Choosing to Coterm

The coterminal degree program at Stanford allows you the unique opportunity to begin work on a master’s degree while you are finishing your bachelor’s degree. The degrees do not have to be from the same department. They can be combined in a way that adds coherence and depth to your educational program or enhances your professional or personal interests. 

Whether to Coterm

Coterming is one of many options available to you for achieving depth, breadth and advanced study in your education. Consult with your major advisor as you weigh whether coterming is the best plan for your goals and interests. If the coterm is in another department, be sure to consult with a UAR advisor as well. Benefits of coterming include the following:

  • Exploring in depth an entirely new field, or continuing to explore one’s undergraduate major field to an even greater degree 
  • Transitioning to graduate-level study and a new cohort of graduate student peers while enjoying the continuity of your home campus
  • Gaining a head start on the professional degree required for a career in, for example, engineering
  • Preparing for postbaccalaureate studies in graduate school, medical school, business school (among others), or for work in certain professional fields

You should also weigh the benefits of other combined study plans and academic opportunities, which may align better with your overarching academic goals. Coterm alternatives include the following:

  • Honors: Pursuing advanced work in your major through additional course work or completing an honors thesis or senior project.
  • Comparing Majors Options: Completing a double-major, second major, or minor to experience breadth through a field related to your major.
  • Participating in research, overseas or off-campus study, public service endeavors, leadership opportunities to deepen your education through nonclassroom experiences.

Comparison of Stanford Coterms and Master’s Degrees Elsewhere

Benefits of pursuing your master’s degree through the Stanford Coterm Program include the following:

  • You can start pursuing your graduate degree while still working towards your undergraduate degree.
  • You can build on already established relationships with departments and faculty at Stanford.
  • You don’t have to relocate and acclimate to another campus and community.

Benefits to pursuing a master’s degree at another institution include:

  • You have the opportunity to work closely with a different group of faculty in your field.
  • You get a more diversified educational experience.
  • You might be able to enroll in a program where the master’s degree directly feeds into a PhD program.

Doctoral Study and Coterms

The coterminal program may not be appropriate for students considering doctoral study in certain fields of study.

In some Stanford departments, the master’s degree is terminal. Master’s students are rarely recommended for doctoral study in those departments. Students admitted to a doctoral program at another university may not be able to transfer work done in the Stanford master’s program. Consult with the prospective department to determine how participation in the coterminal program could affect your future status as a doctoral candidate.

Financial Aid for Fifth Year Coterms

No undergraduate financial aid is available for coterminal study. Financial options to consider before applying for coterm include

  • Applying for a teaching or research assistantship (Note: these are rarely given to coterminal students)
  • Obtaining outside support through loans, savings or employment

See a Financial Aid Counselor to discuss your options before you have completed 180 units.

Learn More About Financial Aid

Application to Coterm

With a strong academic record, you may apply for a coterm program as early as your eighth Stanford quarter (or upon completing 120 course units – cannot include AP or IB units). You may not apply later than the quarter prior to the one in which you expect to finish your undergraduate degree. Application steps include the following:

  • From the Registrar's Office, obtain the Procedures and Application Forms for Coterminal Students(PDF)
  • Complete the form, collect supporting documents (including letters of recommendation) and take them to the department for review by the departmental graduate admissions committee. Note that required material varies among departments, so you will need to contact your prospective department for specific details. Typically, requirements include Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, recommendations and transcripts.  There may also be an application fee.
  • You will be notified by mail about the department decision regarding your application.
  • In some cases, it is possible to defer admission to the coterminal program to a later quarter. You must still meet all University and departmental requirements for coterminal admission, however. Be advised that the deferral may require postponement of your undergraduate degree.

Advance Planning for Coterms

  1. Map out a quarter-by-quarter schedule of the courses you need to complete your undergraduate degree. See if you can fit a coterm into your plan of study with your current course load.
  2. Find out more details about individual coterminal programs by reading the Stanford Bulletin and department web pages.
  3. Speak with department faculty and advisors.
  4. Make an appointment with a UAR advisor.

See Also