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Evaluation of Academic Progress

The objective of the practices described here is to identify ways in which faculty can more effectively help students make progress in their graduate studies by routinely documenting and sharing with each student a constructive critique of that individual’s efforts.

The one feature these practices all have in common is that faculty share the critique with the student on a regular basis, and document this for the student’s file.

Whatever the format of an academic progress report, the intention is to provide a framework for constructive discussion of student progress toward the degree and to document suggestions, guidelines, and benchmarks provided to the student.

Quick Tips

Examples from the University of Michigan

Asian Languages and Cultures

Students have a mentoring committee assigned in their first year, and in second and subsequent years they form their own committee based on interests and specialization. The mentoring committee meets with the student twice each year for the purpose of advising on course selection and discussing the student’s funding. The mentoring committee makes an end-of-year report to the graduate committee, and all faculty meet to discuss each student every year. The student receives a form letter if s/he is on track, but if there are concerns, these are addressed in the annual letter.


The department adapted an Individual Development Plan used at another institution with postdoctoral fellows. While it is not mandatory, graduate students in the program are encouraged to use this “contract” with their mentors.

Download: Summary Report On Laboratory Thesis Progress


Students are reviewed annually by the faculty. Prior to the meeting students prepare a progress report with the assistance of their advisors. Following the review the student receives feedback on progress in a letter explicitly intended to serve as a mentoring document.

Download: Department of Linguistics Graduate Student Progress Report


At the end of the academic year each student writes an annual self-assessment about his/her progress to date, using a template provided by the program. This self-assessment is then discussed by the executive committee. The outcome of that discussion is provided to the student by means of a formal letter commenting on progress and areas that need attention.

Download: Student Information Record Form

School of Information

Source: University of Michigan, School of Information

The Doctoral Program requires all students to file an annual review report at the end of winter term. Students are given a form to fill out and discuss with their faculty advisor. The Advisor is given a separate form to fill out. Students are asked to meet with their advisor to review the year’s progress, milestones and upcoming plans. After meeting with the advisor, the student forwards the completed form, along with their Tracking and Planning Sheet (TAPS) and CV, to the program manager. The advisor completes his or her review and also forwards it to the program manager. The Doctoral Committee meets and reviews each student individually.

Examples from Other Universities

Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Source: Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Science

Beginning in the first spring semester after being advanced to candidacy, students each year must submit online the Report on Progress in Candidacy to his or her advisor. The advisor reviews the student’s report, determines whether or not the student is making satisfactory progress, and reports this evaluation of progress to the GSAS Dean’s Office. Students have access to the online report from mid-January through mid-March, and faculty have access until mid-April.

Visit: Progress in Candidacy and the Dissertation Proposal

McGill University, Schulich School of Music

Source: McGill University, Schulich School of Music

“The annual completion of the Graduate Studies Progress Report is mandatory for all graduate students in a thesis program and is intended to serve as an opportunity for the student, teacher and/or advisor and graduate director to review the student’s progress, to establish a set of realistic goals for the following year, and to indicate any areas of weakness which can then be addressed. It is intended to be a consultative and interactive process to assist both the student, teacher and/or advisor and graduate director in shaping each year’s program of study to best advantage.” The multi-stage process used here is detailed on the website; multiple forms are involved. Here are links to the research progress report form and the Guidelines and Regulations.

Visit: Grades and Student Progress

Michigan State University

Source: Michigan State University, The Graduate School

The Graduate School has a formal policy that requires annual evaluation of student progress. Here it is considered among the key components for establishing adequate and realistic expectations of graduate students. Evaluation of graduate students’ progress varies widely across departments. This website provides links to the relevant bylaws and handbook, and a template for use by degree programs. Many programs have developed their own forms which are publicly available online.

Visit: Progress Reports

Princeton University

Source: Princeton University, The Graduate School

Termed the Annual Re-enrollment Procedure, Princeton uses a web-based process. The student, advisor, and department can see the record at each stage as it moves along to the Graduate School. Each year the students complete an application for the desired status in the coming year. In addition, they are required to write about academic and professional expectations during the past year, and about expectations for the coming summer and academic year. This application is submitted to the student’s primary advisor, who adds comments of his or her own, and then submits those to the director of graduate studies. In the case of first or second year students, who do not yet have a primary or dissertation advisor, the application goes straight to the director of graduate studies for comments and the final recommendation. All departmental recommendations are sent to the Graduate School’s associate deans. Once approved for re-enrollment the form is used to determine financial support for the coming year.

Visit: Processes