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Student Resources

Student Resources

Students and Mentors

You and your Ph.D. mentor share the responsibility for establishing a relationship that contributes to the successful pursuit of your graduate degree. Your mentoring relationship should reflect mutual respect, academic rigor, integrity, and open communication. The following guidelines outline the ideal responsibilities of each party in the mentoring relationship.

The Ideal Mentor:

  • Reads and returns work promptly, with constructive comments
  • Develops with the student a list of short- and long-term research and professional goals
  • Clarifies expectations and policies
  • Communicates regularly about research progress, scheduling changes, and workshops or seminars that will aid in the student’s professional development
  • Provides students with opportunities to develop and practice professional skills required for research, teaching, and service
  • Helps students develop an innovative dissertation topic
  • Helps students develop a marketable job dossier
  • Supports the variety of professional interests a student may have in research, industry, teaching, and service
  • Facilitates networking
  • Knows course and milestone requirements
  • Treats students respectfully as future colleagues

Acknowledges that students have responsibilities outside the academy.

The Ideal Student:

  • Chooses their mentor thoughtfully and wisely by becoming familiar with the professor’s research and professional interests
  • Has developed short- and long-term professional and research goals, and shares these goals with their mentor
  • Is aware of their own strengths and weaknesses
  • Submits work promptly and attends meetings prepared with specific goals, questions and tasks to be accomplished in that meeting
  • Communicates regularly with faculty about their progress, changes in focus, and professional needs


Certain issues, such as sexual harassment and violations of academic integrity must be handled by the appropriate USC individual or office. Examples include: Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services (RSVP), USC Office of Equity and Diversity, and USC Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards

If a student has a problem or complaint regarding an appointment as a TA, RA, or AL, then the problem should be brought immediately to the attention of the supervising faculty or staff to whom the TA, RA, or AL is responsible. If a solution cannot be reached, then resolution should then be sought through the department or program chair, and then the Dean of the academic unit. Additional information can be found in the Handbook for Teaching Assistants (TAs), Research Assistants (RAs), and Graduate Assistant Lecturers (ALs)

Disputed academic evaluation and graduate student dismissal appeals policies and processes are outlined in SCampus, Part C – Academic Policies

In the event that an academic dispute results in the dismissal of a graduate student from their academic unit, and mediation is unsuccessful, The Graduate School will work with the student through a formal appeal of the academic evaluation. For more information, see the Disputed Academic Evaluation Procedures section of SCampus, the USC student handbook.

Academic Dismissal Appeal Guidelines

Please see SCampus for basic information about the appeal option - Disputed Academic Evaluation Procedures

A Graduate School Dismissal Appeal provides the final consideration of a student's dismissal from a graduate program when the dismissal has been upheld by the dean of the relevant school. This does not include students who have been dismissed for academic integrity violations, students who have not met the conditions of continuing registration, or professional standards violations. The Graduate School will schedule the appeal once the student provides written verification of dismissal and states in writing that they want to proceed with the appeal within 30 days of the dismissal.

The appeal panel has three members: the Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Dean of the Graduate School  or a designee, who chairs the meeting; and two members who are deans or dean designees drawn from schools other than the school of the dismissed student. The dismissed student and a representative of the student's program or school are expected to be present at the panel meeting, with the exception of students prevented from being present due to visa issues, who may participate by video conferencing technology. The dismissed student and program or school representative may each be accompanied by an additional 1-2 people if desired. The presence of an attorney is neither necessary nor recommended. However, if the student elects to have an attorney present, an attorney from the USC General Counsel’s Office will also attend. The dismissed student must notify the Graduate School in writing that they intend to bring an attorney at the beginning of the scheduling process. Attorneys may be present only as observers. The presence of attorneys does not change the proceeding.

The format of the appeal meeting is below. The dismissed student may share speaking time with an accompanying person if they desire to do so. The representative of the school or program has the same option. Following the appeal meeting, the panel will deliberate in closed session and the Dean of the Graduate School will make a final decision on the appeal.


Materials for the appeal must be submitted electronically as PDFs at least 14 days before the scheduled appeal meeting and will be distributed to the panel, the dismissed student, and the program or school representatives.

Provided by the student

  • Written verification of dismissal from the student's program
  • Written denial of appeal from the student's school dean
  • Any other relevant materials


Provided by the department or school

For master's and professional doctoral students:

  • USC transcript, OASIS, or STARS report
  • Letter of admission
  • Any continuing registration requirements and any offers of financial aid
  • Any other relevant materials, such as warning, dismissal, or readmission letters


For PhD Students:

  • USC transcript, OASIS, or STARS report
  • Multi-year funding offer letter
  • Any notice of continuing registration requirements
  • A record of the student's PhD funding by semester
  • Any other relevant materials, assessments of the student's performance on screening exams, qualifying exams, progress on dissertation, and warning, dismissal, or readmission letters


Format of the appeal meeting

  • Appeal panel chair - introduction and overview of the process
  • Dismissed student - presentation of issues (15 minutes maximum)
  • Department/school representative - presentation of issues (15 minutes maximum)
  • Dismissed student - optional further remarks (15 minutes maximum)
  • Department/school representatives - optional further remarks (15 minutes maximum)
  • Dismissed student - optional final remarks (10 minutes maximum)
  • Questions by appeal panel members (panel members may also ask questions during the presentations)
  • All are excused except panel members
  • Deliberation by panel members
  • Written Decision of Dean of the Graduate School sent to participants within 14 days

If you have questions about the process, or if you would like to request that an appeal panel be convened, please contact

"Taco Tuesday with the Graduate School"

View the Fall 2022 event Taco Tuesday PDF to learn about fellowships, effective mentoring and success for new PhD students.


Spring 2022 Courses Revised Grade Option Offer to Pass/No Pass

In his 01/12/2022 memo, Provost Zukoski announced revised grade option offerings for Spring 2022 and a new academic advising service – USC Advisor Connect. Find responses to frequently asked questions for graduate students below.

USC Advisor Connect

If you have a question beyond what is addressed in these pages, you can submit a message to one of our academic advising staff by clicking the button below. This service is available to undergraduate and graduate students. Your message should include:

  • USC ID
  • Your current degree program
  • The class(es) you have questions/concerns about
  • What grade options you are considering
  • What (if any) discussion you have had with your academic advisor
  • Other relevant information related to your concern

Your submission will be managed through the USC Provost Shared Services Portal and you will receive communication from the email address “USC Provost Service Center”.

Graduate Pass/No Pass Grade Option FAQs

The university has extended the deadline to elect Pass/No Pass grades for Spring 2022 to Friday, February 11, 2022. You can change your course grade option on Web Registration in the myCourseBin screen.

As a graduate student, can I change my Spring 2022 courses to Pass/No Pass?  

Graduate students will receive instructions directly from their school dean indicating whether any Spring courses can be taken for the Pass/No Pass grade option.

Certain accreditation and licensure requirements may restrict the usage of Pass/No Pass grade options. Consult your academic program for details that apply to you.

If my school allows me to change my course to Pass/No Pass, what is the deadline for selecting the Pass/No Pass option? 

You can change your course grade option on Web Registration in the myCourseBin screen.  For programs following the January 10 to April 29 semester calendar, the deadline to elect Pass/No Pass is February 11, but for programs on an alternative calendar, check the specific course deadline on the USC Schedule of Classes or on Web Registration by clicking on the session link for the course.

How will I be graded in my Spring 2022 courses? 

After grading final examinations, faculty members will grade you according to the grade option you selected in Web Registration for each course. For any classes for which you select the Pass/No Pass option, a final grade of B or above will appear on your record as a Pass.

Will changing my grade option to Pass/No Pass affect financial aid? 

Courses taken Pass/No Pass will still count towards pace of progression and maximum time frame for Satisfactory Academic Progress. Grades of Pass/No Pass will not impact GPA; however, a No Pass grade can negatively impact pace of progression. Please review the Satisfactory Academic Progress policy for more details at

Where can I change my grade option to Pass/No Pass for my Spring 2022 class schedule?

You can change your course grade option on Web Registration in the myCourseBin screen.

How will this change affect my GPA? 

The Pass/No Pass grade is not counted in the grade point average.

Note: A student who takes all courses in a semester for Pass/No Pass will have a semester GPA of 0.0

If I receive a high final grade in a course that I have designated for Pass/No Pass by the deadline, may I later ask to substitute that Letter grade for the grade of Pass? 

No, once you have asked for Pass/No Pass status in a course, you cannot later change to a Letter grade.

I am a graduate student receiving VA education benefits, will Pass/No Pass affect VA payments? 

The VA only pays for degree applicable courses.  If your program of study approves the Pass/No Pass option and grants credit toward degree completion, the VA will continue to pay for the course.