Graduate Academic Advising

Our academic advisors are the principal academic resource for graduate students in the Elliott School and are part of a support team that also includes a program director and career coach. Interactions are centered on student learning outcomes designed to encourage the student’s self-efficacy and development of meaningful educational and professional goals. While students are responsible for determining their schedule and meeting all degree requirements, academic advisors are here to guide students through the entire graduate degree.

Meet Your Advisors




Academic advisors are available for 15 or 30-minute appointments. Advisors meet with students in person, over the phone, or via Zoom on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Academic advisors guide graduate students from entry to graduation. An academic advisor can help you:

  • Choose your courses
  • Prepare your plan of study
  • Organize a study-abroad experience
  • Check your progress toward graduation
  • Navigate University systems and find resources
  • Overcome challenges 
  • Generally, facilitate your successful completion of GW requirements and the Elliott School's graduate program.

Academic Regulations

The academic regulations and definitions listed below constitute answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding University and school policies and guidelines, which are outlined in-depth in the University Bulletin under University Regulations or the Elliott School regulations sections.

Academic Integrity

You must know, and make use of, all proper procedures for doing research, writing papers, and taking examinations. Acts of academic dishonesty will be prosecuted through the proper University channels. You can read the University Code of Academic Integrity here.

Academic Standing

You must maintain good academic standing with the University. Good academic standing is defined as a cumulative GPA above 3.0.

If you do not maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above or receive a grade of F, you may be put on academic probation, suspended, or dismissed from the Elliott School.


Auditing a course enables you to regularly attend a course without completing coursework or examinations. No credit is awarded, however, and standard tuition rates apply. You may not retake an audited course for credit. You may not change from credit to audit status, or vice versa, after the end of the eighth week of classes during the academic year. Contact your academic advisor prior to auditing a course.


All M.A. students participate in a culminating group capstone project. The Global Capstone is the culminating experience and signature project for Elliott School graduate students from the Asian Studies, European and Eurasian Studies, Global Communication, International Affairs, International Economic Policy, and Security Policy Studies M.A. programs, and the M.I.S. program.

Capstone Eligibility

You will have one opportunity to retake a capstone if you fail the course. If you fail a second time, your degree will not be conferred.

The following criteria must be satisfied before you can begin a Capstone course:

Your Plan of Study has been submitted and approved.

  • You have completed 18 credits (M.A.) in residence or at a partner institution.
  • You are in good academic standing.
  • You have two or fewer incomplete grades on your transcript.
Continuous Enrollment

You must register for continuous enrollment for a semester in which you plan to pursue an off-campus academic opportunity (such as an internship, study at another institution, or the completion of incomplete coursework). Continuous enrollment status is generally limited to one academic year and must be requested one semester at a time. Contact your advisor if you wish to register for continuous enrollment, or have questions about this status. While registered for continuous enrollment, you will still have access to university resources including email, libraries, and the Learner Health and Wellness Center.

Consortium Registration

The Washington Metropolitan Area Consortium of Universities is a cooperative arrangement in post-secondary education that is designed to permit the sharing of academic resources by member institutions and to offer qualified students the opportunity to enroll at other institutions for courses not available on their own campus.

Qualified Elliott School graduate degree-seeking students have the opportunity to enroll in up to 9 credits of coursework at any of the participating Consortium schools. Consortium registration requires approval of the GW academic department and your academic advisor before submitting the form to the Office of the Registrar @ Colonial Central for final approval and processing.

Credit/No Credit

With the exception of Law School courses, the ITIP one-credit capstone course, and zero-credit graduate internship registration, courses taken to satisfy degree requirements cannot be taken under the credit/no credit (CR/NC) grading option. Courses taken under this grading option require special registration and standard tuition rates apply.


You can drop a class during the designated registration period for a given semester, typically through the fourth week of classes. Skills courses may be dropped up until the day before the course begins without penalty, but requires an administrative course drop by your academic advisor.

You may withdraw from a class, and receive a grade of "W," during the designated withdrawal period during a given semester. During the academic year, the withdrawal period begins when the add/drop period ends and runs through the tenth week of classes. You may withdraw in GWeb or use a Registration Transaction Form (pdf) to withdraw from a class.

All drops and withdraws are subject to the refund schedule listed in the Bulletin. It is recommended that you speak with your academic advisor to review all available options prior to dropping/withdrawing.

Dual Degree/Joint Degree Programs

The Elliott School of International Affairs offers programs of study leading to a Master of Arts and a Juris Doctor in cooperation with the Law School; a Master of Arts and a Master of Business Administration in cooperation with the School of Business; and a Master of Arts and a Master of Public Health in cooperation with the Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Dual degree programs require admission to both schools and allow students to receive one degree prior to the completion of the second.

Joint degree programs require students to be admitted to both schools and complete the requirements of both degrees before receiving either.


Electives are courses that do not satisfy specific program requirements like core courses, specialization or concentration field courses, capstone, etc., but which count toward the credit hour requirement for graduation. Generally, electives can be any graduate-level course related to a student's interest in international affairs chosen in consultation with the program director.

Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

FERPA is a federal law prohibiting the distribution of certain student information to parties outside the University without a student's expressed written consent (this includes parents and spouses).

Grades and Grade Point Average (GPA)

The University grading system and grade point average calculation formula are listed in the Bulletin

Grade Grievance

The Elliott School has established a three-step process to address grade grievances as a result of reported arbitrary or capricious academic evaluation, in alignment with the Statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities (PDF). For grade grievances in non-IAFF courses, students should contact the respective academic department/school.

  • Step #1: The student contacts the faculty member of the course, or the relevant program director if the faculty member is unavailable, to discuss concerns. The student must make contact within the first four weeks of the following semester for which the grade was issued. If a solution is reached please complete the relevant portions of the Grade Grievance form (PDF). If a satisfactory resolution is not reached, the student should proceed to the next step.
  • Step #2: The student completes the Grade Grievance form (PDF), following the instructions in step two, and contacts the program director who oversees the course. If the program director is the course instructor, the associate dean of academic affairs will conduct this step of the review. If a satisfactory resolution is not reached, the student should proceed to the next step.
  • The associate dean for academic affairs will convene a faculty review committee. The review committee will make a final determination. This committee’s decision is final and cannot be appealed.  

Contact your academic advisor with questions.


Holds are placed on student records by different University offices for different reasons (e.g., outstanding bills, incomplete immunization records, academic probation). A hold will prevent you from registering for classes, so you should check GWeb for holds well before registration begins. If you have a hold, contact the office that placed your hold to determine how to remove it. (GWeb lists contact information for the office that placed the hold.)

Incomplete Grades

At the option of the instructor, you may be awarded an incomplete grade if you are unable to complete the work of a course for reasons beyond your control. The instructor must be informed of, and approve of, your reasons before the date when final grades are due. You must complete the Incomplete Grade Contract, found on our Forms & Applications page in conjunction with your instructor to receive an incomplete grade.

Independent Study

Elliott School graduate students can arrange to receive one, two or three credits for individualized academic projects through an Independent Study. You are expected to engage in study that is supervised by a faculty advisor. Independent Study coursework must not duplicate courses that are traditionally offered at the University. The final work product must have been developed with the Independent Study faculty advisor. The faculty advisor may be any full-time GW professor; however, he/she must have knowledge of the issue or topic you will explore in the independent study.

The responsibilities for the faculty advisor include:

  • Sign your Independent Study application (pdf).
  • Meet with you regularly during the semester
  • Assign appropriate readings, review/revise the final product periodically
  • Submit a grade at the end of the semester (The Elliott School will contact the faculty advisor about two weeks prior to the end of the semester to request a grade.)

Academic Requirements:

  • Research Paper – You must complete a research paper relevant to contemporary international affairs. The paper is to be developed over the course of the semester in conjunction with the faculty advisor. The faculty advisor has final approval on all aspects of the paper. Generally, the length of the research paper is approximately 10 pages per credit hour of the independent study.
  • Readings – Decisions regarding what books and articles must be read will be negotiated by you and the faculty advisor. Faculty advisors may assign readings or they may approve readings that you suggest if they feel the content is appropriate and relevant. In addition, faculty advisors have the authority to set deadlines and assign any related work.
  • Faculty/Student Meetings – The faculty advisor and the student will meet regularly throughout the semester.

You may not earn credit for an internship, but you may register for a zero-credit internship course if it is required by your employer or Immigration Services. Contact the Elliott School's Office of Graduate Student Services to register.

Leave of Absence

You must register for a leave of absence if you need to interrupt the active pursuit of your degree for a semester. Leave of absence status is generally limited to one academic year and must be requested one semester at a time. Contact your advisor if you wish to register for a leave of absence or have questions about this status. While registered for a leave of absence, you will still have access to a university email.

Plan of Study

The Plan of Study outlines the degree requirements for each Elliott School graduate program. You must complete a Plan of Study for your program, obtain your Program Director's signature, and submit it to your Academic Advisor by the posted deadline of your first semester of study. Failure to do so will result in an administrative hold.

Professional Skills Courses

These one-credit professional development workshops are designed to give you practical experience in your field that can be applied in the workplace. Check with your program director or academic advisor to determine which, if any, professional skills courses are appropriate for your program.

Repeating a Course

A course may not be repeated for credit unless stated otherwise in the University Bulletin. A course taken as an "audit" may not later be taken for credit. Any student who earns a grade of C in a graduate course may be asked by the Program Director to repeat the course.


Students who wish to complete a thesis must do so in addition to the Capstone requirement. To pursue the optional six-credit thesis you must obtain approval from the Dean (through the Office of Graduate Student Services) and must meet the following criteria:

A minimum GPA of 3.5 after 18 credits of graduate work;

  • Approval of thesis on your Plan of Study
  • Completion of a research methods course
  • The subject must be approved by:
    • The member of the full-time faculty under whom the thesis is to be written,
    • A second member of the faculty who will serve as a reader, and
    • Your program director;
  • You must file a copy of an approved and signed Graduate Student Thesis-Subject Approval Form (pdf) with the Office of Graduate Student Services.

Overview of the Process

The student is responsible for all of the paperwork associated with the thesis process, and the forms are available on the Forms and Applications page and the Gelman Library the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation website.

Students are expected to submit their Graduate Student Thesis-Subject Approval Form (pdf), signed by the Thesis Director and Second Reader, to the Office of Academic Advising and Student Services by no later than May 1 of the year preceding anticipated submission of their thesis for students planning to complete their thesis in a fall-spring sequence. (For students planning to complete their thesis in a spring-fall sequence the form submission deadline is no later than November 1 of the year preceding anticipated submission of their thesis.)

Once the thesis proposal has been approved and submitted to your academic advisor you will be registered for IAFF 6998 and IAFF 6999 the subsequent semester. IAFF 6998 and IAFF 6999 are taken for a letter grade and quality points are earned toward your GPA. Payment of tuition for thesis research entitles the student, during the period of registration, to the advice and direction of the thesis director and the second reader.

In case a thesis is unfinished, the student must maintain Continuous Enrollment and is allowed one calendar year to complete it. If the preparation of the thesis extends beyond the additional calendar year, the student must register again for the entire six hours of thesis credit.

*While all grades for the spring semester may not be posted by the May 1/Nov 1 deadlines, students should still submit the Graduate Student Thesis Subject Approval Form by the deadline.  After receiving the Graduate Student Thesis Subject Approval form, but prior to registering the student for the first three credits of the thesis, the student's academic advisor will check the student's record by June 1 to confirm that the student has earned 18 credits and has a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5. Students who do not meet eligibility requirements will not be permitted to pursue a thesis.

Submission and Publication

Master's theses are submitted electronically by the student once the document has been approved as final by the faculty. Information and deadline dates are posted on the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation website. You can find a lot of information about the thesis on the ETD website, including formatting guidelines. The guidelines are designed to produce documents that are uniform in style, but they also allow for the particular requirements of various disciplines.

The student must also submit to the Office of Student Services the completed ETD Approval Form. Theses will first be sent to the Gelman Library for approval. Once approved by Gelman, the thesis will be forwarded to the Office Graduate Student Services for a final check. Students may receive instructions from Gelman or GSS to make changes and upload a revised edition of their work. The student will be notified by email once the thesis has been forwarded to ProQuest/UMI.

Students will pay ProQuest/UMI directly through their online system. The amount charged will depend on the publishing option chosen by the student (GW recommends students choose the Open Access option in the interest of making their scholarship as accessible as possible).

Accepted theses become the property of the University. The University is to be given credit for material used in the publication of any portion of a thesis, whether as a direct quotation or as an adaptation. Master's students whose thesis research will involve human subjects should review the information on the Office of Human Research website.

Additional Resources

Thesis Guidelines for Faculty (pdf)

Time Restriction on Degree Completion

All Elliott School graduate programs require students to complete their studies within a certain time frame. See below for your program and its corresponding time restriction.

  • M.A. students must complete all degree requirements within five years of enrollment.
  • M.I.P.P., M.I.S., and certificate students must complete all requirements within three years of enrollment.
  • Dual degree students must complete all degree requirements on each degree within five years of enrollment into each degree program.
  • Joint degree students must complete all degree requirements for both degrees within six years of enrollment.

Should an extension beyond the approved time be necessary, the student must submit a policy exception request for an extension through Graduate Student Services. If an extension is granted, the student will be required to register for courses or Continuous Enrollment each semester until all degree requirements have been met.

Transfer Credit

In some degree programs, you are eligible to transfer credits for approved courses from other accredited institutions, including study abroad programs. However, the number of credits that may transfer is limited by the program. Check your program requirements in the Bulletin to determine how many credits you can transfer.

To transfer credit from another accredited institution and apply the credit toward your degree, you must obtain GW departmental approval, as well as approval from Graduate Student Services, using the Transfer Credit Approval form (pdf). Credits used toward a previously earned degree cannot be transferred.

Students are reminded that GW policy prohibits graduate students from earning transfer credits for language courses taken at other institutions. 

Unauthorized Withdrawal

A "Z" is an administrative notation on your transcript indicating that you were registered for, but did not attend (or attended only briefly) or complete any graded work for a course. You would likely receive this grade if you stopped attending a course without dropping or withdrawing from the course in GWeb or via a Registration Transaction Form.

Undergraduate Courses

Under special circumstances, undergraduate courses numbered 2000-4999 may be counted toward a graduate degree. Prior approval of the instructor, program director, and academic advisor is required.

Each program limits the number of undergraduate hours that may be used. In most M.A. programs students may count a maximum of six credit hours of foreign language instruction toward their degree, including 1000-level courses. Course work counted toward a bachelor's degree cannot be applied toward a master's degree.

  • M.A. students: No more than nine hours of undergraduate courses.
  • M.I.P.P., M.I.S. and certificate students: No more than six hours of undergraduate courses.
Waiving Requirements

It is possible to waive a course or requirement based on previously completed coursework. Waivers will be considered only for courses completed within the last five years in which you earned a "B" or better. You must submit the following paperwork to your academic advisor to have your waiver request reviewed:

  • A policy exception request form outlining the reasons a waiver should be considered, signed by GW faculty who teaches a similar course.
  • A syllabus of the course/s completed.
  • A transcript documenting completion of the course/s.

Additional Resources