Senior (thesis) year

Thesis year requirements

The faculty at Reed College established the following requirements for the senior thesis year:

The student’s final (thesis) year must be spent in residence at Reed College. Permission for a waiver of this requirement will be granted in unusual and special circumstances by petition to the appropriate division, subject to approval by the Administration Committee.

Students must earn at least six units of Reed credit for work completed during the thesis year. These six units constitute a full academic load and require payment of full tuition. At least two academic units, one of which is not thesis, must be earned in a thesis semester. Students who are approved to complete a one-semester thesis must earn three units of credit in the thesis semester.

For complete information, see the senior handbook issued by the registrar's office or check with the graduation specialist in the registrar’s office.


The senior thesis is an integral component of the part of the Reed College degree. After declaring the major and passing the junior qualifying examination, the student is eligible to register for thesis. The thesis is a two-unit, yearlong course, approved by the major division or committee. The project is to be accomplished in close consultation with the thesis adviser.

Any variation in the thesis project, such as a one-semester thesis, must be approved by a petition to the major division or committee. The thesis may not be taken for more than two units of Reed credit.

The divisions and committees post various deadlines throughout the academic year for sections of the thesis draft. These deadlines must be met in order for the thesis to be approved for credit.

Thesis orals

Upon completion of the senior thesis, each student must take a comprehensive oral examination. Oral exams normally occur during the period between the end of classes and the beginning of final examinations. A schedule of oral exams is prepared by each division or department and is posted at the registrar’s office.

The oral exam, approximately 90 minutes in length, is conducted by an examination board composed of Reed faculty members and, in some instances, other experts. This examination includes the thesis topic and should relate the thesis to the larger context of the student’s studies.

Any Reed faculty member may visit the examination. At least one faculty member of the division should be present. Some departments require at least one examiner from another department within the same division. One examiner from another division should be present. An examiner who has professional competence in the candidate’s field and is not a member of the Reed faculty may be present. Other guests who are not faculty members will be admitted only with permission of the examining board and the student.

On occasion, written examinations may also be required by the division. The student will then be judged on the basis of both the oral and written examinations.

If a student fails the oral exam, the student may be re-examined in a later semester. A student who fails a second time in the same field shall be ineligible for graduation in that field.


At the end of each academic year, the college celebrates the graduation of those seniors and graduate students who have completed all degree requirements. Commencement is usually held on the Monday after final exams. Students are not eligible to participate in commencement unless they have completed ALL academic requirements and the physical education requirement (PE is required for undergraduates only). Although students will be awarded their diploma in either January or May, depending on when they complete their degree requirements, the commencement celebration is held in May each year.

(last modified: August 2, 2018)