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Coterminal Study in Engineering

At Stanford, undergraduate students can apply to study for a master’s degree and complete their bachelor’s degree in parallel.

All engineering graduate programs offer coterminal study in their MS programs – an option chosen by about 40 percent of the school’s undergraduates, according to recent data. Most engineering coterminal (commonly known as “coterm”) students earn both degrees within five years, and nearly all do so within six years.

Benefits of a Coterm

Students surveyed have cited these as the primary reasons to coterm:

  • Opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of undergraduate major
  • Chance to expand engineering perspective and/or skills
  • The value of an engineering master’s degree in the workplace (Surveys of hiring managers have confirmed this.)
  • Ability to take better advantage of Stanford undergraduate opportunities (for overseas studies, research opportunities, etc.)
  • Cost savings of combined degrees

Who Can Apply

Stanford undergraduates who have completed at least six non-summer quarters at Stanford, and at least 120 units toward graduation, including applicable advanced placement (AP) and transfer credits, are eligible to apply for coterminal study. Students can apply to only one coterminal program per term.

When to Apply

Each graduate program sets timelines for review of applications. The university requires that coterms complete the entire admission process (including accepting the offer of admission) at least one quarter before conferral of the bachelor’s degree.

How to Apply

To apply, students should submit applications to their preferred MS programs. The application is available on the Registrar’s coterm website. The standard coterm application is submitted in paper form, but some departments are piloting an online application.

All applications must include a statement of purpose, a preliminary program proposal and letters of recommendation from Stanford professors.

Many programs require Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores or other materials. Although there is a fee to apply, it is assessed only for students who are admitted and enroll as coterms.

Each department has unique requirements or deadlines, so be sure to check the appropriate link below.

More information

For more information about the coterm program, students may:

  • Talk with a department student services manager
  • Talk with faculty, including their advisors
  • Review the Stanford Bulletin’s section on Coterms
  • Review departmental websites
  • Consult staff in School of Engineering Student Affairs (Huang Engineering Center, Suite 135)

Funding a coterm

Coterminal students fund their studies in many ways, including:

  • Undergraduate financial aid (through the Financial Aid Office)
  • Graduate research assistantships (from faculty)
  • Graduate teaching assistantships (from departments)
  • Graduate fellowships (from departments or outside Stanford: NSF, Ford, etc.)
  • Graduate Loans  (through the Financial Aid Office or external sources)

See below for more information about coterm financial aid.

To expand funding opportunities, the school is supporting a fellowship/assistantship award for coterms who qualified for Stanford’s undergraduate need-based aid. The standard award will provide half of full graduate funding in the fifth year, which students can supplement with research or teaching assistantships, loans, other fellowships or summer earnings.

Selection for this limited program is based on:

  • Financial need (as defined by the Financial Aid Office)
  • Academic record
  • Candidate’s contribution to the diversity of the graduate cohort
  • Impact on candidate’s academic or professional goals

For more information, see Stanford Engineering coterminal students - applying for Dean's Office financial support.

Financial aid facts for coterms:

Stanford undergraduates are typically eligible for undergraduate need-based aid for 12 quarters or until conferral of a bachelor’s degree, whichever comes first. Enrolling as a coterm usually does not change that eligibility. 

Graduate aid does not usually end a coterm student’s eligibility for undergraduate aid, but it moves the student into a graduate tuition category. A ‘full assistantship’ also limits a student’s enrollment that quarter (10-units maximum enrollment). Undergraduate aid is usually adjusted to reflect the additional resource. Please contact university financial aid for more information about aid/eligibility.

Most graduate aid does not use financial need as a criterion. Coterms who have completed 180 units are usually eligible to accept graduate aid such as Research Assistantships (RA), Teaching Assistantships (TA) and graduate fellowships. Assistantships are offered on a quarterly, rather than annual, basis.

Graduate tuition rules apply to coterms in their 13th quarter or when they accept graduate aid – whichever comes first. Graduate students may enroll in and pay for 8-10 units or 11-18 units each quarter; students who enroll in 19 or more units per quarter are charged on a per-unit basis. Engineering graduate tuition for 11 or more units is more expensive than undergraduate full tuition.

RA/TA funding includes both salary and tuition, linked to a quarterly work commitment – very different from undergraduate research or course funding.  Departments usually provide simple explanations in their graduate handbooks. (A 20-hour or “full” assistantship pays approximately $8,900 per quarter plus 8-10 units; a 10-hour assistantship pays half that salary and half that tuition.)