Preparing for Graduation

Commencement photo
Spring commencement ceremony at the Kohl Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

This page includes compiled resources and information to help you prepare for your thesis defense and graduation. We recommend reading it over before you schedule your thesis defense to help in your planning.

  • A few months prior to the thesis defense, students should have a meeting with their committee (the “six-month meeting” to determine whether they are ready to move on to the thesis defense. See the Thesis Defense page for more information.
  • Make sure you are aware of degree deadlines (2023-2024 deadlines can be found here). At the end of each semester, there is a deadline by which students must deposit their thesis in order to graduate during the current term. There are also degree window periods between semesters that allow you to graduate in the upcoming semester, without needing to register or pay segregated fees for the upcoming semester.
  • You can find sample dissertations through the Proquest UW-Madison Dissertations & Theses search on the UW-Madison Libraries website (note: we’ve had the best luck finding theses using the searches under the “In Library Databases” section). If a publication or a patent is pending, students may request an embargo on their thesis for up to two years, so it is possible that recent theses will not yet be available.
  • We will need to request your thesis warrant at least three weeks before your thesis defense, so please let the CMB Office know the date of your defense as soon as you have it scheduled.
  • Have your committee members sign your PhD warrant at your thesis defense. You will need to submit your signed warrant to the Graduate School. You can submit it electronically through the administrative documents section of the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website; see the Graduate School instructions. (If your thesis defense will be held virtually, please view CMB’s Virtual Meeting Guide for guidance on holding a virtual meeting and getting electronic signatures.)
  • You must also submit a copy of the signed warrant to the CMB Office.
  • View the details of depositing your thesis to the Graduate School following your defense in the Thesis Defense section of the CMB handbook. Make sure to also read through the Graduate School’s page on Completing Your Degree, which includes information on paying a dissertation deposit fee and scheduling your final review with Grad School. (Please note that final review appointments are now optional, not required.)
  • When deciding when to deposit your dissertation, please be aware that your graduate student status and stipend will end immediately after you deposit your dissertation. Your health insurance and benefits will end at the end of the month in which you deposit your dissertation.
  • If you need a graduation verification form (employers sometimes need this to finalize your appointment), you can request a letter through the Registrar’s Office. If you graduate in the middle of the semester and your final grades have not yet been submitted, you will also need to complete a grade change form; please contact the CMB Office for help with this.
  • You can attend Commencement even if your thesis warrant has not yet been requested. Each semester there is a deadline by which you will need to complete the Apply to Graduate process in your MyUW Student Center if you want your name to appear in the commencement program.
  • The Graduate School offers workshops on Last Steps to Completing the PhD Degree. You can find details on the Graduate School’s Events Calendar.