ensure equitable access to University programs and services. Students can complete a request for an accommodation by submitting the online Student Disability Services Request Form.

If SDS determines that accommodations are appropriate they will provide the student with an Accommodation Determination Letter that states the approved accommodations. Copies are shared with the Dean of Students Office. The Dean of Students Office will assist with the implementation of accommodations.

For general questions about accommodations, please email disabilities@uchicago.edu.

For questions about implementing your accommodations, please email Sarah Lippert, Assistant Dean of Students, Physical Sciences Division.

Grading Policies

The following grades are awarded in graduate courses:

Grade Point Value
A 4.0
A- 3.7
B+ 3.3
B 3.0
B- 2.7
C+ 2.3
C 2.0
C- 1.7
D+ 1.3
D 1.0
F 0.0

These are referred to as “quality grades” and carry a specific weight (point value) when GPA is officially calculated by the Registrar. A grade of “F” carries no point value and does not confer credit.

Grade minimums for degree programs are determined by departments and programs. Students with questions about grade minimums and pass/fail policies should contact their department or program directly.

The grading policies below may vary by program. Before discussing plans with an instructor, please contact your Student Affairs Administrator to discuss grading options available in your degree program. Your program's grading policies may be more specific than the general policies outlined below:

Pass/Fail Grading

Pass/Fail grading typically occurs in two circumstances: (1) the course is grade on a pass/fail basis as a matter of policy (e.g. an Advanced Research course) or (2) a student obtains instructor permission to take a class for a pass/fail grade.

Before discussing pass/fail grading with instructors, students should check with their department or program to determine whether a grade of “P” will be allowed to count towards their degree requirements.

A grade of P can be awarded when the instructor determines that the student has submitted sufficient evidence to receive a passing grade. A grade of P confers credit but does not carry any point value and will not impact a student’s GPA.

Procedures to request a grade of pass/fail

  1. Contact your Student Affairs Administrator to determine whether taking a course for a “Pass/Fail” grade will disrupt your progress towards degree. 
  2. Request permission from the instructor to take the course for a grade of pass/fail. These requests should be made on or before the midpoint of the quarter. All pass/fail requests must be submitted to an instructor no later than Friday of the last full week of instruction of the quarter or prior to the date of the final examination or final project/assignment due date, whichever is earlier. 

Note: In courses that normally assign quality grades, you must have the instructor’s permission to take the course pass/fail. Instructors are permitted to deny this request.

Withdrawals

Students who do not wish to complete a course after Friday of third week of a quarter may request a withdrawal (“W”) from the course. Withdrawals will ordinarily be granted except in cases of academic dishonesty. A withdrawal may not be granted after completion of the course requirements (typically the last day of a quarter).

A grade of “W” appears on the student’s transcript. A “W” does not carry any point value and will not impact a student’s GPA. A grade of “W” does not confer credit and may thus impact progress towards degree.

Withdrawals will not result in any changes to a student’s tuition bill.

Course changes made prior to the end of the third week of a quarter will not result in a grading penalty since these are enrollment changes made during the “add/drop period.”

Procedures to request a withdrawal

  1. Students must request a withdrawal before the final exam has been given or before the final project due date.
  2. Students should contact their Student Affairs Administrator to request withdrawal. Students are also strongly encouraged to notify their instructor that they have chosen to withdraw from the course.
  3. Students can verify that the Withdrawal took place by checking their current quarter enrollments in my.uchicago.edu. 

Students with questions about whether a withdrawal will impact their financial aid or student visa should contact the Graduate Financial Aid Office or the Office of International Affairs, respectively.

Incompletes

A student may request a grade of “Incomplete” (“I”) if they anticipate not completing the course requirements before the end of a quarter but have: (1) participated actively in the course, (2) completed the majority of the requirements of the course, and (3) made satisfactory arrangements with the instructor to complete the remaining work by a specified deadline.

If the instructor agrees to assign an “Incomplete,” a grade of “I” will appear on the transcript. An “I” does not carry a point value and does not impact a student’s GPA. Once the student has completed the course requirements, the transcript will be updated to include the quality grade. Typically, a mark of “I” will appear on the transcript next to a quality grade to denote that the work was not completed within a single quarter (e.g. “IA” or “IB+”). Quality grades with an “I” carry the same transcript weight as quality grades without an “I.”

Because an incomplete is a formal agreement between an instructor and a student, failure to submit or complete remaining requirements by the agreed-upon deadline could result in assignment of a quality grade that the student earned based on requirements partially met in the course.

Procedures to request an incomplete

  1. Students should discuss the possibility of an incomplete with their instructor as soon as they become aware that they may not be in a position to complete all course requirements by the end of a quarter, by Friday of the last full week of instruction of the quarter at the latest. 
  2. If an instructor agrees to an incomplete, students are strongly encouraged to record the agreement in writing (e.g. email) and specify the work remaining to be completed and the due date for the work.
  3. Students should notify their Student Affairs Administrator that they will receive an incomplete in a specific course. 

Audits

Students may request to formally audit a course. Instructor permission is required. Students interested in auditing a course should contact the instructor directly.

MS Students should be aware that formally auditing a course will result in tuition charges for that course.

A formally audited course will appear on the student’s transcript. Typically, a grade of “R” (“Registered”) appears as the grade for an audited course. A grade of “R” does not carry any point value and will not impact a student’s GPA. Audited courses do not confer credit. 

Students who receive instructor permission to audit a course should touch base with their department administrator prior to the end of third week of the quarter (the end of add/drop) to receive approval and have any approved changes made to their registrations. PhD students should maintain 300 units of registration in addition to an audited course since audited courses do not confer any amount of credit. 

Note: Whether to allow audits is within the instructor’s discretion. Instructors are not required to allow students to audit their course.

Family Life

Leaves of Absence

From time to time, students may want or need to take a leave of absence from their studies in the Physical Sciences Division. If you are considering a leave of absence, please contact your Student Affairs Administrator in your department or the Dean of Students Office directly (psd-dos@lists.uchicago.edu) for information about next steps. Generally, students are allowed up to four quarters of personal leave of absence and up to four quarters of medical leave of absence. The University's policy on leaves of absence can be found in the Student Manual. 

International students considering a leave of absence must consult with the Office of International Affairs in addition to working with their Department and the Dean of Students Office. Please note that you must work with both the Dean of Students Office and the Office of International Affairs to request a leave of absence. 

Leaves of Absence Process Overview

  • Discuss your plans to take a leave with your department or program. A good starting place is your Student Affairs Administrator. If you aren’t sure who to reach out to, you are always welcome to contact the Dean of Students Office.
  • Complete the appropriate form:
    • Personal leaves of absence are available to all students for any reason. Graduate students are entitled to up to four quarters of personal leave of absence.
    • Medical leaves of absence are available for students who have a medical reason that they need to pause their studies. Students requesting a medical leave of absence may receive a request from the Dean of Students Office for documentation from a health care provider that explains that a leave is recommended by said provider. You will receive additional details about how to submit this if necessary. Graduate students are entitled for up to four quarters of medical leave of absence.
    • Parental Leaves of Absence are available for students who are pregnant or become parents during their graduate studies. Please contact the Dean of Students Office for more information.
  • Once the Dean of Students Office receives your request, we will contact your department/program to let them know that you have made the request.
  • Within several business days you will receive either:
    • A confirmation of your leave of absence, including details, a checklist, and an outline of procedures for resuming studies
    • A message from the Dean of Students Office requesting additional information or clarification
  • Note: Access to University facilities and other privileges associated with being enrolled as an active student are limited during a leave of absence. In particular, students on a leave of absence may not take classes, conduct research, or hold student employment positions for the duration of their leave of absence.
  • Resumption of Studies: When you are ready to resume studies, please notify the Physical Sciences Division Dean of Students Office (psd-dos@lists.uchicago.edu) and your Student Affairs Administrator via email with your name and ID number at least six weeks prior to the quarter in which you plan to resume.

Leave of Absence Forms

Students may request a leave of absence using the appropriate form below. Questions should be directed to Sierra Sterling (ssterlin@uchicago.edu). 

List-host Policies

  • Email messages must be related to the business and mission of the Physical Sciences Division.
  • Emails of a personal nature, such as notices of items for sale, lost or found items, and solicitation of goods or services are not allowed.
  • Messages that publicize or endorse causes (even a very good cause), such as relief efforts for victims of natural disasters or organizations seeking assistance that are not already associated with the University are not allowed.
  • List-host moderators have the right to withhold any messages that do not meet the guidelines set forth in this policy.

PhD Registration Limits

For students who entered a PhD program in the Physical Sciences Division before summer 2016, there is a twelve-year registration limit. For students who entered between summer 2016 and spring 2017, there is a nine-year registration limit. For students entering summer 2017 or later, the registration limit is seven years. Students who exceed these limits will be administratively withdrawn from their degree programs.

Per University policy, students who exceed registration limits after entering PhD candidacy may complete a dissertation independently and petition their program to defend the dissertation and to graduate.

Exceptions to Registration Limits for Students Entering Summer 2016 or Later

For students entering summer 2016 or later, leaves of absence are not counted against registration limits, nor is time spent in a formal master’s program such as MS-PSD.

Exceptions to registration limits may be granted by the Dean of the PSD on petition of the relevant department chair or program director, subject to approval of the Provost. Requests for exceptions should be submitted to the PSD Dean of Students. Such requests should ordinarily be made at least two quarters before the registration limit (e.g., seventh or ninth year) or at least two quarters before the end of any time extension that may already have been approved. Factors that will be taken into account in deciding whether to grant the exception include, but are not limited to: 

  • Whether the student has entered PhD candidacy;
  • The extent to which circumstances outside the student’s control have contributed to delayed progress toward the PhD;
  • Whether the exception is being sought in connection with an accommodation granted by the Student Disabilities Services Office;
  • and whether the student, along with the advisor and department chair or program director, has developed a reasonable plan, including clear, achievable milestones, for finishing in a timely manner.
  • Exceptions typically will be for no more than one year at a time.

Registration 

Quarterly Registration Timeline

Graduate students should plan to register during eighth week (8th week) for the upcoming academic quarter unless instructed to register at a different time by the Dean of Students Office or their department/program. Registration reference guides are available on the Registrar’s website.

Students who do not complete registration until the first day of a quarter will ordinarily be assessed a late registration fee. This fee is not applied to students returning from a leave of absence.

PhD Student Registration Overview

The University of Chicago requires PhD students to be continuously registered. Students complete Ph.D. program requirements as established by individual academic units. To foster professional development and steady progress toward the degree, the Physical Sciences Division requires Ph.D. students to maintain satisfactory academic standing in each quarter of enrollment; and to be registered during the summer quarter in addition to autumn, winter, and spring.

Continuous registration means that PhD students must be enrolled for at least 300 units, including the option of research or advanced study. While registered, students may have access to student housing, library privileges, use of athletic facilities, eligibility for student health insurance, and access to the services of UChicago Student Wellness. 

Ph.D. students who do not wish to register in a given quarter may request a personal leave of absence (up to four quarters available for duration of studies) or a medical leave of absence (up to four quarters available for duration of studies). Ph.D. students who submit and defend their dissertation by the end of first week of their graduation quarter are eligible for a “no registration required” status during their graduation quarter. Students who submit and defend their dissertation by the early deadline typically do not receive departmental support that quarter.

MS Student Registration Overview

Ordinarily, full-time MS students in the PSD enroll in 300 units of courses during Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarters.

Since most MS programs in the PSD do not require continuous registration, students should notify their program/department if they ever plan not to take courses during the Autumn, Winter, or Spring Quarter. Students who are considering not taking courses in an upcoming quarter should discuss their registration plans and degree progress with their program/department several weeks prior to the quarter they plan not to register.

International students should carefully review registration expectations related to their student visa in addition to discussing their registration plans with their program/department. To maintain F-1 and J-1 status, federal immigration regulations require students be enrolled full-time for all quarters listed on the I-20/DS-2019, with the exception of the vacation quarter (usually summer).

For Summer Quarter, MS students planning to take courses must term activate themselves prior to registering.

Booth Registration

Students interested in taking courses at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business should carefully review Booth's registration guide and timelines

PSD graduate students may not register for a Booth course in their expected graduation quarter if they need to receive a grade in the Booth course to complete their degree requirements.

Registration Hold Policies

From time to time, students may have holds placed on their accounts. Students who have been placed on hold will not be able to register for courses nor access University services and facilities until their financial obligations or compliance with rules and regulations have been fulfilled.

If you see a hold on your account, please review this information on the Registrar’s website. You are also encouraged to reach out to your Student Affairs Administrator or the Dean of Students Office for more information and assistance with having the hold removed.

Student Employment/Positions

PhD and full-time MS students should not hold student positions that total more than 20 hours/week during Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarters, per University policy. Some students may be eligible to hold positions that total up to 37.5 hours/week in Summer Quarter. Please note that international students have hours limitations to maintain their F-1 or J-1 immigration status.  

PhD Students

PhD students are considered to hold a “student position” if they are in an RA or TA position in any given quarter (including Summer). For records purposes, these positions have associated hours in Workday. Thus, any PhD student should plan to only hold their primary position (TA or RA through the department). If you are a PhD student and are interested in adding a position beyond your primary TA or RA appointment, you must receive approval from your department and the Dean of Students Office prior to acceping a second position.

Examples of positions that require departmental and DOS approval: TA position outside your department (e.g. Booth, The College, Summer Session), RA position outside your department, instructional grader, etc.

To request approval from your department and the Dean of Students Office, please email your Student Affairs Administrator and email psd-dos@lists.uchicago.edu to request the General Petition. Requests are not guaranteed to be approved.

University Policies

Unregistered Students

PhD Students

PhD students have a continuous registration requirement for the duration of their degree program. In effect, this means that PhD students should be registered for at least 300 units each quarter.

PhD students who do not register will be contacted by their department/program and the Dean of Students Office. Students must register each quarter to receive their PhD funding as outlined in their offer of admission.

If a PhD student in regular student status remains unregistered at the end of first week of the quarter, they may be placed on an administrative leave of absence for that quarter.

MS Students

MS students should discuss their registration plans with their program/department each quarter for the upcoming quarter and follow any registration processes the program/department has in place.

Some programs may permit students to enroll in 0 units in certain quarters. It is the student’s responsibility to notify their program of their plans and engage in discussions about how this will impact their degree progress.

Students who do not register during registration week must complete a form indicating their plans for the upcoming quarter. This information will be shared with individual students’ programs.

MS students who are unregistered at the end of first week of the quarter and who have not discussed their registration plans with their program/department will have a registration hold placed on their accounts for the upcoming quarter. This registration hold is a student account restriction.

Students can have the registration hold removed by reaching out to the Dean of Students Office and their program to discuss their plans for continuing to make degree progress. If students do not contact their program or the Dean of Students Office by third week of the following quarter, they will be placed on an administrative leave of absence.

Administrative Leave and Withdrawal Policy

Graduate students who are restricted from registering must clear their restrictions by the end of the third week of the quarter or they will be put on an administrative leave of absence in that quarter. At the beginning of the next quarter, if the student has failed to clear all restrictions, the student will be administratively withdrawn from the University by their Dean of Students (unless the student is on a documented non-administrative leave of absence).