While much of doctoral advising centers on research advising, academic advisors have a special role to play in helping students make good decisions about completing academic requirements and successfully passing qualifying exams.

Timing of academic requirements:

  • Please be sure to carefully examine each advisee’s progress chart with particular attention to Specialty and Breadth requirements not yet satisfied, and encourage your students not to postpone taking the subjects needed to satisfy these requirements.
  • Ideally, each student will complete the academic requirements by the end of the second year, in order to be able to focus in the third year on the oral exam and on research. If you have an advisee in year 3 or beyond who has one or more of these requirements still to meet, we strongly suggest you ask the student to agree with you now on a plan for completion of the remaining requirements.

Requests for substitutions of academic requirements:

  • Your advisee may enquire about the possibility of substituting another subject either for one of the two (or three, for NUPAT and NUPAX students) designated specialty subjects, or for one of the required two breadth subjects. Information about requesting substitutions is available in detail here, but in brief:
    • Specialty subjects: Approval comes from the Division Head; the student should obtain the academic advisor’s permission in writing, and then forward the request to the Division Head.  This process holds even for Harvard subjects that have been routinely substituted for MIT subjects.
    • Breadth subjects:  Approval comes from the Graduate Requirements Coordinator (Mehran Kardar); the student should obtain the academic advisor’s permission in writing, and then forward the request to Prof. Kardar.  No student may receive approval for a substitution until one of the pre-approved breadth subjects has been completed successfully.  Note:  an appropriate breadth subject is not simply one that is different in nature from the student’s area of specialty; the approved subjects were selected based on being broad overviews of the fields we teach, and subjects that are intended only for specialists in an area are generally not appropriate as breadth subjects.