Curricular Policy

Policy Last Revised May 30, 2023

Our MA programs wish to do everything possible to support our students and help assure a timely completion of their degree requirements. We particularly wish to avoid seeing students fall behind and take on additional costs in subsequent quarters if they are unable to complete their outstanding coursework.

The policy below is meant to serve as a guide to ensure that each student is well-positioned to earn our MA degree within a reasonable timeframe.

Maintaining Good Academic Standing

Full-time MA students complete three 100-unit courses each quarter, not including any Workshops or non-credit options they may attend. To maintain good academic standing, students must submit all required coursework for a passing letter grade in all registered courses before the next quarter begins.


All students must meet with their MACSS preceptor before they will be permitted to register for classes. No MA student may register for more than three 100-unit courses per quarter. No MA student may formally audit a class or register for an “R.” The only exception, in addition to the three regular courses, will be a Workshop that has been formally designated as part of the MA curriculum (e.g., the Computational Social Science Workshop in MACSS).

The three registered 100-unit courses are normally taken at the graduate level. Students may register for undergraduate offerings in statistics, math, or computer science without special permission. All other undergraduate courses require students to submit a petition, available from our Student Affairs Administrator, for approval by our program’s Faculty Director.

Program Requirements

Students should consult our MA Program Requirements for a detailed discussion of our curriculum, beginning with the math and programming boot camps before entry and continuing through the first and second year.

Students in MACSS-Econ will find their curricular requirements detailed here.

Pass/Fail Policy

Students may take up to two classes for a Pass as part of their MA curriculum. The three courses in our Perspectives sequence must be taken for a letter grade, however. Students should confirm with their Student Affairs Administrator that the “pass” is an option for their MA program completion, before asking a course instructor whether a pass can be awarded.

It is up to individual instructors to decide if the pass is possible, and if so what work must be completed to earn it.

The request for the pass should be made as early in the quarter as possible, and ideally by the end of seventh week. Letter grades cannot be changed to a pass once the final assignment is submitted.

Students are normally advantaged if they are able to show at least a B on the transcript for any technical or quantitatively demanding course, and at least a B+ for most other social science offerings. The pass may be read by employers and PhD selection committees as if the student never took the course, no matter how much work the student may have performed. Students should be careful about taking MACS 30121 or MACS 30122 for a pass, as that could
impede their ability to take more advanced courses in the MPCS program or in the Computer Science department.

The MPCS will accept a C+ or better in MACS 30121 and a P in MACS 30122 as a minimal requirement for most classes. Students with a P in MACS 30121 but a letter grade in MACS 30122 will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Students with a P in both MACS 30121 and MACS 30122 will not be allowed to take MPCS classes.

Excused Incompletes/Missing Grades

Students with a missing grade or an Incomplete – marked on the transcript as an “I” – must communicate with their program’s Student Affairs Administrator to discuss their circumstances. In some cases, the work may have been submitted but the instructor has not yet posted the grade. If all required course work has been submitted, the missing grade will be formally excused by the program’s Student Affairs Administrator.

Academic Probation

If a student has any missing or incomplete course grades at the beginning of an academic quarter, and they have not been formally excused by the Student Affairs Administrator, the student may be placed on academic probation.

That will be the case whether or not the instructor for the course has permitted the student to submit their work late.

Students on probation must meet with their MA program’s academic leadership, to agree on a timeline for that missing work to be completed and help students get back on track. Our program will do everything possible to assist those students, drawing on other university resources – from UChicago Student Wellness, to the Writing Program, to course advising and mentorship support – to help the student maintain a steady progress toward degree completion. When necessary, we will also draw on available options from the Dean of Students office, including advocating a drop to part-time or Reduced Course Load (RCL) status, a temporary leave of absence, or other measures as may be needed.

Students who fail to complete any missing work within 7 weeks of the quarter it was due may be prevented from registering for any subsequent academic quarters, until the instructor of record, for each class missing a grade, confirms that all course requirements have been met.

No permanent notice will be made on student transcripts. The probationary policy is designed to help students stay on track for MA completion.

Students placed on academic probation will be informed in writing about the expectations for their return to good academic standing, including required coursework and the timeline for completion.

The student will be asked to confirm, in writing, receipt of the probationary document and that they have read and fully understand the probationary terms.

In cases where a student is unable to meet the expectations outlined in their probationary document, the student may be subject to dismissal from the University. Students may not transfer
to another UChicago degree program or apply for a joint degree program while on academic probation.

Please note that carrying two or fewer incompletes may have repercussions outside the MA program. International students may not meet the definition of full-time status for their continued
visa eligibility. Students may find that their loans or outside financial awards are not distributed. Those decisions are not within our MA program’s control. Students should contact the Office of International Affairs, Graduate Financial Aid, and our Dean of Students office to see what additional complications may result.

Forced Withdrawal/Leave of Absence

Students with more than two unexcused incompletes or missing grades will meet with the program’s academic leadership to discuss a withdrawal from the MA program. In some cases, that withdrawal may be changed to a leave of absence, giving the student up to a maximum of one year to complete the prior coursework and resume study for the MA degree. In other cases, the withdrawal may be permanent, and the student will not be permitted to resume study.

Failed/Withdrawn Courses

Students who receive an F or a W for one of their three 100-unit courses in a particular quarter must register for another course for which they will receive no additional tuition scholarship. Few such courses are offered over the summer.

The “W” (Withdrawn) grade means that the student has decided after week 3 of the quarter not to complete the work of the course. Students who wish to exercise this option must request a W by 5 p.m. the Friday before finals week or the day before the final project/exam is due, whichever is earlier. When made before the deadline, a request for a withdrawal cannot be denied except in cases of academic dishonesty. A withdrawal may not be granted after completion of the course. Students should meet with their preceptor in advance of this deadline to discuss whether a withdrawal is appropriate. Once they have made the decision to request a withdrawal, students in the Economics concentration should submit their request to the Student Affairs Administrator for MACSS-Econ. All other students should submit their request to the Student Affairs Administrator for MACSS.

Students with an F or W on their transcript must meet with their MA program’s academic leadership to discuss their plan to take an additional course to meet the 18-course requirement. In such cases, the prior F or W will remain on the student’s transcript. (See the section on “Minimum Program GPA” for additional details.)

Students with more than one F or W on the transcript must meet with their MA program’s academic leadership to discuss whether a withdrawal or leave of absence is merited. Neither the F nor the W will count toward the student’s GPA.

Leave of Absence

Students must complete one quarter of registration, and have submitted all required coursework for their 100-unit classes, before they become eligible for a Leave of Absence (LOA). Students may petition for an LOA by contacting their MA program’s Student Affairs Administrator.

The LOA is designed for students who encounter serious academic difficulty, mental or physical distress, a family emergency, financial distress, or other considerations that make it impossible for the student to continue in their MA curriculum.

If approved by the MA leadership and the Dean of Students, the LOA may be taken once, for a maximum of one year. Conditions may be attached, including the completion of any outstanding coursework before the student will be permitted to resume. Students taking required first-year sequences may be prevented from returning until the next course in the sequence is offered. Students who take a LOA may be prevented from working with anyone from outside of the MACSS academic staff as a formal reader of their MA thesis. In such cases, we will assign an MA thesis reader from the MACSS academic staff. That is to help keep students on track for degree completion.

Students are strongly advised to meet with their Student Affairs Administrator as early as possible to discuss whether a LOA is the best course of action.

Students planning to take a LOA should aim to do so no later than Friday of 1st week of the academic quarter from which they hope to withdraw. If their petition is successful, they will receive a full tuition refund.

Any person approved for a LOA after Friday of 1st week will be entitled to a partial tuition refund, per UChicago Bursar Policies, as a declining percentage through the end of 5th week. After the beginning of sixth week, partial tuition is no longer refunded.

If the student takes a LOA before the end of 3rd week, any courses they may have begun will be eliminated from their transcript. Any tuition aid the University has provided will not be impacted for future course selections.

If the student takes a LOA after the beginning of 4th week, any courses from that quarter will remain on the student’s transcript with a grade of W. Students must enroll for additional classes to fulfill the 18-course requirement. No additional tuition scholarship aid is available for the additional course registrations.

Minimum Program GPA

Students must earn a minimum 3.0 GPA in order to receive their MA degree. It is exceptionally uncommon for students to fall below that threshold. Should that happen, the student should meet with their preceptor and the program’s Associate Director to discuss plans to
successfully meet the GPA threshold.

If a student completes the required number of class registrations for their program, the grades have posted for all classes, and the student has not earned a 3.0 GPA, the student may register for up to three additional classes to meet the 3.0 GPA requirement.

Any additional classes will be taken at the student’s expense, without any tuition aid. The student should contact the Dean of Students, who will arrange for those courses in collaboration with the MA program’s leadership and (if necessary) with the Office of International Affairs.

In trying to meet the 3.0 GPA threshold, students should know that existing grades on their transcript cannot be changed. Past grades cannot be retrospectively changed from a letter grade to a P. Nor can any course that appears on the transcript with a passing grade be taken a second time. The student can, however, take as many new courses as are needed, up to a maximum of three. Taking one replacement course eliminates the single lowest elective grade from GPA calculations; taking a second replacement course eliminates the second lowest elective grade from GPA calculations; etc.

Please note that the grades for any required curricular courses (e.g., MACS 30000) will count toward the GPA calculation.

Applying to Graduate

Students who intend to graduate in June of their second year may apply to graduate while completing their MA requirements.

Students who intend to graduate in any of the subsequent 5 academic quarters may apply to graduate if they have submitted all required coursework and have only the thesis remaining.

Students intending to graduate at any other point should contact their MA program’s Student Affairs Administrator before registering for graduation on

Students will be pulled from the declared convocation lists if they do not meet the criteria above.

Maximum Time to Degree

All students must earn the MA degree no more than 10 years following their initial matriculation into the MA program.

While it is our goal to have students complete their MA program by the end of the Spring or Summer Quarter of the second year, we understand that unexpected situations might arise that could extend this timeframe.

If students have not graduated by August of their second year, they may continue working with their faculty reader on the MA thesis for one additional quarter, if that faculty reader has been informed and agrees to do so. If the faculty reader declines to continue supervising the paper, or the final version of the MA thesis is not submitted by that December, the student will be reassigned a single thesis reader from the MACSS academic staff.

If the student has not graduated, three years past their initial matriculation, they must submit a formal petition for a resumption of studies through our program’s Student Affairs Administrator.

If the student still has missing or incomplete grades, we will ask that all remaining coursework be completed, and all grades posted on the student’s transcript, before the resumption of studies will
be considered. The only exception will be for MACS 35000, the MA Research Commitment. If the student took that course, that grade which will be submitted once the thesis is complete.

All resumptions are considered on a case-by-case basis and resumed study at the University is not guaranteed. The petition must be formally approved by our program leadership and by the Dean of Students.

Once the resumption is approved, the student must graduate within 12 months. If they do not do so, it will no longer be possible to earn our MA degree.

Students are urged to submit the resumption no later than 9 years past their initial matriculation, giving them a maximum of one year to complete the MA thesis.

Unregistered Students

If an MA student has not registered for any classes by the end of the third week of an academic quarter, whether as a result of a hold on their registration, or through a failure to register as they
should have, the Dean of Students may place the student on an involuntary leave of absence. That will be communicated to the student in writing, with an explanation of what the student must do to be permitted to resume study at the University.

The involuntary leave will take effect, whether or not the student formally responds.

Resumed study at the University is not guaranteed. The conditions for a resumption, when possible, will be decided by the MA Faculty Director in consultation with the Dean of Students.