Preparing to Graduate: Final Steps

Published: Tues., January 12, 2021

Hooray! Graduation is near. The long, rigorous journey to your graduate degree is almost complete. You have invested significant time and energy the past several months and years, working hard meeting the requirements for your advanced degree. Among other things, you have been:

  • Taking classes for your specific academic program, as approved by your adviser and/or committee.
  • Participating/leading discussions in seminars and professional development activities.
  • Learning the research tools necessary for your thesis or dissertation.
  • Passing your comprehensive examinations.
  • Developing your professional identity that will help you succeed in your career.

Accomplishing all of the above milestones and following the “Steps to Degree Completion” on the Office of Graduate Studies website are important requirements toward completing your degree. But it is also important to make sure you have submitted the appropriate paperwork needed for graduation.

Review your Completed Coursework Forms

The final semester or year can be one of negotiations, revisions, and responsibilities. Not being current with your milestone paperwork may impact your ability to graduate. There are resources available to help you as you approach the final tasks so that doesn’t happen. A brief review of some of items you may want to do are discussed in the following paragraphs.

No doubt you have already completed a final check of your Program of Studies (doctoral students) or Memorandum of Courses (master’s students) with your adviser. If not, you will want to use your unofficial transcript found in MyRED to check against your latest, approved official version of these documents to determine if all the courses listed have been or are in the process of being taken. Checking it now will give you and your adviser time to make amendments to your program if needed. Your adviser will need to send an email to the appropriate program specialist in the Office of Graduate Studies (Kelsey Sims for doctoral or Ed.S. degrees, Terri Eastin for master’s degrees) to update the document.

As you enter your final semester, all milestone forms should be up to date. All forms are located at this website. It is wise to keep a copy of each form you submit for your program. If you have questions about whether you’ve met these steps, you should contact your adviser, program’s graduate support staff member, or the respective Program Specialist in the Office of Graduate Studies to determine what you’ve filed to this point.

Final Forms to Submit

Graduation Application Form

This form indicates your intention to graduate in the upcoming semester. The online form can be found on the Office of the University Registrar’s website (

Application deadline for May 2021 graduation: January 29, 2021.

Application deadline for August 2021 graduation: June 11, 2021

We recommend that you check out the Registrar's Commencement website for the latest information about these events and how they will be held.

Final Examination Report (Masters)

Master’s degrees:

Application for Final Oral Examination (Doctoral)

Doctoral degrees:

Report of Completion (Doctoral)

Review Needed Forms and Schedule your Defense

Prior to your final semester, you should consult the Graduate Studies’ website to determine what forms are needed and the deadlines for filing forms, removing incompletes, defending your thesis or dissertation work and depositing the final required paperwork. You should discuss your plans with your adviser and/or supervisory committee to determine schedules and commitments that may impact the scheduling of your defense. You will also need to submit your thesis or dissertation to the Office of Graduate Studies for formatting review, so plan accordingly.

The semester goes by quickly, so you’ll want to make a plan - moving from your desired defense date backwards to the current time to determine your schedule of tasks to be done. For example, in the fall semester, graduation is usually the 2nd or 3rd Friday in December. In May, graduation is scheduled early in the month. You will find the exacts dates on the Graduate Studies Steps to Degree pages or on the UNL Academic Calendar page. The depositing deadlines are always two weeks prior to the date of graduation. The deadline to file the final oral exam forms are four weeks (master’s) or two weeks (doctoral) prior to the depositing deadline. Following these steps will ensure that you are cleared to hold the defenses.

Provide the Document to the Committee

If you are a master’s student writing a thesis or a doctoral dissertation student, you will need to consider the time needed for your committee to read the document prior to the defense. It is wise to ask your committee members how much time they want to read your document. It is courteous to give them no less than 2 weeks, but they may want more time. You will need to plan this into your calendar. With this consideration, your document should be ready to go to your committee no later than six weeks prior to graduation. Remember that you likely may have some edits to your thesis or dissertation following the defense, so it can often be helpful to schedule your defense with at least a few days before the deadline for depositing the document so that you have time to complete the requested edits satisfactorily.

During all the steps, the Office of Graduate Studies program specialists are available for questions and assistance. Please feel free to email or call them. Their contact information is available on the Graduate Studies’ website.

If you have concerns about applying for jobs after you graduate, please contact the professional development team or schedule a consultation.