Graduate Application FAQs

What is the non-degree option (NDO) program?

The non-degree option program allows qualified individuals to enroll in select Stanford courses online and for credit. The program is intended to allow working professionals to continue their education flexibly and without the commitment required to pursue a master's degree. 

Non-degree option (NDO) students take the same courses as on-campus students and earn Stanford credit and a Stanford transcript. Up to 18 units earned as an NDO student may be transferred towards a Stanford master's degree.

The program is ideal for working professionals who need to fill a specific technical gap in their knowledge, want to explore graduate school without applying to a degree program, or are simply curious about a topic. 

What is SCPD and Stanford Online?

The Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD) is a leader in global, online and extended education, increasing access to Stanford teaching and research and fostering a global community of learners, industry leaders, and educators. SCPD works closely with faculty across Stanford University to design and deliver educational programs to learners worldwide.

SCPD operates and manages Stanford Online, Stanford’s online learning provider, offering people around the world access to credit-bearing graduate courses and degrees, credentialed professional and executive education, and lifelong learning programs developed by Stanford faculty.

What are graduate certificates?

Graduate certificates are collections of three to five courses on a particular subject designed with the home departments. Certificates generally range from 12 to 15 units of credit. Non-degree option students who wish to go in greater depth in a particular topic, and earn a Stanford University credential are encouraged to pursue a graduate certificate. Please view individual graduate certificate pages for details. NDO students must complete their graduate certificate within three years.

Graduate certificates are accredited by Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC-ACSCU). For more information, please see the following website.

How do I apply for a graduate course?

Students who wish to enroll in a graduate course need to submit a “non-degree option” application that indicates whether you’ve chosen to enroll in an individual course or declare a graduate certificate. This application is required to enroll in any of the graduate courses offered by Stanford Online.

Your application will be reviewed every time you enroll in a credit-bearing course through Stanford Online to make sure you meet the course’s prerequisites. No additional application is needed to declare a graduate certificate.

Below is a 3-step guide to our application and enrollment process:

Step 1: Create An Account or Log In

To begin your application, set up an account through mystanfordconnection. This account is the central place for your student information, including your application status, transcripts, forms, courses, and more. Your account can be created at any time and accessed 24/7.

Step 2: Submit Your Application with Transcripts and Residency Documents

Within your mystanfordconnection account, select “Applications” from the left side navigation. Then select the “Non-Degree Option” application.

The application is brief, and at any time you can save your progress and finalize it later. We highly encourage you to submit your application and documents as soon as possible, even before the full list of courses is published for an upcoming quarter. Applications will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier you submit your application, and enroll in a course, the sooner you’ll receive a decision.

Submitting an application does not constitute a commitment on your part, and you will not incur tuition fee charges until you enroll in a course and your application is processed and approved.

You will need to complete the following sections within the application:

  1. Statement of Purpose
  2. Residency Status and Personal Information
  3. Professional Experience
  4. Educational Background (Undergraduate, MS, and PhD) 
  5. Exam Monitors
  6. Graduate Certificates
  7. Document Upload

Your application can be submitted at any time during the academic year. However, it will not be reviewed until Step 3 (below) is completed, and you have enrolled and paid for a course through your mystanfordconnection account during an open enrollment period.

Step 3: Enroll in A Course

Begin by browsing our portfolio of graduate courses within the Stanford Online catalog. Note that our selection of graduate courses differs each academic quarter. Courses within our portfolio can have three different statuses:

  1. The first status is “open for enrollment,” where you can select a course then begin the enrollment process.
  2. The second status is “enrollment closed.” This means that the course is not currently available to enroll in. Select notify me to receive an email when the course next opens for enrollment. Be sure to review the dates of our enrollment periods to get the best selection of courses and plan ahead.
  3. The third status is “waitlist.” Join the waitlist by selecting the waitlist button. If a spot opens in the class, we will add students off the waitlist on a first come first serve basis.

After you’ve completed your “non-degree option application,” you must continue to enroll in and pay for your course. Select your course on the Stanford Online website and enroll during an open enrollment period. To enroll, add the desired course(s) to the cart, continue to checkout, and enter payment information. Courses will fill up quickly! We encourage you to act as soon as you can. Once these steps are completed, your application can be submitted and will be reviewed by the appropriate academic department for approval. 

You should receive an email from Stanford Online with the review outcome of your enrollment application no later than shortly before the start of instruction. You may send us your application documents at any time, but you must first enroll in and pay for a course in order for your application to be reviewed. You can check your application status in your mystanfordconnection account at any time.  If your application is declined for any reason, your payment will be reimbursed.

Why do I need to apply to take a graduate course?

The application helps Stanford’s academic departments ensure that you have achieved the required academic standard and have completed the prerequisites necessary to succeed in each course.

Can I apply if I do not have a bachelor's degree?

No. You must hold a bachelor's degree to apply and enroll in any of our graduate courses and certificates. If you currently don’t have a bachelor's degree or are still pursuing one, consider our portfolio of professional programs.

How long will it take me to complete the application submission process?

Students often tell us it only takes them a few hours to complete.

Why do I have to pay for tuition at the time of enrollment?

Many of our courses are very popular, as a result there is a limited number of seats. Your tuition is used to secure your spot in the course. If, for any reason, your course enrollment request is not approved, your tuition fee will be returned to you through your original method of payment. If your course is canceled by the department before the beginning of the quarter, you will be notified via email and your tuition will be refunded.

What if my employer is paying for my tuition?

If your employer is funding the tuition for your course, you must email the tuition voucher, purchase order, or proof of company payment (such as manager approval) to If you enroll and your employer does not cover the cost of your tuition for any reason, you are responsible for payment.

Where can I find the calendar of open enrollment periods?

The dates for open enrollment can be found in our enrollment periods.

When will I hear if I have been accepted into a course?

Due to the volume of applications we receive, a decision is reached typically after 10 business days, however the outcome of a last minute application may not arrive until right before the start of an upcoming quarter.

Will I be refunded if I am not accepted into a course?

Yes, if you are not accepted into the course you enrolled in, you will be refunded the full tuition or have the option of transferring your enrollment to a different course.

I need some guidance in selecting a graduate course or program. Whom can I contact?

Our team can help you determine a good match for your learning goals. Email us at

What are the Visa/Citizenship/Residency document requirements?


Domestic Students

U. S. citizen applicants are required to provide proof of citizenship or residency documentation. At the time of application, please upload to your application.

  • Picture page from your passport (must be at least 5x6)
  • Photocopy of your driver’s license

Note: we will not be able to create your student record until one of these items is received.

Non-U.S. Students Residing Within the U.S.

Per Stanford University policy, non-U.S. citizen applicants that are physically residing in the U.S. are required to provide residency/visa documentation or an official U.S. document specifying student status and indicating an expiration date that covers the duration of the quarter for enrollment. At the time of application, please upload the item(s) listed below to your application. We will not be able to create your student record until these items are received.

  • Picture page from your passport (required)
  • US Visa stamp page from your passport with date of issue and date of expiration
  • Permanent Resident Card (Copy of Front and Back)
  • Current Visa document, such as "Notice of Action"

Note: All submitted documents must be valid for the full duration of your study.

International Students

International students not residing in the US, please upload the following document to your application:

  • Picture page from your passport (required)

What type of transcripts can I attach to my application?

To expedite the process you may initially upload unofficial copies of your transcript(s) when submitting your application. Unofficial transcripts must include:

  • Final cumulative GPA received
  • Notation of conferred degree
  • Name and address of the institution(s) you attended

Note: You will still need to submit official transcripts from your institution(s) before you are able to begin your studies at Stanford. All transcripts must be submitted electronically, we cannot receive physical copies. You may order official transcripts and then upload those documents to your application.

Academic Transcript Requirements

Submit official documents from all post-secondary institutions that you have attended:

  • Undergraduate program documents: final official transcript(s) showing completion of coursework and detailed record of your marks or grades required for the degree, degree earned, and the date of degree conferral.
  • Graduate program documents (master’s & doctoral level): if applicable, official graduate transcript(s) including in-progress programs.
  • If the documents are not in English, then certified translations are required, in addition to the official original-language documents.
  •  A degree certificate listing just your name and the qualification received is not equivalent to a transcript, as it does not include detailed grade information.

My course has filled up and I am unable to enroll. What can I do now?

Some of our programs have set capacity limits so that we can optimize your learning experience. If a course reaches its maximum capacity, you can add your name to a first-come-first-served waitlist. If course spaces become available and your name reaches the top of the list, we will contact you with the opportunity to enroll. Joining a waitlist does not mean that you are formally enrolled in the course.

I understand that courses and schedules are subject to change during the enrollment period. What if my course is canceled? 

If your course is canceled by the department before the beginning of the quarter, you will be notified via email. You will receive a full refund of the tuition fee unless you opt to transfer to an alternative course.

Can I cancel my course enrollment without any penalty fees?

If you cancel your course enrollment prior to the start of instruction, you will receive a full refund of your course tuition.

If you cancel your course enrollment after the start of instruction and before 5:00 PM (PT) on the financial drop deadline, a $100 drop fee will be applied.

Can I transfer to another course during the enrollment period?

You can transfer to another course on or before the start of instruction (subject to course availability) without penalty.

If you request to transfer courses after the start of instruction, approval of the course transfer is at the discretion of the academic department.

I was approved for my first course in a graduate certificate program. Does that mean I was admitted into the graduate certificate program?

As a non-degree student, you are not admitted into a program. Your application is evaluated every time you enroll in a course.  Each graduate certificate program has its own admissions committee that reviews applications on a course-by-course, quarter-by-quarter basis, in part considering your previous Stanford course grade. It is not guaranteed that you will be accepted into all subsequent courses. The department reviews your transcripts to ensure you meet the course’s prerequisites. If you do, and there is an opening in the class, you are enrolled in the class.

Once you have begun taking classes, you must earn a B or better to continue taking classes. If you do not earn a B in a class, you can retake the course for a better grade or petition to continue taking courses.

To earn a graduate certificate, declare your intent in your NDO application within your mystanfordconnection account. If you aren’t ready to pursue a program, but decide to add one later, please email your request to declare a graduate certificate by emailing:  You’re welcome to complete individual courses that contribute to a certificate prior to declaring your intent.

Once you have successfully completed all certificate requirements and your certification is approved by the academic department, you will be sent an official Stanford University certificate within three weeks.

May I take courses outside of my graduate certificate program?

Yes. You can take any courses if you meet the prerequisites. Instead, you can take individual courses from multiple programs. You may also pursue multiple certificates.

Please note if you are admitted into a Stanford masters program, you may transfer up to a maximum of 18 units to a qualifying masters degree, provided department approval. 

Do I have to take courses every quarter?

No. You are not required to take courses every quarter.

There are no courses available for enrollment under my graduate certificate program. How do I proceed?

You are not required to take courses under your program every quarter, but you must finish your graduate certificate within three years.

I still have questions regarding the graduate course application. Whom should I contact?

Don’t hesitate to reach out to our dedicated team with any further questions by emailing us at