Maintaining Good Academic Standing

A graduate student must maintain good academic standing within the department (as described in §II.A.5.); consequences of not maintaining good academic standing are described in §II.A.5.

Conditional Admission

When an applicant’s entrance exam or GPA score is not up to University minimum requirements, admission is “conditional.” There are two important consequences of this: 1) if you do not maintain a graduate GPA of 3.0 or better while in conditional status, you will lose your assistantship; 2) if your GPA is below 3.0 at the end of the term in which you complete your 12th credit hour, you will be dismissed from the program. These two policies are applied rigorously by the Graduate School, so you are urged to apply yourself diligently to your coursework your first year if you are admitted conditionally.

Teaching Assistantships

A new graduate student who has been awarded a teaching assistantship can normally expect to have the TA renewed as long as s/he is in good academic standing (see §II.A.5.), as stipulated by the student’s advisor and the department chairperson, and as long as funds are available. There are time limits, however, on the total number of years that a student may hold a TA. A student working toward an M.S. degree will normally be expected to complete the degree requirements within two years, and financial support will not routinely continue beyond that period. In special cases, upon petition and approval of the department chairperson, financial support may be continued for up to three years. A maximum of six years of TA support is allowed for Ph.D. students. This does not mean, however, that students are automatically guaranteed six years of support. Students are encouraged to graduate in a timely manner, and support will not be continued if it is decided that the student is not making adequate progress. Students who are required to pass the International Teaching Assistant Program (ITAP) exam must do so by the end of their second semester in order to receive continued TA support.

Research Assistantships

Students are encouraged to start research as soon as practical, by discussing opportunities for research with faculty in their area of interest. Many students are supported on research assistantships after their first or second year in residence. This enables a student to focus on research and make speedier progress toward his or her degree. RAs are generally funded by external grants obtained by faculty members. The amount of the RA stipend varies somewhat but is usually at least as much as a TA stipend. Continuation of a research assistantship is contingent on the student’s satisfactory progress and maintenance of good academic standing, as well as on the availability of funds, which may change from year to year. When a student’s research assistantship is not renewed, he or she will be considered for a teaching assistantship, using the criteria of length of time in the graduate program, academic standing (including progress toward degree; see §II.A.5.), and availability of TA funds.


The Graduate School has several fellowship programs for which students may apply. Graduate Council Regular Fellowships are primarily awarded to exceptional incoming students. Graduate Council Research Fellowships are for students doing research that is funded externally, or may lead to external funding. Dissertation Fellowships are for students in the final stages of the research leading to their dissertation. Physics and astronomy students have been rather successful in receiving these fellowships, especially the latter two, which carry nice stipends and a certain amount of prestige. Students do not apply directly for these fellowships, but must be nominated by the department. Let your advisor know if you are interested. Check the Graduate School website for more information.

Summer Support

For first-year students in good academic standing, summer support is guaranteed by the department during the summer following their first spring semester. For international students, this support is contingent upon passing the ITAP exam by the end of their second semester. The support may be in the form of an RA or a TA. In subsequent years, support is not guaranteed, but almost all students are supported on some sort of assistantship or fellowship. Students interested in summer RA support should approach faculty in their area of interest to see if support is available. Students do not need to register for courses during the summer and are encouraged to spend as much time on research as possible.

Jobs Outside the Department

Teaching and research assistants who hold a 0.5 FTE or greater appointment are not allowed to hold additional employment outside the department, with the exception of tutoring, without special permission from the department chairperson. The department’s policy is that time not taken up by assistantship duties should be devoted to course work, research, and other degree requirements. Since tutoring aids graduate students in learning the fundamentals of their discipline, a maximum of 5 hours of tutoring per week is allowed. Tutoring students for pay in a course in which you are assigned is not allowed.