Doctoral students must be registered during the term (including summer) in which they distribute the defense copies of the dissertation (as approved for defense by the sponsor) to the five approved defense committee members (see Distributing Dissertation Copies). Students who are defending while on teaching or research appointments, or who are also completing pre-dissertation degree requirements, must register for Extended Residence; other students should register for Matriculation and Facilities. These rules apply during the summer term as well as the fall and spring semesters.
Note: The term in which distribution occurs is the last semester in which a student is permitted to register, even if the defense takes place in a subsequent term.
- Distribution deadlines can be found here.
- Dates for the fall and spring terms can be found on the Registrar's Academic Calendar.
- Dates for the summer term can be found on the School of Continuing Education website.
- Students covered under the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan are strongly advised to review the information regarding the plan’s coverage periods and important dates. Students with specific questions regarding their insurance coverage should contact the Columbia Health Insurance Office at studentinsurance [at] columbia.edu.
Please note that the following conditions apply to full-time doctoral students who are supported on faculty grants through twelve-month research appointments in the sciences and related fields:
- Students must be registered to distribute the dissertation to the examination committee.
- Students retain their student status and funding until the end of the semester in which they distribute their dissertation. For students who distribute and defend in the same semester, changes in student status and funding between the defense date and the end of the semester in which the defense occurs must be approved by the DGS/Chair of the student’s department and by the Office of the Dean. Students who are supported by individual grants or other external awards also retain their student status until the end of the semester in which they distribute their dissertation but should consult their funding agency regarding policies specific to their awards.
- Students who distribute but do not defend in the same semester may register for the last time in the upcoming semester. Such students retain their student status and funding until the end of this final semester. As above, any change in student status or funding between the defense date and the end of the semester in which the defense occurs must be approved by the DGS/Chair of the student's department and by the Office of the Dean unless the student confirms leaving the appointment to begin employment outside the University.
- Students who distribute and defend in the same semester may not register again.
- Students should be mindful that the degree conferrals in October, February, and May terminate student status and therefore eligibility for funding as a student officer.
International students must be registered during the term (including summer) in which they distribute the defense copies of the dissertation, as stated in the previous section. International students in F-1 or J-1 status must consult with the International Students and Scholars Office to make sure they remain in visa compliance for the dissertation defense.
For All Students
Doctoral program offices should ideally submit the Application for the Dissertation Defense four—but no fewer than two—weeks before the scheduled defense date. The application must be typed; handwritten applications will not be accepted. Applications received less than two weeks before the proposed defense date will require that the defense be rescheduled.