Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Current Graduate Students

Below are answers for frequently asked questions relevant to current graduate students in our department. Most of the official requirements, rules, timelines, and policies for our department can be found in the Computer Science Graduate Handbook and the Graduate School Bulletin. The below FAQ only elaborate on those existing documents.

If you cannot find an answer for what you’re looking for below, please contact the Graduate Program Manager at


How and when should I register for Thesis Research (COSC 999)?

If you are a graduate student taking less than a full course load for a given semester, you need to also register for a section of Thesis Research (COSC 999) to fill out your schedule.

There are two sections of this course that you can choose: 999-01 and 999-03. Here is how you decide which to choose:

If you are taking no courses, you should register for 999-01.

If you are taking some courses, but not a full load of courses, you should register for 999-03.

Important Note: You need permission from the graduate school before My Access will allow you register for either of these sections. They want to manually approve all such requests. If you wish to register for COSC 999, therefore, you must first send a note to They will then unlock the course for you, allowing you to register.

How do I register for an external elective?

The first step in registering for an external elective is to get the course approved. The department maintains a list of already approved external electives here. If a course is on this list, it is already approved.

If you want to register for an external elective that is not on this list, you will need permission from the graduate committee. To do so, send a description of the course, including its syllabus (if available), to the Director of Graduate Studies, who will then submit the course to the graduate committee to determine whether or not it is approved as an external elective.

To register for an approved course, you will likely need the approval of the instructor, as My Access will not automatically let you register for courses in other departments.

To gain instructor approval, fill our an add/drop form, which will need to be signed first by the instructor and then by the Director of Graduate Studies. You can find the form and instructions under “Enrollment & Registration” on the Forms page maintained by the Registrar.

Common Tasks

How do I apply for a leave of absence?

Descriptions of the various types of leaves available, the circumstances under which they can be taken, and instructions for applying, can be found in this section of the Graduate Bulletin.

(Note: some temporary adjustments to the leave policy were made to accommodate issue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. See this FAQ document for a description of all such changes currently active.)

How do I apply to graduate?

The graduate school maintains comprehensive instructions for the graduation process here. Please read these instructions early in the semester in which plan to graduate to ensure that you finish the listed steps by the provided deadlines.

International Students

For most issues related to international students and visa status, contact the Office of Global Services, as they are meant to be the definitive source of information on these topics for our students.

Below are some FAQ regarding common department administrative tasks for international students.

How do I apply for CPT?

Co-Curricular Practical Training (CPT) allows international students the opportunity to work/intern during the summer, fall, or spring terms without losing their student visa status. The student must have completed a full academic year (fall/spring) and be in good academic standing to request it. This means a 3.0 GPA or higher.

Below is a summary of the two main steps for applying for CPT.

Step #1: Register and Enroll Internship Tutorial Course

In order to make a CPT request, you need to enroll in an internship tutorial course. To do so, fill out the “Tutorial Registration Form” found under the “Enrollment & Registration” section of the Registrar’s Forms page.

Once completed, send this form to the Graduate Program Manager at

Here are some details to help you fill out the form:

  • The course number for the tutorial varies depending on the term. For the summer term (the most common time for CPT) it should be COSC 902.
  • The course counts for .25 credits.
  • If it’s a summer internship, then “Summer Internship” can be used as the course title.
  • The Director of Graduate Studies should be listed as the course instructor.
  • The schedule of meetings should be “Other” (as the DGS doesn’t meet regularly, instead, but instead evaluates an essay at the end of the semester).
  • Put a short description of the type of things you will be doing or learning under “course descriptions and learning goals.”
  • Many students list some books under “required reading”; usually textbooks related to the general topic of their internship.
  • Under the section that asks how the course will be graded (the last question before the signatures), say that you will write a 600-word essay on the experience, and what you learned, which will then be submitted to the instructor for grading.

Once you submit this form to the Graduate Program Manager, he or she will use it to register the tutorial with the Graduate School. You will then see it available for registration.

Step #2: Gathering and Submitting your CPT Application

Concurrently with registering your tutorial, you can begin work on your CPT application. Detailed instructions for this process, including how to determine your eligibility, obtain the needed offer letter from your employer, and then fill out and submit your request form, can all be found here.

When you get to the step in the instructions that has you fill out your CPT form, you will be entering information for Part 1.

There is a Part 2 on the form that needs to be filled out by department. When you’re ready for this step, send the form to the Graduate Program Manager. He or she will then send it back with Part 2 filled out and the appropriate signatures/initials gathered.

You will then be able to submit your entire CPT package as instructed by the web site linked above.