February 21, 2013

Don't Do It. Walk Later.

This is the time of year that students ask advisors to sign off on petitions to walk in graduation. I loathe signing those forms. At our school students can generally walk with up to 7 credits (2-3 classes) remaining. Students can petition to walk even if they have more than 7 credits outstanding.

Here is why I highly recommend you reconsider petitioning to walk: once you cross that stage and move your tassel from one side of that weird mortar board hat to the other and walk down those stairs it feels like you're really done. For anyone who has their major requirements completed and 120 credits (and minimum 2.0 GPA) they are done! It's official (even though the real diploma comes in the mail later). Yet, if you have credits remaining you do not have your degree even if your friends and loved ones have celebrated your graduation.

So if you walk with credits outstanding, you're not done, but you feel like you are. Not a very motivating situation for completing the rest of your degree... The registrar asks that you have a plan for completing your remaining credits, but often times, it'll be over the summer, the classes are online, you're working, and you have better things to do with your free time. So maybe you don't actually take that class or maybe, and this really stinks, you take that class and get an "L" in it wasting your time, money, and GPA (which is relevant to graduating). Maybe you take the summer off, but you get a excellent job offer (hurray!) and suddenly 2 classes on top of your new full time job (which involves lots of paperwork) seem harder than you expected. So you put off those few credits and your degree and keep working. At some point, student loan payment kicks in, maybe you can take the 6 credits required to defer your loan repayment in order to complete your degree... or maybe you take 6 credits and that allows you to get partial financial aid for your remaining classes. Maybe you have to save the money so you can pay out of pocket to complete your degree while your other bills keep on coming. The crappiest maybe is seeing a job posting that you are interested in that requires you have your bachelors degree... and you don't have it.
The faculty in our program have been asking our registrar how many former students are no longer at UMM, but only have a 3-6 credits holding them up from being a college graduate. It was because of this I found out how complicated it can be for a former "grad" in the all-the-debt-but-no-degree situation.  Ironically, these were not the students that struggled throughout their entire academic career. Despite us reaching out to these students, they often had significant reasons why they were finding it harder than they expected to complete their last two classes. These include folks who were successful in school, but life moved on and it is more difficulty to have the time, money, and motivation given all the other demands in their lives.

The unfortunate thing about me harping on this in such a negative (don't do it!) way, is that for a few diligent, highly motivated students the option to petition to walk while planning to complete the remaining credits over the summer is a good deal. However, if you are considering this please be realistic as to whether you're going to be able to finish your credits (and degree) on your projected timeline. It maybe worth saving graduation for after you complete your degree.