Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences General Guidelines for Signing up for Classes and Dissertation Credits 

If you are Pre-Ph.D. Candidacy: 

  1. If you are taking 2 or more classes or 6 credits, do not sign up for any dissertation credits. 

  2. 5 course credits (non-dissertation) = full-time status.

  3. The expectation is that you won't start to take dissertation credits until after you pass Comps and become Ph.D. candidates.  

  4. If you are taking 1 class, sign up for 1 dissertation credit. Please note: One dissertation credit will qualify you as a full-time student IF you are funded. * 

  5. If you are only taking dissertation credits, sign up for 3 dissertation credits. That is because the tuition and fees for one, two, or three credits are the same! There is no point in taking one credit when you can get three at the same price.** 

When to submit Ph.D. Candidacy form:  

  1. Generally, this form should be submitted after passing Comps in the fall of your 3rd year.  

  1. Ph.D. candidacy takes effect spring of your 3rd year.  

If you are a Ph.D. Candidate: 

  1. You must take at least 5 dissertation credits per term (not including summer).  

  1. You only need 30 dissertation credits to graduate. You must have 30 but there is no point in paying for more. That is why it is best to take as few dissertation credits as you can prior to entering Ph.D. Candidacy.   

  1. You can always add credits but never subtract. These credits cost your PI (Principal Investigator) money so try to graduate with as close to 30 dissertation credits as possible. 

Other Issues: 

  1. You must sign up for the dissertation section of your Ph.D. advisor. Do NOT use the 900 generic section. Please contact me if you cannot find your advisor’s name on the list. For the most part, the list is in alphabetical order. 

  1. Pass/Fail classes do not count toward the required 37-course credits.  

  1. Courses taken through Continuing Education, Extended Studies, or Outreach programs do not qualify for tuition coverage.  

  1. You may NOT audit a class, as audits are not covered by tuition remission.  

  2. Courses in Continuing Education are not covered by tuition remission. 

  3. Make sure you sign up for a grade. Do NOT sign up for ‘no credit’ or ‘pass/fail’. Dissertation credits appear as “IP” on your transcript, which means “In Progress.”

  4. You may NOT drop a class after the “drop” deadline (just a few weeks into the semester). If you do, the class or classes will not be covered by tuition remission whether you are a full-time student or not. It could leave you with a bill of thousands of dollars to pay! 

  5. Please check with your advisor before signing up for courses outside the department related to your research, teaching, or APS-relevant career goals (which require approval by the GAC). Please check with your advisor before signing up for courses outside of the department NOT related to research (e.g., language courses). The tuition for courses comes from the grant budget, and it is important to ensure that the courses are pre-approved.  


The above are general guidelines. There are always exceptions, complications, etc. If you have questions, please contact me.  

Lindsay Nelson 

Graduate Program Coordinator  

Ph: 303-492-8914 

*These rules apply to both domestic and international students. Occasionally the International Office will tell students that they must take 5 credits to be full-time. This is NOT true if at least one of those credits is a dissertation credit. If you receive an “under-enrolled” notification, contact the Grad Program Coordinator. Do not automatically sign up for more credits! 

**Please note: “Full Time” status for deferral of undergrad student loans is usually 4 credits rather than 3. So, sign up for at least 4 credits if you need to defer loans.