Coterminal Master's Degrees
The coterminal degree program allows undergraduates to study for a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) degree while completing their bachelor's degree(s) in the same or a different department. To qualify for both degrees, a student must complete requirements for both the bachelor's degree and the master's degree as described under their respective sections of this bulletin.
Application and Admission to a Coterminal Master's Program
Undergraduates with strong academic records may apply for admission to a Stanford Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) program that offers coterminal admission via the process outlined below. Any master’s degree granting program may elect not to offer coterminal admission.
An undergraduate is eligible to apply for admission once all of the following conditions have been met:
- completion of six non-summer quarters at Stanford; or two non-summer quarters at Stanford for transfer students
- completion of 120 units toward graduation as shown on the undergraduate transcript, including transfer, Advanced Placement exam, and other external test credit
- declaration of an undergraduate major
Application deadlines vary by department and program, but in all cases the student must submit the application early enough to allow a departmental decision, and, if admitted, respond to the offer of admission no later than the quarter prior to the anticipated date of conferral of the bachelor's degree.
Stanford undergraduates may also choose to apply to Stanford graduate degree programs through the standard graduate admissions process as described in the Graduate Admission section of this bulletin. Such applicants are not coterminal students and coterminal policies do not apply.
Applicants must meet the application requirements and deadlines established by the department or program to which they are applying. Applicants are only permitted to apply to one coterminal master’s degree program per quarter, and may not apply to another coterminal master’s degree program until the admissions process for the initial application has been completed, including the student’s response to offer of admission, if admitted.
The bachelor’s degree must be conferred before a student may apply to add an additional advanced degree program.
To apply for admission to a coterminal master’s program, students must submit to the prospective graduate department or program the following:
- Application for Admission to Coterminal Master’s Program or online application, depending upon the department
- statement of purpose
- preliminary program proposal
- two letters of recommendation from Stanford professors
- a current Stanford transcript
Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores and additional requirements may be specified by the prospective program, and may be found in this bulletin and on department web sites.
Applications must be submitted no later than the quarter prior to the expected completion of the undergraduate degree. If admitted, students must also respond to an offer of admission no later than the quarter prior to the expected completion of their undergraduate degree. Students who accept an offer of admission and matriculate into a master’s degree program via the coterminal program application process are assessed a $125 application fee.
For University application forms, see the Registrar's Coterminal Forms web site.
Each master’s department or program is responsible for admissions decisions for coterminal applicants. After the student accepts the offer of admission, the program must admit the coterminal applicant and submit the completed and approved application for admission or online application, depending upon the department, to the Office of the University Registrar no later than the quarter prior to the expected completion of the undergraduate degree.
If the coterminal program permits deferral, students may defer matriculation into the coterminal program, and the first graduate quarter, to a later quarter as long their graduate career has not yet been activated, and if the later matriculation will still meet all University and departmental requirements for coterminal admission. Deferral is coordinated with the master’s degree program, prior to the program submitting the completed application to the Office of the University Registrar. This may require postponement of conferral of the undergraduate degree.
First Graduate Quarter
The first graduate quarter is the quarter in which the coterminal student first matriculates into the master’s degree program. The first graduate quarter does not necessarily correspond to the first quarter in which a student enrolls in a course in the graduate career nor is it affected by course transfer; see Coterminal Course Transfer, below.
Admitted students must have one quarter of overlap between the undergraduate and graduate careers prior to conferral of their undergraduate degree. For example, if the first graduate quarter in the coterminal master’s program is Spring, then the earliest that the undergraduate degree can be conferred is at the completion of Spring quarter.
Adding or Changing Master’s Degree Programs
The bachelor’s degree must be conferred before a student may apply to an additional advanced degree program.
Coterminal students who wish to change from one master’s degree to another before conferral of the bachelor’s degree must submit an approved request to withdraw from the original degree program using the Request to Permanently Withdraw from Degree Program form, and a completed and approved application for admission to the new program in the same quarter. In this case, all courses, including any prior course transfer from the undergraduate career, remain in the graduate career. The new degree program may choose not to approve all courses towards the new master’s degree program requirements. The student may elect to transfer courses back to the undergraduate career, if the bachelor’s degree has not been conferred.
Each type of degree offered at Stanford (for example, Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science) has a requirement, called residency for graduate degrees, based on the minimum number of academic units required for the degree. Requirements are described in the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and Residency Policy for Graduate Students sections of this bulletin. It is Stanford University's general policy that units are applicable toward only one degree, that is, units may not normally be duplicated or double-counted toward the residency requirement for more than one degree. Courses counted towards the undergraduate degree(s) and graduate degree(s) are separately recorded on the undergraduate and graduate transcripts respectively.
Students pursuing coterminal bachelor’s and master’s degrees are expected to meet the minimum requirements for each of the degrees, as follows:
- 180 units for the bachelor’s degree plus 45 unduplicated units (or higher unit-requirement, as determined by the graduate program) for the master's degree
- Dual undergraduate degrees require 225 units for the bachelor’s degree plus 45 unduplicated units (or higher unit-requirement, as determined by the graduate program) for the master's degree
For the 45 unit University minimum for the master's degree, all units must be in courses completed at Stanford and must be in courses at or above the 100-level and at least 50 percent of those must be courses designated primarily for graduate students (typically at least at the 200-level). Department specifications for the level of course work accepted for a particular master's degree program may be higher than the University's specifications. Students may not petition to change the course number for a completed course from the undergraduate to the graduate level.
To a limited extent, coterminal students are permitted to move courses taken in the undergraduate career to the graduate career as described in the Coterminal Course Transfer section in the Enrollment and Degree Progress tab.
Tuition and Tuition Groups
Coterminal students are assigned to either the undergraduate coterminal tuition group or the graduate coterminal tuition group, which dictates whether the student is charged undergraduate or graduate tuition. A student’s tuition group also determines many of the applicable undergraduate and graduate policies and procedures, including degree progress standards, as well as access to some University services and benefits.
Tuition and Fee information for 2015-16 is available on the Office of the University Registrar tuition web site.
Undergraduate Coterminal Tuition Group
Coterminal students are normally placed in and remain in the undergraduate coterminal tuition group until the completion of 12 undergraduate full-tuition quarters, or until conferral of the undergraduate degree(s), if that happens earlier.
Students in the undergraduate coterminal tuition group are assessed the undergraduate tuition rate, and are subject to the 20 unit maximum enrollment per quarter. Students enrolled in over 20 units are subject to an enrollment hold effective the following quarter.
Graduate Coterminal Tuition Group
Coterminal students are automatically moved from the undergraduate to the graduate coterminal tuition group in the 13th quarter (or 16th quarter for students with two undergraduate degrees) and are then assessed either the standard graduate tuition rate or the graduate Engineering tuition rate. Students are also moved to the graduate coterminal tuition group after the conferral of all undergraduate degrees.
Coterminal students may request to be moved to the graduate coterminal tuition group prior to the 13th quarter (or 16th quarter for students with two undergraduate degrees) in order to enroll for fewer units as permitted for graduate students, or to be eligible for a teaching (CA/TA) or research assistantship (RA) appointment. Students make this request to the Student Services Center through a HelpSU ticket. Students may request to be moved to the graduate coterminal tuition group under the following conditions:
- Students must have completed 180 undergraduate units, including transfer, Advanced Placement exam, and other external test credit. Students with two undergraduate degrees must have completed 225 units.
- Once students have moved to the graduate coterminal tuition group, they may not move back to the undergraduate coterminal tuition group.
A coterminal student is subject to graduate tuition assessment and adjustment policies once placed in the coterminal graduate tuition group. They may register at the reduced 8-, 9-, or 10-unit tuition rate if their enrollment plans are accepted by the master’s degree program. Students whose master’s programs are in the School of Engineering are assessed the graduate Engineering rate; all students are assessed additional graduate or Engineering tuition on a per-unit basis beginning with the 19th unit, and are subject to the 24 unit maximum enrollment per quarter. Students holding a 20 hour (50%) teaching or research assistantship may not enroll in more than 10 total units.
Coterminal students are not eligible for reduced graduate tuition rates below 8 units during Autumn, Winter, and Spring quarters prior to conferral of the undergraduate degree.
Enrollment and Degree Progress
Starting with the first graduate quarter, students have a graduate career and an undergraduate career. Students are responsible for enrolling in courses each quarter, and assigning them to the appropriate career. Students in the undergraduate coterminal tuition group may not enroll in more than a total of 20 units for the quarter across both careers. Students in the graduate coterminal tuition group may not enroll in more than a total of 24 units for the quarter across both careers. Students appointed to a 20-hour (50%) teaching and/or research assistantship may not enroll in more than 10 units.
Prior to the conferral of the undergraduate degree(s), a coterminal student’s academic progress is monitored by the Undergraduate Advising and Research Office (UAR, part of the office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education) in conjunction with the student’s advisors and the graduate program. After conferral of the undergraduate degree(s), the student’s degree progress is monitored by the graduate adviser and graduate program.
All courses taken during a quarter, whether enrolled in the undergraduate or graduate career, are used to assess whether minimum academic progress standards, including number of units enrolled and number of units earned, have been met.
Students in the undergraduate coterminal tuition group are evaluated according to the undergraduate degree progress standards. These standards are described in the "Academic Progress" section of this bulletin.
Students in the graduate coterminal tuition group are evaluated according to the graduate degree progress standards. These standards are described in the "Minimum Progress Requirements for Graduate Students" section of this bulletin.
Student are expected to maintain an undergraduate grade point average (GPA) which meets the University’s undergraduate standards, and a graduate GPA which meets University and program requirements for graduate progress. Courses which have been transferred from the undergraduate to the graduate career are calculated as part of the graduate GPA.
Coterminal Course Transfer
After accepting admission to a master’s degree program, coterminal students may request transfer of Stanford courses from the undergraduate to the graduate career to satisfy requirements for the master’s degree. Transfer of courses to the graduate career requires review and approval of the graduate program on a case by case basis. Approved course transfer requests require the review of the undergraduate major program(s). Unless a master’s degree program specifies otherwise in this bulletin, courses taken three quarters prior to the first graduate quarter, or later, are eligible for consideration for transfer to the graduate career. Neither Summer Quarter nor quarters spent on approved leave of absence are included in the quarter-back count. In exceptional circumstances, a student may petition the exceptions committee of the Committee on Graduate Studies to transfer courses taken more than three quarters back. No courses taken prior to the first quarter of the sophomore year may be used to meet master’s degree requirements.
Individual programs have the discretion to set their own policy regarding course transfer for their coterminal master’s students, provided that no student counts a course taken earlier than the first quarter of sophomore year. The program’s policy is stated in the relevant department or program section of this bulletin.
All course transfer requests must be submitted to the Student Services Center no later than the Final Study List Deadline of the intended bachelor’s degree conferral quarter.
Course transfers between careers are not possible after the bachelor’s degree has been conferred.
Undergraduate credit from transfer courses or tests may not be transferred to the graduate career.
Advising and Time Limit
In the first graduate quarter, a coterminal student must be assigned an adviser in the master's program for assistance in planning a program of study to meet the requirements for the master's degree. The plan is outlined on the Program Proposal for a Master's Degree, which is approved by the master's program by the end of the first graduate quarter. The preliminary program proposal from the coterminal application may inform the Program Proposal, but does not satisfy this master’s degree requirement.
The course of study for each student’s master’s degree should be outlined on the student’s Program Proposal form. The decision as to which courses a program approves in the student’s master’s program proposal, including changes from the typical curriculum, is within the purview of the department or program. The conversation between the student and the student’s graduate adviser is important in this regard.
The master’s program proposal must meet University minimum requirements for the master’s degree, including at least 45 units taken at Stanford, all courses at 100-level or above, 50% of units designated primarily for graduate students (typically 200-level or above). All courses must be in the graduate career.
All requirements for a master’s degree must be completed within three years after the first graduate quarter. An extension requires review of academic performance by the department or program, and is within the discretion of the program. See policies in the "Master’s Degrees" section of this bulletin.
Leaves of Absence
Coterminal students who wish to take a leave of absence are subject to the Leave of Absence policies for undergraduate and graduate students, as described in the "Leaves of Absence and Reinstatement (Undergraduate)" and "Leaves of Absence (Graduate)" sections of this bulletin. Graduate students, including coterminal students, must obtain permission from the master’s degree program. A coterminal student whose undergraduate degree has not been conferred must also obtain permission from the office of Undergraduate Advising and Research, and may not take a leave of absence unless approved for both the graduate and undergraduate leave. Leaves of absence are granted for a maximum of one calendar year, or four quarters. An extension of leave, for a maximum of one year or four quarters, is approved only in unusual circumstances. Leaves of absences may not exceed a cumulative total of two years (8 quarters including summer quarters).
Students must apply for conferral of each degree separately by filing an Application to Graduate in Axess by the deadline for the expected graduation term(s). The deadlines are available in the Academic Calendar. A separate application must be filed for both the undergraduate and graduate degree program in each respective conferral term(s). The master's degree must be conferred simultaneously with or after the bachelor's degree.