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Steps to Graduation

The endgame of any graduate program is to graduate. Each degree has its own steps; following those steps and keeping an eye on the deadlines can help you get to Commencement on time.

The Steps

  1. Prepare your Committee
  2. Get Admitted to Candidacy
  3. Submit Graduation Application
  4. Draft Your Thesis/Dissertation
  5. Defend Thesis/Dissertation or Complete Final Exam
  6. Final Details

Prepare Your Committee

Your committee will act as mentors and evaluators, ensuring that you successfully achieve your degree goals.

Master’s/Specialist in Education

For students in these degree programs, your committee will be determined largely by your department. You are encouraged to get with your major professor to find out who is on your committee, so that you may work with them throughout the rest of the process for graduation. You will also need to know your committee members so that you can complete your Admission to Candidacy, the next step for students in a Master’s or Specialist in Education program.

Doctoral Degree

If you are in a doctoral program, and are ready to establish your doctoral committee, you should consult with your major professor or the Director of Graduate Studies in your department for advice on choosing your committee members. This committee will be responsible for evaluating your performance on comprehensive exams and your dissertation.

Once you have decided on your committee, fill out the appropriate Doctoral Committee Form:

Once you have completed the necessary form, have the members sign it, and submit the form to the Graduate School by the deadline for your intended graduation date. Visit Forms Central for the forms to revise your committee, if you need to remove or add a member.

You should next work with this committee to schedule and take your comprehensive exam. The passing of this comprehensive exam is a requirement for your admission to candidacy, the next step.

Admission to Candidacy

The Admission to Candidacy is a contract between you and UT. Under this contract, you and UT agree that the courses you have taken and the grades you have received have fulfilled the course requirements for your program.

This is for your protection, in the event that the course requirements change after you have been admitted to candidacy. Once you, your committee, and the Dean of the Graduate School have signed this form, any changes to course requirements that happen later will not apply to you.

For doctoral students, there are two other requirements for a successful application:

  • You must have a minimum of two consecutive terms of full-time enrollment
  • You must have passed your comprehensive examination

To apply for admission to candidacy, fill out the Admission to Candidacy form (Master’s/Specialist in Education or Doctoral), following all instructions provided with the form. Be aware of the deadlines for submitting this application, to avoid delaying your graduation.

If you are completing a graduate certificate concurrently with your degree, be certain to complete a Graduate Certificate Course Verification, in order to earn your certificate.

Apply for Graduation

Along with your Admission to Candidacy or Graduate Certificate Course Verification, you must submit your Graduation Application online at MyUTK.

Draft Your Thesis/Dissertation

If you are in a program requiring a thesis or dissertation, now is the time to complete a draft for review. The process of writing this work will depend upon your program and your major professor. However, it would be beneficial to visit the Theses & Dissertations pages advice and requirements before, during and after the process.

To ensure that you protect the integrity of your work and that of others, the Graduate School provides access to iThenticate. This tool allows you to scan your work for potential conflicts early in the process.

You must submit a draft of your thesis or dissertation to TRACE by the deadline specified for your term. If you need assistance with this submission, contact the Coordinator of Student Services (

Defend Your Work or Complete Your Final Exam

Those in a program requiring a thesis or dissertation will defend the work before the committee. Schedule your defense by the deadline date provided for the term you desire (for doctoral students, use the Schedule of Dissertation Defense form). For candidates, you will complete your final examination for evaluation by your committee.

At your defense/final exam, there are two forms that must be present: the Report of Final Examination (Pass/Fail) form and the Thesis/Dissertation Approval form. For Master’s and Specialist in Education candidates, download and complete the Report of Final Examination (Pass/Fail) form to bring to your defense or final exam.

For doctoral candidates, once your defense is scheduled, you will need to download the Report of Final Examination/Dissertation Defense/Project/Capstone (Pass/Fail) form. You are responsible for ensuring that this form is present at your defense.

After the defense/final exam, your committee will provide the signatures on both forms, indicating that you have passed. You will be responsible for getting those original signed forms to the Graduate School by the deadline dates.

Final Details

As you near the end of the graduation process, there are items that must be submitted by the same deadline in order for you to graduate successfully during the term you expect.

For all candidates, you must submit the Report of Final Examination (Pass/Fail) form by the deadline.

For Master’s and Doctoral candidates, your thesis or dissertation must have been submitted to TRACE and accepted by the Coordinator of Student Services before the deadline date for the term in which you expect to graduate. For the majority of cases, this process is simple and straightforward, but if your dissertation does not match the formatting requirements for UT, there may be delays.

It is recommended that you submit your thesis or dissertation to TRACE for a subsequent formatting review at least two weeks before the deadline and that the final draft (no more content edits) be submitted three days before the deadline to avoid delays in graduation.

Remember that the deadline is not when the form must be submitted, but when the thesis or dissertation must be approved.

For doctoral candidates, there is one more step that must be completed by this deadline: the Survey of Earned Doctorates. The Survey of Earned Doctorates is a survey that all doctoral candidates must take before being able to graduate. To complete this survey, follow the instructions provided on the Thesis/Dissertation pages. You must email a copy of your certificate of completion by the deadline date.