Below are general guidelines for faculty and staff to consult during the development of an accelerated master's degree or graduate certificate program. Many of our most talented undergrads are in a position to accelerate progress towards a master's degree or certificate while they complete their undergraduate studies at MSU (sometimes called “seamless” or “4+1” programs). These programs are attractive to students because they shorten their time to achieve a graduate credential. For many this is an attractive option compared to adding minors etc. to their undergraduate degree.

View our accelerated program options.


Also known as “4+1” or “seamless” master’s and certificate programs, we are using the term “accelerated” across all programs at this time. Using consistent language across programs will help with marketing and recognition. Avoiding terms already in use by the larger MSU/MUS system (e.g. seamless) helps us reduce confusion.



The accelerated master's degree and certificate are considered an alternative path to the existing credential (e.g. the MS), not its own credential. However, departments still need to add the accelerated path into Course Inventory Management (CiM) so

  • The accelerated path can be reviewed by the Graduate Council to check it meets all the guidelines, including department or program requirements (e.g. minimum GPA requirements, when to apply to the program within the department, how and when to reserve credits, etc.).
  • When the pathway is approved, information from CiM will be published in the next catalog

Please visit the Provost's webpage for more CIM information.

  • An accelerated program will have its own concentration code to differentiate these graduate students from students in the standard master’s or certificate program in their departments.
    • Example: MS-MATH, conc code ACCL
  • The accelerated concentration code will be common across departments and colleges and will make gathering data simpler.
  • Students will be matched to this code once they become graduate students, i.e. after finishing their undergraduate degree and being admitted to graduate school.
  • The workflow in CiM is shortened for the accelerated concentration and will only involve:
    • Normal Department/College approvals 
    • University Graduate Council 
    • Dean of the Graduate School
    • Registrar
  • CiM Proposal, sample text/how to
    • After being accepted into the accelerated [degree name] program, a student at MSU may reserve up to fifteen (15) graduate level credits towards a graduate degree. The coursework used for reserved credits may not be counted toward bachelor’s degree requirements.

    • If the department already offers the master’s or certificate and is adding the ACCL concentration/path to degree, the curriculum details of the accelerated program can be added below the existing information in the Curriculum Requirements box in the Program Details section. The accelerated curriculum should have enough credits each semester that count towards the undergraduate degree so that students following the accelerated curriculum map are eligible for financial aid. Other information can go in the Additional Information section at the bottom of the form.

Students’ application process

Departments will manage how they recruit and manage curriculum changes for students that are interested in an accelerated master’s program. The current guidelines include “Accelerated master’s and certificate programs require early advising (junior standing) and successful students typically have an undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.25 or above or a 3.30 GPA in upper division courses in the undergraduate major.” Please include your process and how students will change their curriculum in your CIM proposal.

Once a program determines that they want to start a student on the accelerated track they should:

  • Have the student apply to the Graduate School. In the application, the student should select a term after they finish their undergraduate degree. This is due to Banner’s current restriction that a student cannot be an undergraduate and a graduate student at the same time. By being accepted into the accelerated program a student can take and reserve graduate credits.
    • We acknowledge this application has a $70 fee and departments may either cover the costs from departmental funds or have the student pay the fee.
    • The reason for the graduate application is that it provides a mechanism for the student to take graduate level courses since CollegeNet connects smoothly to other university systems.
    • The student will also receive a conditional offer of admission into the accelerated program from the Graduate School. Their formal status will remain as an undergraduate until they graduate with their undergraduate degree.
    • The student will not need to apply again during their senior year, i.e. the total cost is the same, but the fee is paid during their junior year instead of senior year.
    • This is a new step which REPLACES the need for the student to complete a Petition to Reserve credits (see below for instructions on reserving credits).
  • The department will then recommend admission of the applicant in CollegeNet. In the Public Notes section, the Department will indicate that the student is an "ACCL" student. 
    • In preparation the department should include a Department Specific Note in CollegeNET congratulating the student on being admitted as an Accelerated Masters Student. It could  say something like this: "

      "Congratulations on being admitted into the Accelerated Masters in __[program name]_____. This admission shows your abilities as…… [department to indicate specifics here ].  While you have been admitted to the Master’s program in ____[program name]____, you will remain an undergraduate student until you complete your undergraduate degree; however, you will be taking and reserving some graduate courses as identified by your advisor. Once your undergraduate degree is conferred, your status will be amended to graduate standing."

    • Additionally, the Department will need to let the student know who their advisor is and who they should go to for further questions; this can ALSO be indicated in the Department Specific Notes in CollegeNET. 
  • The G.S. will offer the student admission into the accelerated program, send the offer letter, and tag the student “ACCL.”
  • The offer cannot be fully processed in BANNER until the student is awarded their MSU bachelor’s degree. 
  • Once the MSU undergraduate degree is awarded, G.S. Admissions will finish admitting the student into BANNER and will indicate ACCL as a concentration code.
  • Transcripts will then reflect the accelerated Graduate Program.
  • If a student is admitted into an accelerated certificate, they might be able to reserve enough credits to earn the graduate certificate. In this case, the student will be transitioned to graduate standing in the semester after they earn their undergraduate degree, and not need to take any further graduate courses. The student can apply to have the certificate conferred once they have met all the requirements for the certificate, though the certificate will be awarded after they receive their undergraduate degree.

    NOTE: If at a later date the student/advisor would like to 'un-reserve' credits and not pursue the ACCL track, a GARC will need to be initiated. The GARC process would be required for both the Graduate School and through the Office of the Registrar.

Reserving Credits

When the student is asked to apply, the department’s advisor overseeing Accelerated Master’s and certificate students should make a note in DegreeWorks. This note should indicate that the student is: 1) on the Accelerated Graduate Master’s or certificate track, and 2) list the courses which would need to be reserved.

The specific courses for each student would need to be approved by the student’s department or graduate committee.

The Office of the Registrar has created the following pre-defined note for this use:

  • Accelerated Student- Approved Courses:
  • Then the advisor will type in the courses, e.g. M 502, M 503, M 505

Courses should be reserved (note entered in DegreeWorks) in the first 15 class days of a given semester (or earlier). Courses should be listed for reserve each term (rather than listing all classes in one note--only list classes to be reserved that the student is to be enrolled in for the current term). The Office of the Registrar will both register and reserve the courses for your student.

Policy Aspects

All current Graduate School policies apply unless officially approved by the University Graduate Council and noted. For example, for a master's degree Graduate School policy states that only nine (9) credits of 4xx-level courses are allowed on a graduate Program of Study, students must meet the Program of Study submission deadline, a graduate committee is required, and there are limits on special courses. For a certificate, a maximum of 1/3 of the coursework maybe be 4xx-level. All Graduate School policies can be found in the catalog.

The Graduate Council guidelines are that for those students that have been admitted to an accelerated program, fifteen (15) credits taken as an undergraduate may be reserved for graduate use and are eligible for use on the graduate Program of Study. These can be reserved for either an accelerated master’s or certificate.

  • Fifteen (15) credits would be an exception to the normal Graduate School policy which limits reserved credits used on a graduate Program of Study to nine (9)
  • MSU students: any mix of reserve and transfer/non-degree is allowed up to the 15-credit exception

Future directions include adapting this process to external students (those who reserve credits elsewhere and then enter an accelerated master’s program at MSU). External students will likely need to seek pre-admission status through an application in CollegeNet.

Financial Aid

Financial aid can only be used for the degree the student is seeking.

Due to many subtleties, students are requested to talk with The Office of Financial Aid Services.

Example situations:

  1. An undergraduate student takes 12 credits of undergraduate courses that count towards their undergraduate degree. They are in the flat spot. If they enroll and reserve graduate courses beyond the initial 12 credits of undergraduate courses, tuition would not be charged for those graduate credits and financial aid will disburse at the 12 base credits of undergraduate enrollment.
  2. An undergrad student takes 9 credits of undergrad courses that count toward their undergraduate degree. Additionally, 6 credits of reserved graduate courses are taken. Tuition is due for 12 credits, instead of the full 15 credits, due to the flat spot. However, federal rules dictate that financial aid is calculated only on the 9 undergraduate credits that count toward the undergraduate degree.

If there are questions on Financial Aid, please reach out directly through their website or via email: Financial Aid. (This information/statements approved by Office of Financial Aid Services December 2020)