Graduate students

Course Loads and Overloads, Graduate

Policy Number: 100324

Current Policy

Category: Academic » Enrollment



The minimum credit hours/units required for “full-time” designation for graduate students varies, depending on the term and the context. Notably, requirements established by lending agencies, government regulations, employing entities and certain insurance policies may utilize criteria that differ from this policy on what constitutes “full-time” enrollment. Students should be aware of these criteria, and contact the proper agency or department necessary to answer any questions they may have (e.g. NAU Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid).

Full-Time Status

Graduate students are considered “full-time” during Fall or Spring terms if they carry 9 credit hours/units during that term. Graduate students are considered “full-time” during Summer term if they carry 5 credit hours/units accumulated over any combination of summer sessions. 

In some situations, enrollment in less than 9 credits during the Fall or Spring semester (or less than 5 credits for Summer) can be considered “full-time” by NAU and the Graduate College. These situations include, but are not limited to: graduate students in the final semester of their degree who are writing or defending a thesis or dissertation; graduate students who have completed all coursework and have only a thesis, capstone project, or internship to finish; and doctoral students who have been admitted to candidacy. In these instances, the Associate Dean of the Graduate College has the authority to approve a “full-time” status designation for semester loads below the units otherwise established in this policy.

Full-time status for graduate students does not necessarily satisfy the Graduate College’s requirements for continuous enrollment. For details on continuous enrollment, please see the Continuous Enrollment, Graduate policy. 

Enrollment Requirements for Graduate Assistants

Graduate Assistants are generally employed only during Fall and Spring terms. For either of these terms during such employment, Graduate Assistants must take a minimum course load of 9 units, all of which must count toward their degree requirements. The maximum full-time course load for graduate assistants during Fall or Spring terms is 12 units, of which a minimum of 9 units must count toward their degree requirements. If a graduate assistant wishes to be enrolled in fewer than the required minimum units, the student must submit a Request for Exception to the Nine-Unit Registration Requirement, available on the Graduate College website

Term Overloads

The maximum number of credit hours/units allowed for enrollment by graduate students without an overload approval is 16 credit hours/units for Fall and Spring terms, 6 credit hours/units for five-week Summer sessions, and 4 credit hours/units for Summer pre-session or Winter session. 

The maximum number of credit hours/units for mini-courses or dynamically dated courses varies depending on the length of the course. Contact the Associate Dean of the Graduate College to seek overload approvals on these types of courses. 

Approval for a Term Overload

Students may carry a term overload (exceed maximum credit hours/units in a term), only with the approval of their advisor, their department chair, and the Associate Dean of the Graduate College. 

Overloads above 21 credit hours/units for fall and spring terms, 16 hours for any summer term, or 4 hours for winter term will not be approved for graduate students. 

Some graduate programs require a student to hold a minimum grade point average before an overload is approved. The Graduate College recommends a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA be achieved prior to carrying an overload.

General Procedure

To apply for enrollment in an overload, students must submit the appropriate approval form, with the required signatures/approvals, when they enroll. This form is available on the Registrar's website.

Students can petition for exception

Graduate students may petition for an exception to any academic, non-grade-related, graduate regulation for which no specific appeal or petition process exists. Petitions should be submitted, in writing, to the Associate Dean of the Graduate College. When applicable, the student’s advisor and department chair may endorse the petition letter. In some instances, utilizing the Academic Appeal Policy and UGCHP - Graduate is more appropriate. 

Students should contact the Associate Dean of the Graduate College for clarification on which process to initiate.