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The Graduate School at ESF
Academic Policies

Graduate Academic Policies

General Requirements

While a student is matriculated at ESF, all coursework taken at ESF and Syracuse University to meet degree requirements must be graded on a scale of A-F, and the grades will be computed in the grade point average. As an exception, at the discretion of the instructor, courses numbered 796 and 797 may be graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis. This must be announced on the first day of class and will apply to all students enrolled in that course section. Courses numbered 898, 899 and 999 are graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis.

Curriculum Requirements

The development and administration of course offerings, prerequisites, sequencing and program requirements are primarily the responsibility of each program with the approval of the ESF faculty.

Students must satisfy the requirements for graduation presented in the catalog in effect as of the date they first matriculated at ESF. Students may graduate under the requirements stated in any catalog issued subsequent to the one in effect the date they matriculated, but they may not use a prior catalog.

Transfer Credit

Credit hours appropriate to the graduate degree in which a minimum grade of B was earned from an accredited institution can be transferred to the College, but grades and grade points cannot be transferred.

Up to six credits of graduate coursework not used to complete another degree may be accepted toward completion of a master’s or doctoral degree as approved by the steering committee.

Up to 30 credits of graduate level coursework earned as part of a conferred master’s degree may be transferred (by petition) to a doctoral degree with approval of the steering committee.

Students may transfer no more than nine credits of credit-bearing non-degree ESF coursework to graduate degree programs.

All transfer credit will remain tentative until official, final transcripts are received. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that official, final transcripts are sent to and received by the College.

Credit-Hour Load

To meet academic requirements, graduate students must be registered for at least one credit each semester, excluding summers, from the first semester of matriculation until all degree requirements have been completed. Failure to register for each semester will result in the student being withdrawn from graduate study and, if the student wishes to return in the future, a new application must be filed and reviewed prior to readmission. Students are required to register for at least one credit of thesis/dissertation research, professional experience, or independent study in the summer if they will complete all requirements during that time. Graduate students who hold an assistantship and/or a tuition scholarship must be in full-time status each semester while holding such an award. Registration for nine credits usually equates to full-time status for a student holding an assistantship. Graduate students not holding an assistantship are considered full-time if they are registered for at least 12 credits each semester. To maintain valid F-1 or J-1 student status in compliance with SEVIS, international students are required to maintain the institutional equivalent of full-time enrollment status during all required academic semesters. Audited courses may not be used to satisfy full-time status. Undergraduate courses may not be used to satisfy full-time status requirements for federal and state financial aid (TAP) but may be applied toward full-time status requirements for SEVIS. Student loan deferrals may be maintained by achieving half-time status for graduate students, or approximately 6 credit hours, if full-time status is not required for other reasons.

Doctoral candidates (i.e., those who have successfully completed their doctoral candidacy examination), master's students (M.P.S., M.L.A., and M.F.) who have met all academic coursework requirements, and master of science (M.S.) students who have requested the appointment of a defense committee and intend to defend a thesis may be considered full time if registered for at least one credit of thesis/dissertation research, professional experience, or independent study and submit a “Request for Full-time Certification Form” to the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies.

Part-Time Study

During any semester, students who are enrolled in part-time graduate degree programs (M.F. or M.P.S.) may register for the equivalent of full-time study. Graduate students who are enrolled in part-time degree programs are held to the policy for continuous registration, but not to the policy for time to degree (delimitation).


Full and part-time students in good academic standing who have a 1 to 2 semester lapse in registration may, with permission of their major professors or advisors, re-enroll for classes by filling out this form. Students whose last enrollment status was "visitor" or who were suspended for unsatisfactory academic performance must use an admission application form. Students who have not been enrolled at the college for a period of more than 1 academic year must also re-apply.


ESF Courses may be audited formally or informally, and informally with special audit status.  Each is defined as follows:

  • Formal Course Audit: A course may be audited formally by registering for a course using the standard course registration process. Formally audited courses do not carry course credit and may not be used to satisfy any graduation requirements. They will appear on a student’s transcript and will be graded either SAU (satisfactory audit) or UAU (unsatisfactory audit). The grade will be assigned based on the criteria for audit established by the course instructor. Both matriculated and non-matriculated students may formally audit courses.
  • Informal Course Audit: A course may be informally audited by gaining permission of the instructor. No record will be maintained of the informal audit nor will any grade be assigned. No fee is required for informal audits. Only matriculated ESF students may informally audit courses.
  • Special Informal Course Audit: “Special audit status” is granted to all New York state citizens of age 60 and over. Courses may be audited informally with special audit status by requesting confirmation of available space from the Office of Outreach and Instructional Quality. A record of the number of special auditors participating in each course is kept, however, no individual transcript is maintained of special informal audits nor will any grade be assigned. No fee is required for informal special audits.


For each course completed, one of the following grades will be awarded:

Grade Definition Grade Points
A Excellent 4.000
A-   3.700
B+   3.300
B Satisfactory 3.000
B-   2.700
C+   2.300
C   2.000
C- Minimum Passing 1.700
F Failure 0.000
I/F, I/U Unresolved Incomplete 0.000

Under conditions defined elsewhere, the following grades may be assigned, none of which yield grade points:

Grade Definition
W Withdraw
WP Withdraw Passing
WF Withdraw Failing
S Satisfactory (equal to B or better)
U Unsatisfactory (equal to below B)
SAU Audit (Satisfactory)
UAU Audit (Unsatisfactory)
I Incomplete
NR [Grade] Not Received

Grade Point Average

Semester and cumulative averages are based on graduate-level courses only and are computed by dividing the grade points earned by the credit hours completed in all courses graded A-F.

Time Limits

Graduate students must complete all requirements for the master of forestry, master of professional studies, the master of landscape architecture, and the master of science degree within four years of the first date of matriculation or they may be withdrawn from graduate study. For the doctoral degree, students must complete the candidacy exam within three years of the first date of matriculation. Students must pass the doctoral candidacy examination covering selected fields of study at least one year prior to dissertation defense. Doctoral candidates must successfully defend the dissertation and complete all degree requirements within seven years of matriculation, or they will be required to retake the candidacy examination or be withdrawn from their program of graduate study.

Graduation Requirements

Students are responsible for meeting the following requirements for graduation:

  • Matriculated status as a graduate student;
  • All requirements for the appropriate program and degree level must be satisfied, and
  • A minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.000 (4.000 = A) for all courses taken as a matriculated student at ESF.

Academic Performance

Students who earn less than a 3.000 cumulative grade point average for graduate-level courses, or who receive two or more grades of Unsatisfactory (U) for work on their thesis or dissertation shall have their records reviewed by the Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies. These students shall be either placed on academic probation or suspended from ESF. The action taken will be based on recommendations from the students’ major professors, department chairs and other appropriate faculty and staff. If, in a subsequent semester, a graduate student in probationary academic status achieves a grade of Satisfactory (S) on their thesis or dissertation work, they shall be removed from probationary academic status. The Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies will inform each student in writing of actions taken. When a student is removed from probationary academic status, the Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies will additionally notify the student’s major professor and committee members.

Each student suspended will be given the opportunity to appeal this action based on any extraordinary conditions which may have contributed to the unsatisfactory performance. This appeal must be made in writing and submitted to the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies within the stated time limit. Each appeal will be reviewed by the Faculty Subcommittee on Academic Standards which will recommend to the dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies either to sustain the suspension or place the student on probation. The dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies will inform each student in writing of the Subcommittee action. There is no appeal beyond this process.

Students who have been suspended for unsatisfactory academic performance may not reapply until at least one semester has elapsed. Students may not take any courses at ESF or Syracuse University during this first semester following suspension. Suspended graduate students who wish to be readmitted must apply for readmission through the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies.

Students suspended from a graduate degree program for a second time for unsatisfactory academic performance may not be considered for readmission.