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Undergraduate Program

Expectations of Graduate Students

Advice for Graduate Students

The purpose of this document is to inform students about certain common practices and rules of the Computer Science Department and of Northern Illinois University.  It is intended to prevent misunderstandings based on faulty assumptions and on not knowing certain rules and common practices.  In many cases, failing to follow the advice given here may lead to unfortunate consequences.



Most courses will include in their syllabus a statement on attendance.  You should be well aware of the policy for each course and of the consequences of not following it.  If there is no statement on attendance in the course syllabus, you should ask the professor for a formal statement to the class of the policy.

In many cases, the course policy is not to require attendance.  Some courses do require a certain level of attendance.

Even if a course does not require attendance, you should clearly understand that there is an expectation that you should attend class regularly.  "Expectation" does not mean that we hope or wish you will attend. It means you should attend regularly unless there is a compelling reason not to attend, such as illness. The collective experience of the faculty is that students who attend regularly tend to do better in the class than those who do not.  It is not effective to depend on classmates to tell you “the important stuff” when you do not attend.  They may misunderstand or forget some of that “important stuff”.

Another reason to attend class is to get to know your professor or to give him or her a chance to get to know you.  If you later want to request an independent study course or a letter of recommendation, your chances will improve if the professor knows you.

In addition, you should make every effort to get to class on time.  While we realize that occasionally circumstances may occur that prevent your being on time, this should be the rare exception rather than the rule.  Please understand that students arriving late are often disruptive to the concentration of other students and also to the instructor.

You should consider your classes to be an important part of your education and you should no more skip a class with no good reason than you should fail to show up for a job.

Finally, please try to remember to turn off cell phones in class.


Again, most courses have a policy about late or missing assignments.  You should be well aware of the policy for each course and of the consequences of not following it.  In the past, one Professor would not accept any assignment so much as one minute late; the consequence was a 0 on the assignment and a one letter grade penalty for the course.  If this is the stated course policy, this is perfectly valid.  Most professors will allow some flexibility if you approach them in advance of a due date and explain the circumstances that may be causing you difficulty.  It is your responsibility to arrange any such special consideration.

Grading of Tests and Assignments

Students may approach a professor to request a reconsideration of a grade on a quiz, test, or assignment, if the student believes that an error has been made or that the answer has been misinterpreted or some part of the answer has not been considered.  Your professors will be happy to correct any inadvertent errors in grading.  However, arguments such as the following will not carry any weight:

Your GPA, Academic Probation, and Dismissal

The Graduate School monitors students’ academic performance (grades).

Students are placed on Academic Probation by the Graduate School when their GPA falls below 3.0.  If the GPA is not raised to 3.0 or above within 9 credit hours, the student is dismissed from the University.  It is possible to appeal the dismissal.  Sometimes the appeal succeeds and sometimes it does not, depending on the circumstances.

A Graduate Assistant’s appointment may not continue into the next academic year (Fall) if the student is currently on academic probation.

If a Graduate Student accumulates 6 or more credit hours of grades of D, F, U, or WF, he or she will be dismissed from the University (subject to appeal) regardless of GPA.

Any course with a grade of D or F or U will not count toward graduation.  The student must repeat the course under the “special repeat option” or take a different course with a grade of C or above.  (No more than 6 credit hours total may be repeated under this option.) Any comprehensive exam area course with a grade of D or F must be repeated with a grade of C or above before the student will be allowed to take the comprehensive exam.

Note especially that a "U" for an internship course (if the report is missing, late, or fails to meet requirements) will count as 3 credit hours toward dismissal, and may have other negative consequences as well.

Every year, a few Computer Science students are placed on academic probation and in some years one or two are dismissed from the university as explained above.  Be aware of the regulations and do what is necessary to avoid these problems. 

In general, if you find yourself in academic difficulty for any reason (including personal or health issues), even in a single course, see your professors and/or the Director of Graduate Studies or other NIU staff to find out if there is some action that could help to avoid problems such as probation or dismissal.

This advice applies to all aspects of your study here, including eligibility for graduation, issues regarding your comprehensive examination, or other matters that might arise.

Remember that early communication in the event of problems or difficulties may be the key to a good resolution of the problem. Waiting too long to seek assistance or advice may result in a situation that cannot be helped or fixed.