Important Information Year-by-Year
Find your academic advisor and discuss classes. You should have met them in your entrance interview (during Fall Orientation).
Prepare for in-state tuition: Get a CO driver's license, register to vote, register your car, save your lease or buy a house, and read the tuition classification information.
Find a research group to try. For the last several years, there has been Faculty Research Talks where faculty give a brief overview of what research they do and what openings they may have.
Apply for in-state tuition: Talk to the graduate program assistant, and then fill out the In-State Tutition Application. Doing so saves the department and/or your advisor money.
Yes, you do have to take Comps 1, and you do have to inform the graduate secretary that you intend to do so.
Comps 1 is taken in January of the fourth semester, before classes resume.
Comps 2 deadline for committe and topic selection: March 31.
Summer funding: Sometimes this comes from your Comps 2 advisor, sometimes from your (possible) thesis advisor. Sometimes grad students will find external funding through a summer fellowship program.
You will probably have 1 or 2 courses left that you need to take.
Comps 2 deadline: October 15. You will need to petition the department to extend this if you will not be ready (usually granted).
After Comps and Classes
Sign up for thesis hours and remain a full-time student. You can sign up for 5-10 thesis hours per semester, 5 being typical if you're not taking classes.
At least once a year, you are expected to meet with your advisor and 3-4 of your (potential) thesis committee members for a progress report. This serves the purpose of (1) you get to explain what you are doing (or plan to do), (2) you hear ideas from people who may have a somewhat different perspective than your adviser - suggestions for people to talk to, papers to read, avenues to explore, (3) if your adviser has some rather nutty ideas (no!) then the others provide a sanity check, and (4) you can avoid the situation where a member of your committee tells you that you need to do another 6 months' work a week before your defense. After this meeting, your advisor should write a brief summary and e-mail Troy Latta for your file.
Thesis requirements from the graduate school.
Read the requirements for advanced degrees from CU to make sure you haven't forgotten anything.
Comps do expire, so if you stay here more than 5 years after you have taken them, you may have to take them again (you can petition the department / graduate school to "keep them" valid).