Can An All But Dissertation Return To Finish

ABD Waiver Program

In 2010 the Graduate School began offering an assistantship service through the “All But Dissertation” (ABD) Waiver Program. This program offers numerous benefits for faculty and students, but most specifically, it encourages the use of extramural grants in support of students seeking their doctoral degrees. The Graduate School will process, monitor, and approve all students who qualify for ABD waivers.

Some of these benefits include

  • Decreasing time-to-degree by offering a set period of five (5) semesters
  • Offering a tangible incentive to move students to ABD status
  • Motivating students to successfully complete their final defense
  • Increasing the PhD graduation number per year with the goal to align WSU with the Association of American Universities (AAU)

To qualify

Fill out an application [PDF] and return to The Graduate School French Administration 324 (mail zip 1030). Application must be submitted prior the first day of semester you are requesting the ABD waiver (8/16 or 1/1).

  • Be formally appointed to a graduate research assistantship appointment, enrolled in 10-18 credits, through the Graduate School.
  • Complete all formal coursework on Program of Study
  • Complete the preliminary exam by the last day of the semester prior to initiation of the ABD waiver
  • Be funded (≥.50 FTE) from competitive extramural grants via graduate research assistantship
  • Effective Spring 2018, there are changes to the ABD waiver program for students on extensions for their time to degree. The goals of the ABD waiver program are to encourage the use of extramural funds to support students seeking doctoral degrees and to decrease time-to-degree. In order to ensure program effectiveness, a student on a second or third extension of time to degree is not eligible for an ABD waiver. The eligibility for an ABD waiver of students on a first extension will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

After students qualify, they will

  • Be eligible to receive an ABD tuition waiver for up to five academic semesters.
  • The PERMS should indicate the Preliminary Exam Completion Date as “Prelim Passed MM/DD/YYYY” in the waiver comments section.
  • Waivers will be established at the same values as the current fiscal year Operating Fee Waiver and Non-Resident Waivers value if applicable.


Yes, every university has its own specific policy. Some policies may or may not include:

  1. A person who has completed their classes and has passed qualifying exams becomes a doctoral candidate, and is, colloquially, ABD.
  2. ABD status at some universities may also be called a Candidate in Philosophy.
  3. Some schools confer the degree of MPhil to recognize a candidate's accomplishments until a candidate completes and defends their research, at which point, if successful, a candidate earns a Ph.D. or other doctoral degree.
  4. At some universities, there are some very specific ABD Status Agreements, including considerations for status as ABD In Residence, and ABD In Absentia.
  5. At some universities, you are ABD only so long as you have not abandoned your degree program and have not timed-out.
  6. At some universities, you are no longer, by their policy, ABD if you have left your degree program, or you have timed out.

It's important to recognize that more often than not "ABD" is not a credential conferred, granted, or bestowed. Rather "ABD" is an indication of status--that status being you have not yet completed your research, and/or defended your research.

Generally speaking, you should check with your university to understand their policy regarding the status, "ABD."

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