Graduation is Not a Given

Student throw graduation caps in celebration of this milestone

It was mid-February of last term when I was standing in the hallway with my fellow classmates waiting for our classroom to clear out, and I overheard another student mention her dilemma in applying to graduate.  I patiently waited for her to finish her story, my mind spinning a mile a minute, until I finally had a chance to ask, “You have to apply to graduate?”

            The answer: Yes.  Not only do we have to apply to graduate, but once the application is submitted, the process takes two terms.  I was devastated. Did this mean I couldn’t walk in the spring commencement?   

            At first, I blamed myself for my ignorance, thinking my mind must have been elsewhere when my advisor informed me of this.  But now that I have been talking with classmates and random students I interviewed around campus, it is clear that PSU has failed in letting a large portion of students know about this requirement.  Many of the students I talked to didn’t know you had to apply to graduate, and several of those who knew were not aware it took two terms to process. 

            When I asked the well-informed students where they heard of it, they mentioned an e-mail letter indicating that their credits were reaching a graduate level, as opposed to hearing it from an advisor.  I too received this letter, but it arrived two months after the deadline had passed. 

            There is good news to this story though.  With further investigation, I found out I can register to walk without having completed the entire graduation process.  Thank you PSU for providing the “out” for those of us not in the loop!

            So is this application to graduate one of PSU’s best kept secrets?  How did you find out that graduation was not just a given once the credits were earned?

9 thoughts on “Graduation is Not a Given

  1. Ana SR says:

    I did not only get an email, but I also got a letter.
    I make sure to see my advisor before the beginning of each term to plan my classes accordingly.
    I do agree that the policy is shady, but they do make exceptions and there’s a way to apply for graduation late.
    Suggested link: http://www.pdx.edu/registration/applying-degree
    It advises how to do it and what are the deadlines for each graduation term.

    • Chelle says:

      I didn’t get a letter. :o( Sounds like you were more on top of it than many of us other students. I have met with my advisor twice in the four years I have been attending PSU (part-time), LOL! Again, I am just relieved they give us some alternatives so we can still graduate with our class.

  2. JR says:

    As the person in charge of PSU’s commencement, I agree that PSU is far from perfect in letting students know about how to finish their university career; however, we are getting better. This year we have seen almost a 20% increase in the number of students registered for commencement compared to the past two years. Also, there is a group of faculty and staff helping identify why students are not graduating and finishing the last mile of their education. Finally, our communication plan to students also needs improvement. Next year, we will be implementing an automated messaging system which will notify students of their graduation needs once they hit a certain number of credits.
    Any students with questions related to commencement can always email commencement@pdx.edu.
    Thanks for the feedback!

    • Chelle says:

      Thanks for the feedback you two! JR, I am very happy to hear that PSU has acknowledged the problem and is attempting to remedy it. I must say I was quite surprised to find out how many students were not aware of the requirement. In one way it made me feel better because at least I wasn’t the only one, but on the other hand, it really is sad if students miss their opportunity to graduate with their class on a mere technicality such as not knowing/understanding the requirements. I am hopeful your auto message system gives students plenty of advance notice to meet the deadline. Thanks again for the update!

    • S. Theo Burke says:

      If it takes two terms to process a graduation application, then perhaps that certain level of credits you mentioned that will trigger a letter should be 112- 120. (computed as someone taking 15 credits per term who intends to finish in June, a person who also takes 15 per term in the summer before graduation will be at 120 as early as the summer before graduation).
      People should get this warning at least a year away from (hoped for) graduation. Even in my case, transferring in now at 101.5 credits, I have to think about whether I can graduate as early as next June. And by early May, when we can register for summer, then fall, I have to have some firm plans for the whole next year, as far as what classes to take. So, it is not too early for me, with 101.5 credits, to be planning graduation. If I keep my full-time plan on track, I would hope to hear from commencement about applying for graduation this summer. The idea here is that in general, students get the letter in summer, apply in fall, have the procedure for graduation finished by beginning of spring term.
      Since not everyone will follow the June graduation schedule, the amount of credits that’s equivalent to the scenario I described above is probably somewhere between 113-120 credits, or one to two terms into one’s Junior year (at 12-15 credits per term). This is when students should hear from commencement.
      But everything I have suggested is predicated on the idea that graduation applications take two terms to process. Why is that so? Seems a little ridiculous. Can that process be streamlined and shortened?

      • Richelle Beck says:

        Good comments and questions S. Theo. Seems like the information should be presented to students much sooner. I hope this is remedied in future years!

  3. S. Theo Burke says:

    I am a brand new PSU student, transferring in as a Junior. There was nothing in the orientation about graduation taking two terms to process. And the orientation group had been subdivided into groups, so that I was sitting in a room with Juniors and Seniors only. The presenters said nothing about graduation taking two terms to process, and little about applying for graduation.

  4. AStephens says:

    It always surprises me that people (students in this case) are not more proactive about their education.

    I am constantly checking DARS to make sure that I’m meeting requirements, reviewing any changes to the bulletin to make sure I have the best year selected for my degree, reviewing the PSU website for graduation information, and just recently completed a meeting with my advisor (which I schedule to make sure I was on track).

    Yes – it would be nice if letters and emails could go out in advance, but what happens if your address has changed or your email isn’t working? Will you be upset at PSU that they don’t have the correct way to contact you (because you forgot to give it to them)?

    Maybe it is because I am now in my 30s, but I think college is the place where you quit relying on others to do it for you – and you just get it done yourself. Just my two cents.

    • Richelle Beck says:

      You ARE proactive AStevens! I am not sure its an age thing, because I am almost 40, but it may be more of a personality style. Looking back, I wish I had been more involved in many areas of my education. For those of us who are not as active about payting attention to the requirements of our degree, I am grateful that PSU is working on improving communication on this issue.

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