FAQs on our Graduate Programs

Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions covering our Graduate Program on how to determine the proper number of credits needed to maintain a full time status and also for MS students.

For Graduate Program in General

It is extremely important to be properly registered by the "Snapshot" date. This means that you must be registered for a correct number of credits, which can be 12, 9, or less, depending on the number of graduate credits that you have accumulated so far. Summer registration has its own rules. 

For academic year registration for full-time students, the rules are as follows:

  1. G1, G3 students: 12 credits/semester

  2. G2, G4 students: 9 credits/semester
  3. G5 students: A G5 student would normally register for 9 credits of CSE 699, CSE 700 or CSE 701, as appropriate. It is possible to replace part of these 9 credits by a regular course. However, this requires prior approval of the Graduate Director. 
  1. All students: loss of support and tuition waiver, if any. In addition, part time students cannot work or live on campus.
  2. International students: Will loose legal status. The consequences might be severe and result in a disruption of the continuation of graduate studies.
  3. A domestic student who does not have financial support must register for at least one credit (or request a leave of absense) for each of the semestors prior to graduation. Failure to do so will entail a hefty fee and the need to file for reinstatement.
  4. Graduating students must be registered in the semester in which they plan to graduate. For summer semesters it can be 0 credits of CSE 800 (or any other CSE course). For Spring and Fall semesters, a domestic graduating student can register for 1 credit. An international student must be registered full time during Fall and Spring, as explained below.

Usually in the 15th of classes -- watch the school calendar each semester. The school calendar calls it the "Last day to add classes for graduate students." (exact wording may vary).

Yours alone.

Neither the Graduate Directors nor the secretaries will listen to -- or attempt to resolve -- the problems that might arise from missing the snapshot deadline. In the past, attempts to fix such problems have been costly to us and mostly futile.

New students who were admitted for a summer semester must register for at least six credits for the summer session to which they were admitted. They do not need to register for Summer Session II if they have registered for Summer Session I. 

Continuing students who have GAs or RAs during the Summer are strongly encouraged to register for the summer. If there are no appropriate courses available, students may register for 0 credits of CSE 800. The Graduate School advises this for reasons related to tracking federal grants, tax issues, and Homeland Security. 

Graduating students must be registered for the semester they plan to graduate. Students graduating during the Summer can register for 0 credits of CSE 800.

For all other students, there is no need for summer registrations. 

This is called underload. An M.S. (not Ph.D.) student can request an underload in the last semester of study if fewer than 9 credits are required for graduation. For instance, if you have earned 24 graduate credits and only 7 are required to graduate, you can request an underload to register for only 7 credits. An M.S. student with an approved underload is still considered a full-time student.

When applying for an underload with the office of Visa & Immigration Services (http://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/visa/current_students/parttime_enrollment.html), be sure to use the following contact email for Computer Science: gradadvising@cs.stonybrook.edu

If you are a G1 student (have less than 24 graduate credits) then you must register for 12 credits. However, even in this case underload (i.e., registration for less than 12 credits) might be possible. For instance, suppose you have accumulated 18 credits and two courses have an "I" grade. Assuming that you will complete these two courses in the semester that just begun, you can request an underload for 6 credits.

Note that if you request an underload in a certain semester, you must graduate at the end of that semester. Therefore, underloading carries certain risks, especially for foreign students. For instance, failing a course at this stage will prevent the student from graduating and may require reinstatement from the Immigration according to prevalent visa rules. 

A Ph.D. student in the G5 status must register for 9 credits of CSE 699. There is no provision for underload for Ph.D. students --- unlike in the case of M.S. students. 

If you are receiving a tuition waiver (typically it is applicable for most Ph.D. students and sometimes supported M.S. students) , you must be aware of the following rules:


  1. If you are not registered as a full time student then the tuition waiver (and, in fact, any other kind of support) is canceled.
  2. Tuition waiver is paid only up to the minimum amount of credits that you are required to maintain in order to be in full status. That is, if you are getting full tuition waiver, it goes up to 12 credits for G1/G3 students, up to only 9 credits for G2/G4/G5 students.
  3. Paying for any extra credits is the responsibility of the student. Note that every semester there is certain deadline after which the University charges tuition even if you drop the extra credits. Please be aware of the appropriate deadlines.
  4. Registering but not attempting a course (receiving the NR grade) is treated the same way as if the course was never registered for.

More relevant for New M.S. Students

The Graduate Program Director is your default advisor until you choose an advisor for your project (Advanced Project Option) or thesis (Thesis Option). For students choosing the Basic Project Option, the Graduate Program Director remains as the advisor.

No need to declare anything. You just need to fall within one option at the time of graduation. The courses that are not part of that option will not be counted.

Generally speaking, you will need to register for at least 12 graduate credits per semester until you have 24 graduate credits. Beyond this, the minimum requirement is 9 graduate credits per semester. Note that international students on student visa must register full time. Also, note that these credits must be graduate credits and not undergraduate credits. Courses with numbers 500 and above are graduate courses.


In the semester you graduate, you can do less number credits by getting permission for under-load and still be counted as full time. For more details see the Graduate Handbook. 

The department does offer visa related advising. You need to see an advisor in the Visa and Immigration Services (VIS) and/or consult their web pages for routine information. However, the department works with VIS in case they require any documentation of the student’s performance and academic status.

Read the Graduate Handbook first to familiarize yourself with the requirements of the MS program. If you attend the orientation, this will makes things somewhat easier. If you miss the orientation, don’t panic. The orientation simply presents the Handbook and answers general questions. In the first semester, a good strategy is to take at least 2 breadth courses and at least 1 specialized course depending on your interests. 


This is usually a problem at the beginning of the semester as many students register for too many classes initially trying to make up their mind, but then they drop them when things start stabilizing. So, you will see most classes opening up in the late registration period. It is possible that some very popular classes do not open up. But again we are planning to offer some of these classes every semester. So, you can take this class in the next semester. If you are really interested in a class and that class is closed, good idea to show up in the first lecture anyway and speak with the professor. Sometimes professors can sign in students at their discretion. 


Please also note that we have recently seen very high demands for certain classes taught by certain professors. The department cannot guarantee that a student will be able to take specific classes in specific semesters. The department can only ensure that a student can graduate with an M.S. degree within three regular semesters (fall/spring) by satisfying all graduation requirements. If this is your third semester and a class you need to graduate is full and no alternative classes are available, please speak with the graduate secretary. 

First convince a professor that appear to work in areas related to Topic X. Also, try to take courses related to Topic X to get to know the professors (and the professors to know you). Note that you will need the professor’s permission to register for independent study/project/thesis courses. 


Similar answer as above. You will need to convince Professor Y first.

Yes. But there are several restrictions you will need to be aware of. As a graduate student you need to register for graduate credits. Undergraduate credits, for example, do not count towards full time registration. The department facilitates taking undergraduate classes as graduate credits via a course designator CSE 587, where the student takes a core undergraduate class and get graduate credit for CSE 587. But you will need to do additional work relative to an undergraduate student taking the same class. Plus, you will get fewer credit (2 instead of 3). Finally, such CSE 587 may not count towards MS graduation unless specifically approved by the Graduate Director. For more details, see the Graduate Handbook.

Regular courses are not typically offered in the summer. But if you are choosing Advanced Project or Thesis Options, summer is an excellent time to get some work done. You can register for CSE523/524 or CSE599 during the summer. You can also do CSE593 independent studies in summer.

Technically, you are allowed to take courses in other departments/programs. But be mindful of the usefulness of such courses. Non-CSE courses do not satisfy the graduation requirements in the Computer Science Department. There are some rare exceptions, however, where your project or thesis actually requires such a course to build up your background, But then this needs to be certified as such by your advisor. Your advisor will not certify just because you are merely interested in taking such a course. However, non-CSE grad courses (not undergrad) do satisfy the registration requirements for full-time students (12 credits for G1 and 9 credits for G2).

There is no prescribed timeline. You will graduate as soon as you complete the degree requirements. Most students finish in three regular semesters (e.g., fall, spring, fall, or spring, fall, spring) plus one summer. In the past, exceptionally well-prepared students have finished in two regular semesters; but this required a very careful planning of courses and also very hard work. Some students take four regular semesters or even longer, often because they are engaged in a significant project one way or another. Some students may take longer because they may have weak CS background and thus need to do background classes. In general, you should pace your study such that it provides the best balance between comfort and productivity.

More relevant to Mid-career M.S. Students

For international students, there are several restrictions. These restrictions are related to immigration rules and not due to academic requirements in the department. To understand things better refer to the CS department's Graduate Handbook and be conversant with the current Curricular Practical Training (CPT) policies of the Visa and Immigration Services (VIS) office. Generally speaking, an international student can go for internships in the summer as a part of their CPT only if certain reasonable conditions are satisfied (e.g., good academic standing, no incomplete courses, no outstanding proficiency courses requested at the admissions offer, at least two regular semesters in residence). Also, the CPT internships are meant to provide experience of industry practices in computing fields in a project of an appropriate scope (i.e., where a graduate education is needed). The student must concurrently register for the internship course (CS596).  Note that the CS department does not approve part-time or full-time CPT requests in Fall or Spring semesters. CPT requests will be considered for summer only. 


The internship is not a requirement. But the department and the university provide help to students interested in internships, including career center, job fairs, local advertisements over the graduate email list, contacts from the professors etc. 

Yes, so long as you do not have any visa-related restrictions. (For example, if you are on a student visa, you are expected to be full-time.) Also, note that most of our classes are offered during the day, and so if you hold another part-time job you may have to schedule your job-related work appropriately.

Some areas in computer science are more popular than others and professors in some areas could be busier than others. You can explore whether you can work in another area, or choose Basic Project Option for graduation.

You can start working with a different professor if you wish. However, in that case you have to redo CSE 523 if you still want to do the Advanced Project Option. Generally speaking, you cannot do CSE 523 and CSE 524 with two different professors as they are meant to be on the same general two-semester long project. The other option is to drop down to the Basic Project Option and take a CSE 522. In either case, your CSE 523 with Professor X will not be counted as a part of the 31 credits required for graduation.

This is possible if your advisor agrees with this. Discuss with the Graduate Director. It would be of your best interest to discuss such conversions sooner than later. Note that such conversation, when approved, only means that one course is acceptable in lieu of another for the purpose of counting MS graduation credits. This will not change your official transcript.

This is possible if your advisor agrees that the work you did for CSE599 would be equivalent to CSE523 (CSE523 and CSE524). If s/he does agree, discuss with the Graduate Director. If s/he does not agree, then you have to redo CSE523 and CSE524. Note also that such conversation, when approved, only means that one course is acceptable in lieu of another for the purpose of counting graduation credits. This will not change your official transcript.

A course can be repeated once for "grade forgiveness."  Only the most recent attempt/grade will count towards the grade point average, but both attempts and both grades will appear on the official transcript. Retaking a course requires prior approval on the "GRADUATE COURSE RETAKE APPROVAL FORM​" available from the Graduate School website. Note only courses designated in the graduate bulletin as "not repeatable for credit" can be retaken this way. Grades for courses that are "repeatable for credit" cannot be forgiven this way. 

More relevant to M.S. students close to Graduation

You can take an underload in your last (graduating) semester. This means registering for less than required number of credits and just enough needed for graduation. You will still be considered full time. However, this requires prior approval. See the graduate handbook. However, you should really make sure that you indeed graduate in that semester. There can be serious immigration related implications if you do not for some reason (e.g., you fail a course). If you are not confident, it is best to register the required 9 credits.

You are required to graduate as soon as you complete the requirements for the degree. You can always take additional classes as a non-matriculated student after your graduation or even informally work with a professor assuming you have a working relationship with a professor already. Note that if you are an international student, you may require appropriate immigration authorization for this. But in no case you can delay your graduation.