Graduate Policy

Council of Graduate Schools

Texas A&M is a member of the US Council of Graduate Schools which has adopted April 15th as a critical date in the application review process. Basically stated, the council, to which every major institution is a member, states that students are not required to accept appointments prior to April 15th. And, it states that a student must obtain a release from the first institution to accept an offer from another institution after April 15th. We affirm that it is unethical for a student to continue pursuing offers if an offer has already been accepted within our program. 

English Proficiency Exam

International students (including those transferring from another US institution) whose native language is not English, must meet minimum English proficiency standards. For detailed information, go to http:ogaps.tamu.edu/New-Current-Students/English-Language-Proficiency.

Although a student has been verified or certified by the ELPE, oral exam or appropriate test scores, if a faculty member feels that a student is still not proficient in any aspect of the English language, the faculty member may require the student to consult with the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) to create an individual improvement plan (IIP) to improve English skills. International students are, therefore, encouraged to make continuous improvement of their understanding, use and application of the English language. 

Assistantship Responsibilities

Graduate students may be offered assistantships by their professor or department assistantships called Aerospace Engineering Graduate Student Fellows (AGSF).  Either position requires 20 hours of work per week. Students in either category may be assigned solely to research project activity (may or may not be directly related to thesis research) or may have a combination of responsibilities for research and/or course support duties such as grading or lab assistant.  Students are reminded that additional research activities are expected as part of their academic program of study leading to their thesis or dissertation.  

Term of Appointment

Initial appointments are usually for two years for MS THO assistantships and four years for Ph.D. assistantships, but shorter appointments are possible in cases where a trial period is needed or funding is limited. Poor academic performance and/or unsatisfactory assistantship (or AGSF) performance are grounds for suspension of support. Continued financial aid is contingent upon satisfactory progress in the graduate program, and upon the availability of funds for graduate student support. 

Aerospace Fundamentals Qualifying Exam (AFQE) - Doctoral Students

New and transfer Ph.D. students must take the AFQE in late May following the first academic year of study (usually Fall and Spring semesters, that is, two semesters into the program). The exam is offered once each year in May at the conclusion of the Spring semester. The exam will cover fundamental material from the disciplines of solids/structures, aerodynamics/fluids, and dynamics/controls as well as the mathematics associated with such disciplines. The score from the AFQE, course performance, and recommendations from the student's advisor(s), will be used in an evaluation of overall performance. Doctoral students are encouraged to take AERO 602 (Fluid Mechanics), AERO 603 (Continuum Mechanics), and AERO 622 (Dynamics), or equivalent courses from prior degrees, as part of their first year’s study to prepare for the Exam.  The AFQE is an exam on aerospace engineering fundamentals, and is NOT another final exam on the three courses listed above.  Students who fail the written portion of the AFQE may be given one additional opportunity for satisfying the AFQE requirements by 1) satisfactorily completing an oral examination, or, 2) by retaking the written AFQE examination in early August following the May exam.  For students who fail the written AFQE, the Graduate Affairs Committee makes the decision as to whether a subsequent oral or written exam is required.  A student must pass the AFQE; failure mandates a change of program to M.S. or transfer to another department or university. 

Course Load

To maintain an assistantship, a student must be in full-time student status.  A full course load for a graduate assistant or student is 9 credit hours in fall and spring terms and 6 credit hours in summer. Courses or Research (AERO 691) and Seminar (AERO 681) count toward the required totals. The maximum course load for graduate students is 15 hours (TAMU permits; not recommended).  International students are not always required by ISS to register during the summer; however, if they are paid as an assistant, they must register for 6 hours in the 10-week session.

Seminar Policy

AERO 681 Seminar - Master’s (MS) and doctoral (Ph.D. 64-hr or 96-hr) students are required to have a minimum of 2 hours of AERO 681 on their degree plan (one section of Communication and one section of Professional Development). First seminar for all students should be during the first semester, unless otherwise dictated by faculty supervisor.

The seminar courses may be used to satisfy degree program requirements (limited to 2 hours for M.S., and 4 hours for Ph.D.).  Some faculty, at their discretion, may require students to attend and/or register for seminar more often.  Suggestion: save an hour of AERO 681 for latter terms when your research has matured (you may be asked to present your work at seminar).

Aerospace Engineering Special Seminar Series – AESS - Department requires graduate students to attend five (5) of these special seminars each fall and spring semester and to sign the attendance roster. Attendance is monitored.

Academic Performance

Graduate students are required to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better (some fellowships require a 3.2 or 3.5 GPA). Students who fall below a 3.0 are placed on scholastic probation, and such students must establish a written plan with the department's graduate office to remedy the situation. Prolonged probation will jeopardize a funded appointment and may lead to dismissal from the department.   

Degree Plan Requirement

Master’s and direct Ph.D. (96-hr) students must file an approved degree plan prior to the end of the 2nd semester after enrollment; doctoral (Ph.D. 64-hr) students who already have an MS, must file prior to the end of the 3rd semester.  Failure to have an approved degree program will result in a student being blocked from registration by the Aerospace Engineering Department and the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies.

Office or Lab Assignment, Mail

Most of our funded graduate students are provided with office space because teaching assistants need a place to meet with students, research assistants need a place to think, and all graduate students need a place to study.  The policy is based on availability of office space and is as fair and consistent as possible to all students.  Office assignments are provided through each faculty advisor in consultation with his/her faculty group.  Keys or key card access, are issued by the Department of Aerospace Engineering main office in HRBB 702.  When the assigned office is no longer needed, please let your professor and administrative assistant from your research group know and return your keys.  Offices are a privilege, and abuse of the policy will result in loss of office.  This includes manipulation of facts, and disrespect of persons or property.  

Computing, Email and Contact Information

The department has computing facilities; your advisor may provide research computers in assigned offices and TAMU has open computer labs.  Many students bring their own laptop.  There is a graduate student listserv through which department announcements are sent to students—register at: https://listserv.tamu.edu/cgi/wa?SUBED1=aero-grad&A=1. Important university and department announcements are either sent through email to the  graduate listserv or to the student’s official TAMU email account (x___x@tamu.edu).  It is the student’s responsibility to check the TAMU email account often and to provide correct address/phone/email contacts to the payroll office, registrar and to the department graduate advising office in HRBB 750C. Contact information in your Howdy Portal should be updated and kept current at all times.  

Multiple Fellowship, Stipends and Awards

The department offers competitive financial support for its students.  Whenever possible, graduate students may apply for or may be nominated for multiple awards and sources of support from both TAMU and external organizations. These awards may include, full or partial stipends, tuition support, supplemental grants, travel grants, etc. Sources may come from the College of Engineering, the Board of Regents, the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies, the department, private industry, or the government.  We may submit a candidate's name to several competitive award committees for consideration, in hopes that the student receives at least one. The student should notify the department of any awards received. The student may keep the best possible situation (such as the highest fellowship offer and highest supplemental award).  Note, the department does not permit situations such as a combination of multiple full fellowships, multiple tuition grants, plus other supplemental awards.  If in doubt about accepting an award, ask the graduate advisor in HRBB 750C.  In general, students may not hold a major fellowship (stipend plus tuition and/or fees) and a full research assistantship at the same time.

Holiday Breaks, Vacations

Graduate students do not earn official vacation time (but are eligible for health insurance), and are expected to support their funded activity all year except during the official faculty and staff holiday breaks.

Periods between academic terms are important work periods; and are NOT holiday breaks.  Assistantship holders are expected to work between academic terms.  This is true for breaks between any academic terms other than official faculty and staff holidays.

If a student plans personal travel during non-holiday times and requires additional time away from work, they must coordinate this absence with the faculty supervisor, graduate advising office (HRBB 750C) and AERO payroll office.  Failure to obtain permission may jeopardize funding.

Graduate assistants must see their advisor(s) regarding absences.  Students on any other form of departmental support must see their assigned supervisor for permission to be absent. Self-funded students must, also, keep their advisor informed. International students must communicate with the International Student Services office before travel to see if their documents are in order. A month or more prior to your travel, discuss your plans with an ISS counselor and obtain special letters, signatures or other documents as required to avoid re-entry problems.   Many of your questions can be answered at the ISS website.