Do I have funding options post-dissertation defense?

Date: May 2019


Dear Graduate School Deans,

I am an international student and a Ph.D. candidate. I defended my dissertation several days ago (end of May), but I have registered for the summer because I will continue to work on my dissertation and some lab work during this period. I have some questions:

  1. My department has a policy that I can’t be funded after my defense. I am curious as to whether the Graduate School or Office of Global Learning have any resources that I can apply for that provide summer financial support?
  2. Is August conferral the ONLY option for me? Can I still register for the Fall semester and work towards December conferral without funding (e.g. take leave of absence)? I ask this because I want more time to seek jobs before losing my student visa status after the official conferral date.
  3. I have an accepted conference talk, which will be on August 25. I consider this a good opportunity to network with researchers and faculty, and seek potential job opportunities. In my case, am I still eligible to apply for Cornell conference grants to cover the cost if I have to graduate by August? How about if I graduate by December?

Thanks so much for your support.

Best Regards,

Soon-to-be-former Ph.D. candidate


Dear Soon-to-be-former Ph.D. candidate,

Congratulations on your successful defense! It must feel wonderful to have reached this milestone but I understand that you still have a few big uncertainties looming ahead as you finish up and seek jobs.

Students are required to submit their final dissertation to the Graduate School within 60 days of the defense. It’s common for a few modest revisions or edits to be required, although the dissertation should be in nearly-final form by the time of the defense. In your case, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to enroll for the summer term to wrap up your dissertation. The Graduate School doesn’t have a policy that prohibits post-defense funding but if your field does they are clearly signaling that students should not plan to linger once all the academic requirements are met. Neither the Graduate School nor Global Learning have summer funding for post-defense students, I’m afraid.

Since your dissertation is nearly done and, according to Cornell policy needs to be submitted by the end of July (60 days after your defense), you would not typically be eligible to register or enroll in the fall term just to continue job searching. Taking a leave of absence would probably not be of much use either since students on leave cannot ordinarily remain on in the US on a F1 visa unless they have OPT or CPT. Global Learning can help you explore those options.

August 19th, 2019 is the summer conferral date and is the date your student-status would end if you file your dissertation by the August 2nd submission deadline. You are eligible to apply for conference travel grants up until that time but would not be eligible for funding for conferences after August 19th. Students who are on a leave of absence are not eligible for grants.

My advice would be to set up a meeting with Global Learning (the former ISSO) to talk about OPT status, focus on making your revisions in the next two months, and tap into Cornell career support resources including the career services office and the Office of Postdoctoral Studies as you continue your job search.

I wish you all the best!


Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration