The “apply for graduation” action in Student Center notifies your school/college that you plan to complete your degree requirements in a specific term. This allows the staff of your school/college to begin evaluating your degree accomplishments in preparation for graduation.
You also indicate if you would like your name in the official commencement program [jump down to that info].
Graduation means meeting all your degree requirements and your academic dean’s office has confirmed this and conferred a degree to you. Commencement is the ceremony at the end of the fall and spring terms, celebrating graduating students. These are different things and, for some students, happen at different times.
View this instruction page for step-by-step instructions on how to apply for graduation in Student Center.
All undergraduate students must apply for graduation. Most students with at least 100 credits will get reminder email letters with information about applying for graduation.
When you apply for graduation, you select the specific term (e.g., Fall 2019) when you plan to complete your degree requirements. Student Center usually offers the next two to three terms as choices.
The apply for graduation action doesn’t give you an immediate check that your degree requirements have been met: it notifies your school/college of your intention. Some schools/colleges may send email communications to students who have not completed requirements, but this practice varies across campus.
Your academic advisor can help you track your progress, including learning how to use UW–Madison’s degree audit reporting system (DARS).
All graduate students should use the apply for graduation action in Student Center to note your preferences for commencement. However, the “intended degree completion term” in the student center is not used by the Graduate School. Information about the commencement ceremony can be found on the Chancellor’s commencement website.
Official graduation instructions for completing your masters or doctoral degree can be found on the Graduate School website on the “Completing your master’s degree” page or the “Guide to preparing your doctoral dissertation” page, including information about receiving a degree warrant.
Your graduate program coordinator can help you track your degree progress. The Graduate School degree coordinators can be of assistance regarding official graduation and degree conferral.
Your name in the commencement program
In Student Center, the apply for graduation action asks if you plan to participate in a commencement ceremony for a specific fall or spring term (no commencement event in summer).
You need to apply for graduation before the deadline announced by the Chancellor’s Office, if you want your name in the commencement program. It’s usually in early November (for December commencement) and early April (for May commencement). Find the current deadline on the Chancellor’s commencement website.
You can select different terms for graduation and commencement. For example, you plan to enroll in a summer term course to complete your degree, and want to join your friends for the May commencement. You would apply to graduate with an intended degree completion term of summer, and a commencement ceremony in spring.
Preferred name. — You have the option to have your preferred name appear in the commencement program and in related communications. Your diploma will always have your legal name. Please contact us if you need to change your legal name in UW student records.
FERPA Hold Waiver. — If you have set a “FERPA hold” restriction on your education records, restricting its release to third parties, you can override this to allow the commencement program and related communications to list your name.