Undergraduate Graduate People News & Events
Graduate Program

For Current Students


This section will soon feature news, resources, and individual pages for current graduate students. See the Graduate Calendar, Graduate Handbook, and Frequently Asked Questions: Current Students (below) for important information.

Frequently Asked Questions: Current Students


Who's my advisor, and when should I meet with him or her?

If you're a new student in either the MA or the PhD program, the Director of Graduate Studies will serve as your immediate advisor. Some time during your first year, you should select a faculty member who works in your field to be a more permanent advisor. If you fail to do so the Director of Graduate Studies will assign you a temporary advisor with knowledge in your field. You should meet with this advisor prior to registering for classes each semester in order to insure that you are taking the necessary courses to complete your degree in a timely fashion. In the MFA program, all poetry students are advised by Fred Dings, all fiction students by Janette Turner Hospital, and all creative non-fiction students by James Barilla.

How do I register for courses?

Before meeting with your advisor, make sure you're familiar with the Departments course offerings for the coming semester by visiting the USC Master Schedule. Once your advisor has signed off on the courses you've selected, log on to your VIP account, click the Academics button and then the Show Me: Course Registration button, making sure you've indicated the proper semester and year. Follow the instructions on the page that appears to register for courses. You can use VIP to drop/add courses, to pay fees, and to view your schedule at any time. (NOTE: until you reset it, your four-digit PIN number is your month and date of birth.)

When's the last chance to drop a course without penalty?

To avoid a grade penalty, all students must drop courses during the regular or late registration periods (usually before the end of the first week of classes). If you're forced to drop a course after this grace period, you will receive either a W (if the course is dropped before the end of the sixth week of classes) or a WF (if the course is dropped after the sixth week) on your transcript instead of a grade.

Can I set up a directed reading, or independent study, course?

Yes, but first you must get approval for the independent study from the professor who will direct your writing/reading. Then, you must fill out the ENGL 895/896 form (available in the Graduate English Office) and have it signed by that professor and by the Graduate Director. (NOTE: Auditing courses, while officially permissible, is typically discouraged. Most professors advise students to take the course for credit since the Graduate School requires a record of 75% attendance to include the audit on a transcript.)

What's a program of study?

The Program of Study, a form that all students must fill out and submit to the Graduate School, is the formal record of your graduate coursework at the University. It must be signed by you, your advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Dean of the Graduate School. MA and MFA students must submit this form no later than semester marking completion of their first 12 credit hours; PhD students should file by the end of their second year in the program. (Note: PhD students must also file a Doctoral Committee Appointment Request form at this time).

What are Thesis and Dissertation Preparation Hours?

You must register for thesis and dissertation preparation hours once the coursework for your degree has been completed (or, in some cases, will be completed within one semester). In order to register for these hours, you must inform the Graduate English Office (specifically, Noreen Doughty) the name of your advisor and the number of prep hours you will take in the coming semester. MA students must take at least 3 thesis prep hours, and MFA students must take at least 6 hours. PhD students may enroll in up to 3 hours of dissertation prep in the semester prior to their comprehensive exams, and can also take up to three hours during the semester those exams are taken. After passing the PhD comprehensive examinations, students may take up to 6 preparation hours per semester.

Can I get reimbursement for travel related to my research?

Yes, there are number of University departments that offer some financial reimbursement to graduate students who travel (i.e., to present a conference paper, to conduct archival research, or to attend a job interview). In order to receive such funding, you must apply well in advance of your travel to all these departments:

NOTE: Reimbursement takes place after travel; therefore, you must cover all travel expenses, making sure to keep all original receipts except dining (a per diem allowance of $32 will be included with your application). Consult the Graduate Student Handbook for more precise instructions on this process.

Can I apply to work for the department as something other than a teacher?

While there are other types of assistantship positions within the English Department that graduate students may occupy - e.g., instructional assistantships, research assistantships, and editorial assistantships - those posts are typically filled by way of professor requests, not student application. There are, however, multiple non-departmental assistantships available to students. See the Web Job Listings for a list of graduate services available.

Does the University provide insurance for graduate students? Do I have to enroll in the University insurance plan?

All USC graduate students enrolled in nine or more credit hours, graduate assistants and all international students are automatically enrolled in the University-sponsored Student Health Insurance Plan each fall and spring semester. These students must present evidence of satisfactory comparable health insurance coverage to decline or "waive out" of the insurance plan each semester to avoid the charge for it on their tuition bill. Students can visit to learn about comparable coverage requirements and find the link to 'waive out" of the plan or visit for plan details and to "waive out". Students enrolled in less than nine credit hours can purchase the University-sponsored Student Health Insurance Plan, but they are not automatically enrolled.