Earlier this year, I was accepted into a PhD program that commences this fall. Regrettably, due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to complete my final undergraduate course because I had already reached the maximum course overload cap. Consequently, I will be unable to provide an official transcript encompassing my entire undergraduate degree and will have to complete my last course for my B.S. this fall. This situation is quite unfortunate as submission of an official final transcript is a prerequisite before enrolling for fall courses.

My initial thought is to communicate with my program advisor, under whose supervision I have worked for the past year, and apprise him of my situation.

I am seeking advice on whether I should attempt to defer my admission to the program, or whether I should explore the possibility of enrolling and concurrently undertaking the outstanding undergraduate course alongside my graduate course. Though every institution is different, I am interested in hearing what you recommend as the next steps.

This matter pertains to a U.S.-based institution, and the degree program is in the field of Biology. I appreciate your help!

  • 6
    Is it common in the US to start a PhD with just a B.S.? I think this might unheard of in Germany, just curious
    – SirHawrk
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 8:30
  • 9
    In the US, starting a PhD program immediately after attaining a Bachelor's degree is a common practice, particularly in fields like the physical sciences or engineering. This approach, however, varies depending upon the discipline. Often, initial years of the doctoral program encompass coursework analogous to a Master's degree, and in some cases, students might obtain a Master's degree "en passant" while working toward the doctorate.
    – Detr4
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 13:01
  • 2
    Is the missing course relevant to your PhD field? Or is it to satisfy some unrelated requirement (e.g., 'x' history course, 'y' english courses, etc. required for any BS degree from your university regardless of major)? Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 16:03
  • Are these two different universities, or the same one?
    – DrSheldon
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 0:29
  • 2
    Did you just realize this now? I think you should have started dealing with the issue in January (semester) or April (quarter) when your final term courses were set. Potential solutions would have been petitioning for an exemption from the cap, auditing and challenging the class, or arranging a summer independent study.
    – user71659
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 0:36

3 Answers 3


Contact the university department that accepted you and ask for advice. It might be possible as long as you are otherwise in good standing, which seems likely.

But only they can answer whether you need to defer or can begin as scheduled. Your advisor might be helpful, but can't give a definitive answer. If you can't begin on schedule, then your advisor is probably the right person to plan with. Good luck.


Don't give up, but, unfortunately, this seems to be trouble. Technically, the situation is clear: you will not finish your BSc until end of fall, and you are required to finish your BSc before enrolling into PhD. These are facts (based on your text), and, as is, they seem incompatible with you starting a PhD program at fall. Correspondingly, if there is any possible solution, it will be heavily personalized, and it will depend on your current and the receiving institutes, as well as on your contact people at both of these. So it's hard to give a definitive answer.

You should talk with the head of your department, and/or an ally high enough in the hierarchy. Consult the student office at both universities (if they're not the same), and ask if there's a solution. Make a soft but confident attempt convincing them to bend the rules in your favor somehow. Be ready to present examples of your previous excellence and research perspective, it may help in convincing them. Once you see some light, contact your to-be PhD advisor, inform them about the situation and the possible resolutions, and ask for their aid in the process.

Finally, if no doors open, and it seems to be certain that there is no solution, ask your to-be PhD advisor if it's possible to delay the formal beginnig of your PhD by half a year. Offer that you would still work on the topic like a PhD student until then. Maybe they can come up with a solution.


In addition to the other suggestions, I would also ask your undergraduate department about the possibility of doing a short special topics reading course and whether it could be completed before the end of the fall semester. If you are only missing one or two credits you might be able to complete your requirements with such a course.

I had a similar situation between my undergraduate degree and the start of my PhD, albeit the difficulty for me was that I ended up one credit shy of the honors designation for my major, not the degree as a whole. Nonetheless, a one-credit reading course was the solution my department came up with. I was already going to be working with my undergraduate thesis advisor to finish up some work before I went to grad school, and he offered to supervise the reading course. (I didn't double-count the research I was doing, the reading course was separate). If you had an undergraduate research advisor, it may be worth asking them about the possibility.

It may be a bit late to get someone to agree to a reading course, but if somehow your undergraduate department could swing it, this could be preferable to taking a full course.

You would still need to coordinate with your PhD department of this solution if it worked out, as this would likely delay the time by which you could receive your final transcript. In lieu of an official transcript, you might ask if a signed letter from your undergraduate department confirming completion of all degree requirements, or something like that, would be temporarily acceptable for the purposes of enrolling in fall classes.

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