Graduate FAQs

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

  • Are there any rules for the registration?

    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:

    • G1, G3 students: 12 credits/semester
    • G2, G4 students: 9 credits/semester
    • 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. 
  • What if I am not registered as a full time student?

    • All students: loss of support and tuition waiver, if any. In addition, part time students cannot work or live on campus.
    • International students: Will loose legal status. The consequences might be severe and result in a disruption of the continuation of graduate studies.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • What is the registration Snapshot Date?

    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).

  • Whose responsibility it is to be properly registered?

    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.

  • What about summer registration?

    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. 

  • Can I register for less than 9 credits in a Spring or Fall semester?

    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 (, be sure to use the following contact email for Computer Science:

    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. 

  • How to find the correct number of credits to register for?

    The algorithm to figure out the correct number of credits to register for
    number of ACCUMULATED GRADUATE credits = 24 
    register for 9 credits (unless underload has been approved) 
    number of ACCUMULATED GRADUATE credits < 24 
    register for 12 credits (unless underload has been approved) 


    1. Must be GRADUATE credits, i.e., the CSE5XX or CSE6XX courses. Undergraduate courses don't count. BUT, a UG course taken under CSE587 is OK. NOTE: You must NEVER take an undergraduate course except as CSE587. 
      If you officially transferred GRADUATE courses from another institution or took graduate courses in other departments at SBU, those credits count as well.
    2. ACCUMULATED credits: Means credits for courses where you received A to C- (for letter graded courses) or an S (for S/U graded courses). Courses with the grades "I", "R", "F", "U", etc., do not give you accumulated credits. If you are unsure how many credits you have, check the SOLAR system. It lists the number of accumulated credits in your transcript at the end of each semester.
    3. Credits must be accumulated by the snapshot date. Thus, watch out for your incomplete grades in courses like CSE523/4, CSE599, and others. The "I" grade must be replaced with a passing grade by the snapshot date in order for the credits to be counted as accumulated. That is, a new grade must show up on SOLAR before the snapshot date. 
      If you are expecting a grade change that might affect (b) above, make sure that the change is recorded by the snapshot date.
    4. If unsure, check with the Graduate School -- they are the policy setters.
    5. If you officially transferred graduate credits from another school, make sure they are accounted for. Check with the graduate school to make sure.
    6. If in doubt, check with the Graduate School. DO NOT ask graduate directors or graduate secretaries because what counts is your official status as the graduate school sees it. The department does not have access to their system and cannot provide authoritative answer.

    Thesis Research: CSE 599 and CSE 699

    • Ph.D. students can register for CSE 699 only after passing RPE and reaching the G5 status. Students in the G3 or G4 status who wish to register for research or project credits must do so by choosing CSE 593.
    • M.S. students can register for CSE 599 only if they choose the Thesis option. M.S. students who wish to register for research or project credits other than Thesis Research or CSE 523/524 must do so by choosing CSE 593.
  • What about my tuition waiver?

    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:

    • If you are not registered as a full time student then the tuition waiver (and, in fact, any other kind of support) is canceled.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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

  • Who is my academic advisor?

    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.

  • How do I declare what MS option I want to choose?

    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.

  • How many credits do I need to register to count as full time?

    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. 

  • I am an international student. I have a question about visa regulations or I need a specific visa related approval. Who do I ask?

    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.

  • I just joined the department and I am very confused about what courses to take.

    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. 

  • A course I want to register is full already. What can I do?

    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. 

  • I am a new international student and I know that I have to register for 12 graduate credits this semester to count as full time. But I cannot find enough classes to fill up 12 credits that will be part of my MS degree requirements.

    In this case, you may have to take courses that do not count as a part of the MS degree requirements. This is not uncommon. Note that the full-time registration requirement is completely independent of MS degree requirement. You have to satisfy the first if you are an international student. You have to satisfy the second in order to get a degree.

  • I am really interest to do research in Topic X. I would like to do an independent study/MS Project/Thesis on this topic. What should I do?

    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. 

  • I am weak in one or more topic in computer science. I think I will find graduate courses too tough. Can I take undergraduate courses to bring myself upto speed?

    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.

  • If I do not go for internship, what can I do in the summer?

    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.

  • Can I take a course in another department/program in Stony Brook?

    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).

  • How much time does it take to graduate?

    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

More relevant to M.S. students close to Graduation