WRS Student Handbook

The WRS Student Handbook is the go-to source of information for all WRS students.  Questions should be directed to Tracy at [email protected].

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Graduate School registration policy requires all students to register every fall and spring term to maintain active status. Students not enrolled are automatically discontinued from their program 2 weeks after the start of the term (fall and spring terms only).

  1. Register before the first day of each term to avoid a late registration fee 
  2. Full-time registration is 6-14 credits.
  3. Registration information, including dates and deadlines can be found online (Twin Cities or Duluth).

The Degree Requirements page outlines the courses you will need to take to fulfill your program. For more information about electives, please visit the Twin Cities Courses page or the Duluth Courses page.  Students enrolled in the Limnology and Oceanography track should review the L&O Track courses page first.

What if All My Coursework is Complete?

You have two registration options if you've completed all coursework - Advanced Status or GRAD 999. Please read the following thoroughly to decide which is right for you.

Advanced Status

The Office of the Registrar and the Graduate School have developed procedures that permit eligible Advanced Master’s and Doctoral candidates to be certified as “full-time” students when registered for only one credit. Faculty advisors and the Co-DGS on your campus will affirm that each student is working full-time on the thesis or dissertation. These courses are intended only for advanced Master’s and Doctoral students who have a GDP on file or approved GPAS, have completed all their program coursework and required thesis credits, but are still working full-time on the research or writing of their thesis or dissertation. Students who plan to register for Advanced Status need to apply well in advance of the term they plan to register and must file the application every semester they intend to utilize the benefit. Watch for emails from the WRS Program Coordinator for deadlines.

GRAD 999

For students who have completed all coursework and thesis credit requirements and do not have to be registered to meet any other internal/external agency registration requirement (e.g., students who do not hold RA or TA positions with the University), the Graduate School offers Grad 999 – a zero-credit, zero-tuition non-graded registration mechanism.

Students are free to register for their first and second semester of GRAD 999 without approval. However, registration for GRAD 999 for a third semester and beyond will now require CFANS approval. Students wishing to register for GRAD 999 for a third semester or beyond must request a form from the WRS program coordinator each semester for which GRAD 999 registration is requested.  This form is necessary to remove the hold on your record.

More details about GRAD 999 and Advanced Status can be found here.

Duluth Students - Submitting Your GDP

Students need to document their coursework and other details of their graduate program. It is the coursework contract between you and the University.

  • M.S. candidates, before the end of the second semester, or after completion of 15 credits, whichever comes first.
  • Ph.D. students, during the third semester of study. 

ELECTIVES: Students who wish to take a course as an elective that is not on the WRS Approved List of Electives must complete a Request for Elective Approval form before completing their GPAS or GDP.

The Graduate Degree Plan Form is available online (.pdf). Here are some details about how to complete this form:

Part 2: Degree Type and Thesis Credits

  • If you are an MS student, pick A or B. Ignore the number of course credits listed with each. WRS doesn't have a Plan C option. Then select the top Thesis Credits option to the right
  • Doctoral students should pick the first option as your degree type and ignore the number of course credits listed with it. Then select the second Thesis Credits option to the right

Part 3: Transfer Coursework from Other Institutions - Ignore this unless your advisor has agreed in advance to allow graduate courses from a different degree to count toward your WRS program. There MUST be a conversation with your advisor and the GPC in advance.

Part 4: UMN Core Coursework - This is where all your UMN courses to fulfill your degree requirements should go. This is the section that was formerly the back page of the GDP.

  • In the second column....Course Type....ignore the Outside boxes and only check Major. This is because we allow coursework for a Minor to count toward your electives so there's no need to separate. We also don't require outside courses anymore.

Part 5: Other UMN Coursework - Courses for your minor, if you choose to enroll in one, should be identified here. Or, in the RARE occasion that an advisor allows undergraduate work to fulfill WRS requirements, it goes here. There MUST be a conversation with your advisor and me on how to navigate this to ensure you complete the Grad School required credits. This is a process that can not be taken lightly...lots of variables to consider.

Page 3 - Ignore this entire page as it's completely irrelevant to WRS. Faculty will sign the bottom of page 2.

The Co-DGS reviews all degree plans to ensure compliance with Graduate School and program requirements and to provide a quality control check for the program. It is not unusual for the Co-DGS to contact you or your advisor for clarification of information you supply. The Co-DGS may make technical corrections to the plan without consulting the student. After the form is reviewed and approved by the Co-DGS, a copy is retained for your file, and the form is transmitted to the Graduate School. Once students receive the approved plan from the Graduate School, they should supply a copy to their advisor.


After approval by the Graduate School, the GDP becomes your official program, and all items listed must be fulfilled before your degree will be awarded. However, your GDP may be revised by submitting a petition, if your proposed change is considered desirable. Petition forms may be found online (.pdf).

Twin Cities Students - Submitting Your GPAS

Students need to document their coursework and other details of their graduate program. It is the coursework contract between you and the University.

  • M.S. candidates, before the end of the second semester, or after completion of 15 credits, whichever comes first.
  • Ph.D. students, during the third semester of study.

ELECTIVES: Students who wish to take a course as an elective that is not on the WRS Approved List of Electives must complete a Request for Elective Approval form before completing their GPAS or GDP.

Access your GPAS (Graduate Planning and Audit System) by going through MyU. The University has put together an online guide for completing the GPAS planner.

Remember, you do not "plan" your Thesis Credits on your GPAS.


Credits from a minor can be used to fulfill your electives. Learn about Twin Cities minors and Duluth minors.

Talk with the Graduate Program Coordinator before you Request to Add a Minor with GSSP. Ideally, minors are requested prior to submitting your GDP/GPAS.

Annual Student Review

The Graduate School requires annual evaluations of all graduate students. You will complete the electronic WRS Annual Student Review form annually in March, which provides a brief self-evaluation and report of accomplishments, and discuss this form with your advisor(s). Watch for an email from the WRS Program Coordinator during Spring Semester.

After submitting the review form online, your advisor(s) will review the form and provide a brief summary assessment either on the form or in a separate e-mail to the Co-DGS. The information you provide will allow us to assess support of students and also enable us to highlight your accomplishments in Graduate School reports and in other efforts to promote the program. These evaluations should also serve to provide feedback on milestones and help ensure timely completion of your degree.

Failure to complete the annual review will result in a hold on your record, impeding your summer and fall registration. You should be sure to keep a copy of your annual review, as it will facilitate completing the form for the next year and may also be useful in resume and job application assembly.

Overall GPA Requirement

Academic records need to be at a satisfactory level before you can graduate. Overall GPA of courses included on the Graduate Degree Plan must be a minimum of 3.0 for doctoral students or 2.8 for master's students. Major field GPA must be a minimum 3.0. Minor GPA must be a minimum of 2.8.

WRS Conference/Travel Reimbursement

WRS students are eligible for reimbursement to help defray registration and travel expenses for presenting at regional, national, or international conferences.

Eligibility - Students are eligible for reimbursement based on the following criteria:

  • Applicants must be full-time students to be considered. 
  • Students must be presenting a session or a poster at a conference or meeting, not simply attending.
    • Other requests for travel related to professional development may be considered if funds are available. Students must go into detail as to how the travel is related to their research or future career and must exhaust all other funding opportunities.
    • Applications should be submitted even if the abstract is yet to be accepted. Funds will be released after verification is received.
  • A limit of $1,000 per student per academic year (Aug. 1-July 31) has been set by the WRS program. Students who have met this limit will be eligible to apply again the next academic year.
    • This means that students can apply every semester as long as they don't exceed $1,000 in an academic year.

Process - Conference registration/travel reimbursement must be requested before the start of the conference/activity. No requests for prior travel expenses will be accepted. No late applications will be accepted.  This is a reimbursement, so plan to coordinate expenses with your faculty advisor in advance.  Students are strongly encouraged to review the Traveling on University Business page.

  • Students will receive an application by email from WRS.
    • Fall - Apply by October 1st for conferences in October-January (applications will be sent out around 9/15)
    • Spring - Apply by February 1st for conferences in February-May (applications will be sent out around 1/15)
    • Summer - Apply by May 15th for conferences in June-September (applications will be sent out around 5/1)
  • The student's advisor needs to match the request with departmental or research project funds (applications may be denied if personal funds are used).
    • Situations with an insufficient match will be considered based upon appropriate justification by the faculty.
  • Eligible expenses are:
    • Registration fees and abstract fees. Membership to the host organization will be considered if the reduced registration fee + membership fee is lower than registration without a membership.
    • Air and/or ground travel, hotel, and meals not covered during the event.  

The DGS will assess all funding requests and notify students of their decision within 2 weeks of the application deadline.

Time Limit for Degree Completion

Petitions for a one-year time extension may be submitted to the Graduate School (via the WRS Graduate Program Coordinator). No more than two, one-year petitions will be considered.

Leave of Absence

WRS students are expected to maintain active status through continuous registration from the time they matriculate until they graduate. Students who are not able to maintain active status are strongly encouraged to consult with their Director of Graduate Studies and advisor to determine whether requesting a leave of absence is the most appropriate course of action. Students who do not have an approved leave of absence and are not continuously enrolled may experience negative consequences related to academic, visa, financial aid, and other student issues. 

Students should review the University's Leave of Absence policy. The forms to request a leave or a reinstatement can also be found on that page.

Grievance Process

Any grievances should be resolved through consultation with your advisor. Should a matter not be resolved at this point, or should the issue be inappropriate for discussion with your advisor, you should consult with the Co-DGS. For employment and departmental issues, consulting the head of the department in which you are housed may be more appropriate. If the Co-DGS or department head is not able to resolve the grievance, they may direct you to the Student Conflict Resolution Center.

Degree Completion / Graduation

At least 3 months before you are ready to defend, thoroughly review the Degree Completion Steps on OneStop.   This page replaces what was formerly known as the Grad Packet.  Everything you need to know about finishing your degree can be found there.  Follow these instructions carefully; everything must be completed, including payment of copyright and abstract fees, before you can graduate. You should notify the WRS Program Coordinator at least two weeks in advance of your defense with the time, location, and title of your defense presentation, as well as an abstract.

Details about who to assign to your committees and expectations for your final exam can be found on the Handbook page for Masters students and Doctoral students.

Please be aware that you will receive an electronic Exit Interview form upon completion of your degree from the WRS Program Coordinator to gather your opinion of the program. You will also be asked for your updated employment and contact information to maintain our Recent Graduates web page.

Masters Students

See the Information for Masters Students page to learn about final exam committees and the final exam procedure and expectations

Doctoral Students

See the Information for Doctoral Students page to learn about prelim and final exam committees and the exam procedures and expectations.