Congratulations! You’re beginning to think about defending and graduating! You maybe asking yourself: What should I do? You’re in the right place. Start with:

Planning your Defense Date

  1. Think about what semester you are aiming at and why.

    • The why is important. Do you have a job to leave for? That is a slightly different conversation/set of constraints than hitting the end of your funding or just being ready to leave.
    • *Remember: Morgan and Ethan will not do defenses between May 15th and August 15th, so take this into consideration. There are some work arounds if you need to finish in the summer but they will require the Clear Prior route (see FAQs below).
    • Do you want to finish mid-semester to take a job elsewhere? If you are not on an RA for a full semester, it can cause major issues with tuition waivers (the university will rescind your tuition waiver and ask you to pay out of state tuition). If this is part of your plan, it can be dealt with but when you talk to your advisor about your plan (step 3 below) make sure to bring this up!
  2. Make a draft timeline

    • This is important because it will help you understand where you are in the process and what issues there may be with your preferred timeline.
    • To make a draft timeline go to the grad school editorial deadlines website.
    • Find the semester you want to graduate (i.e. receive your diploma). Find the entry that says “Final Submission”. If your preferred semester is in the summer, you should pick the ‘Clear Prior’ date for the semester before your preferred semester. In either case, this is the date by which everything needs to be submitted - all paperwork, including the final format dissertation and defense paperwork.
    • Construct your ‘drop dead timeline’. This timeline is the latest you can do everything and still have a chance to submit by the Final Submission date. This gives you the maximum amount of time to finish everything, but also gives the minimum amount of time for committee review and for you to do edits after your defense. This is not the timeline to aspire to, but it is the timeline that will get it done.
      • defense deadline: what is the date 2 weeks before ‘final submission’? This is the late day your defense can be scheduled and still have time to do edits for final submission.
      • full dissertation draft to committee deadline: what is the date two weeks before your defense deadline? This is the last date to have your full dissertation (an introduction chapter, 3 scholarly chapters, and a conclusion/tying it all together chapter to your committee in near final formating. Remember, this deadline is asking your committee to probably read 100+ pages in less than 2 weeks when they are already super busy. Your committee wants you to succeed and they will do this for you if this is what you need, but it will not fill them with joy and happiness.
    • Assess your completion state relative to the timeline
      • Do you feel good? Hyperventiliatory? Pessimistic? Whatever you feel, please proceed to step 3, even if you think it’s impossible. Your advisor is experienced and creative. They may think of things that you haven’t realized yet that will make this more possible.
  3. Talk to your advisor

    • At least 2 semesters before you want to graduate, talk to you advisor. Hopefully the two of you have had a few conversations about this starting in your 4th year, so this shouldn’t be a big deal. Tell them what you’re thinking, walk them through your timeline, and tell them how you feel about your timeline given the state of each of your chapters. The two of you will work through options that make sense, brainstorm possible solutions to any issues, and come to consensus on the best timeline for you.
  4. Talk to your graduate program coordinator

    • Now that you and your advisor agree on a semester for graduation, contact Karen Bray (SNRE) or Ivette Hernandez (WEC) depending on your graduate program. They will make sure your grad school requirements are complete and that you aren’t missing anything vital. Do this as soon as the semester you wish to graduate is clear to you in case you are missing credits.
  5. Check with your committee

    • Let your committee know that you are starting to plan your defense. Give them a brief update on the status of your chapters (attach any chapters that have been published or submitted). Let them know what your tentative timeline is (i.e. a defense no later than your drop dead date) and ask about any known conflicts during a 1 month window up to your drop-dead defense date.
  6. Set your defense date

    • chat with your advisor about dates your committee is available for a defense. Committee availability may require some rethinking about your schedule, especially if the drop-dead deadline was already going to be difficult. Notify your committee as soon as your advisor and you agree on the date so that they can put it on their calendars.
  7. Schedule your exit seminar

    • Both WEC and SNRE require an exit seminar. It does not have to be the same semester that you defend, but it must occur before you can graduate.

Congrats! You are now officially in the endgame of your dissertation! The next phase involves finishing up your dissertation, formatting it for UF, and presenting it to you peers and committee.

There’s a lot of bureaucracy at UF related to graduating. This list provides tips for navigating the various forms, deadlines, and formatting rules related to getting to this end part of your process.

  1. Initiate the graduation process

    • Contact Ivette Hernandez (WEC) or Karen Bray (SNRE) as soon as you have a date for your dissertation defense that your committee has agreed to, contact your deparment/school’s academic advisor, and they will prepare the packet of forms you will need to have your committee sign.
  2. Stay on top of deadlines!

    • There are a bunch of deadlines for the grad school and you do not want to miss them! Check on the grad school editorial deadlines website and emblazon them somewhere.
    • If you are going to Clear Prior, make sure you are following the deadlines for the semester before you intend to graduate.
  3. Download the checklist.

    • There are a ton of forms and things you need to do in your last semester.Most of these forms will be given to you by the graduate coordinator, ( who you will also turn them back to once they are signed). The ProQuest publishing agreement (different from the UF publishing agreement) is a little puzzling, and needs to be handed to the Editorial office directly by you (either in person or email– instructions are on the checklist). Even though there is an “optional” section of this form about having ProQuest handle copyright registration of your dissertation for you, I [Ellen] was told UF can’t be involved in this and you would have to contact ProQuest directly. Despite all this publishing stuff you’ve just signed, you will not be automatically given a bound copy of your dissertation. You may be able to order one from ProQuest here.
  4. Formatting your dissertation

    • There are a variety of sections that you don’t normally have in a paper that you need for a dissertation (Acknolwegdments, Introductory and Concluding chapter, etc). Seeing examples can be helpful. You can search for and download recent dissertations from your department here:
    • Formatting will be annoying. There’s an office to help you/tell you you’re doing it wrong. They recommend downloading the dissertation template here and just pasting your own text into the appropriate sections. They seem to be moving pages around on their help website and breaking links all the time, but at this moment there are some examples of things like table of contents here.
  5. First Submission

    • UF requires a draft of your dissertation be turned in very early during the semester you intend to graduate (or defend for Clear Prior). Despite what they say, your dissertation doesn’t need to be “done” by first submission. You just need to have some words in all the parts for them to check the formatting. Mine was missing an acknowledgements section: that was one of the things they told me I needed to change. However the more complete your dissertation is at this point, the easier final submission will be.

) Final Submission

Your dissertation really does have to be done for final submission. Make sure you corrected all the things they flagged on your first submission, and your committee has all signed off on this version.

Clear Prior

Clearing prior basically means that you have completed all of the requirements to graduate after the final submission deadline has passed and you will graduate the next semester (i.e., finishing by the clear prior deadline in summer 2020 will let you graduate in fall 2020). If you meet the clear prior deadline, you are exempt from the standard rule that you need to be registered for at least 3 credits in the semester in which you graduate. You are, however, still allowed to be registered for credits and be paid as an RA; you are simply exempted from the normal rule if you choose.

The way this works behind the scenes is that the editorial office with confirm that you’ve met all the requirements for clear prior (first submission [regular deadline], final submission and final acceptance/clearance by the clear prior deadline). Notice that you’ve met the clear prior requirements will then be sent to the graduate school offices. If you are not registered for any credits, you will be verified as clear prior. If you are registered for credits, they will reach out to confirm whether you want to remain registered for credits or be verified as clear prior. For example, if you want to continue being paid as an RA and, therefore, need to be registered for credits, then you will not be verified as clear prior and have basically just met all of the next semester’s (your graduating semester) deadlines very early.

Exit seminar

You will be giving an exit seminar to the department during WEC’s usual seminar time. I recommend making this as close as possible to your actual defense date with your committee – theoretically your committee will go to your talk and then be prepared for your defense. As of Fall 2018 they are using a zoom room to record all the talks, which means you can invite people to join remotely with the link. It will also hopefully be recorded – you can email Tom Barnash and he will give you a link to the recording (I have been unsuccessful at getting a downloadable file).


  • You have to order regalia from the bookstore pretty early in the semester (i.e., deadline is in October for Dec. graduation)
  • Your diploma will be mailed to the address indicated in your ONE.uf account – make sure it’s correct

Odds and ends

  • Inform Donna that you will be ending your position well in advance. This will help make sure that everything that needs to happen for you to end your UF position happens smoothly.
  • If you had a pcard, close it out by emailing the pcard team ( a few days before your last day. They will cancel it and you are supposed to shred it yourself.
  • Don’t forget to leave your lab key, and any computer equipment you’ve been using