Lining Up Your Ducks

In college, people are not going to chase you down eagerly to fill out the forms you need in order to graduate. You may get a bunch of annoying emails from your undergraduate or graduate coordinator reminding you of deadlines, but it is not likely that they will force a pen in your hand, and then walk with you to the registrar’s office to see if you have all the paperwork that you need filed. This is why you have to take charge. It’s your life. It’s your future. It’s your graduation!

The tough part about this process is that there are many departments in a university. While you may have filled out the necessary papers for your specific major (Mechanical Engineering) and satisfied their requirements, your college (College of Engineering) may need you to do something else. For example, they may need to compile a list of all the engineering students in all the colleges in order to figure out how everyone will be walking during graduation, so you will need to hand in a form stating whether or not you will be attending. But it doesn’t end there. Someone else within the same office might send you another form asking you for your list of achievements in order to determine what colors you will be wearing with your gown. It’s little things like this that you may think don’t matter, but they do. If everyone else in your graduating class is wearing orange (color for the school of engineering) and you’re wearing blue (color for the school of business), it will be embarrassing.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the people who are taking care of filing your forms and transcripts and such are not the brightest people in the world. My point is that you have to be responsible for keeping track of all your documents and ensuring that they are properly signed and filed. I cannot tell you how many times I would go in to the Academic office or Registrar office to request for something only to find that there was either something missing or something listed incorrectly. They will always make you feel like it’s your fault. But don’t fight it. Just go with the flow and focus on the bigger picture-fix the error! Hassle them also, because they will tell you that they’ll ‘take care of it’ but chances are that if you walk back in (don’t call, you’ll get some random person that doesn’t know what you’re talking about), they will probably still have the same mistake on record. And if you don’t want that mistake (a false grade or class you never took or minor listed) on your graduation records forever, then do something about it. Be proactive.

There were so many kids in my senior class complaining about the credits they were missing; the AP credits that were not credited to them freshman year; the grades that were not fixed after they retook a class; the requirements that were not fulfilled by another class that so-and-so told them would be fulfilled; the form that they turned in but was somehow not there anymore; the counselor that told them they never did such-and-such when they remember doing it, etc. Always make copies and always double check. Check the university website for what you need and do it. Whether it be classes you need to take or forms you have to fill out, because they have deadlines and sometimes they also require the signatures of your advisor or a dean. It is your job to act like an adult and dot your i’s and cross your t’s. People make mistakes, especially when it’s not their job or degree on the line. Counselors, secretaries, and administrators don’t get fired for giving you bad information or for losing paper work, but you do get penalized if you are not meeting the requirements that the university has set in place.

I made sure constantly that if my plans were changing for my major or minor that I checked in with my advisor, my department head, the registrar (two different people) and an academic adviser (again, two different people in case one didn’t really know or couldn’t get their story straight). I value my education and I wanted to make sure that I would get my degree, and I did. But I saw some of my friends get pretty damn close to not having one because the summer class they needed was not offered by our school or because they had other paperwork that was not properly tracked.

All the red tape in college is more important than the red Solo cups, so pay attention! If you don’t, chances are that no one else will. And even if they do, do you really want your fate in someone else’s hands?

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