Seniors, it’s time to face up to the fact that mere months stand between you and the impenetrable, featureless vacuum called your future. Much can happen on the way to graduation: vanished credits, missed requirements, misunderstandings, forgetting to buy your gown and ending up attending the ceremony naked. Don’t let this happen to you!
The following are some simple steps and helpful hints to get undergrads safely to commencement, and then some.
What to do NOW
Meet with your academic adviser. Ideally, this is something you have been doing since your first term at Portland State. If you’ve kept up on it, kudos for you. If not, get down there!
Academic advisers can help translate all that gobbledygook found in the bulletin, figure out where you stand and give you suggestions so you can graduate on time. They can also help with petitions to the Academic Requirements Committee.
Angelina Garbarino, assistant director and supervisor for degree clearance, sees first-hand the results of adviser neglect.
“Students who self-advise or rely on the advice of friends rather than seeing an academic adviser tend to have problems that prevent them from graduation on time” she said.
Daniel Fortmiller, the director of the Information and Academic Support Center (IASC), said one problem many seniors run into is a lack of upper-division courses. While you need a minimum of 180 credits to graduate, at least 72 of those credits must come from 300- and 400-level courses. An academic adviser can clue you in to oversights and give you nifty hints on working within the system.
But don’t wait until it’s too late! Advisers may seem to work magic, but they aren’t magicians. They can only work within the set deadlines, as Fortmiller reminds us.
“Number one, don’t miss deadlines,” he said. “Number two, don’t wait for deadlines to see advisers.”
Academic advisers can be found all over the place: in the department of your major, through the college or school of your program, and in the IASC. A list of contact information for academic advisers by major and college or school is published each term in the Bulletin Schedule of Classes (see Page 116 of fall 2002 issue).
The IASC office is in the Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 425. Although they can only help you with general requirements and degree requirements, they’re not picky about their customers.
“We’ll see any major,” Fortmiller said.
What to do Jan. 10, 2003
Turn in your degree application and register for the spring commencement ceremony.
Degree applications are due to the Office of Degree Requirements (Neuberger Hall, Room 104) two terms before you expect to graduate. If you have questions about the application, see an adviser.
Remember, Jan. 10 is the deadline, but many administrators think it’s a good idea to get your application in earlier.
If you don’t expect to graduate until summer or fall of 2003, the deadlines are April 4 and June 27, respectively.
Registration for commencement is a separate task and the student’s responsibility. You can register for commencement at www.commencement.pdx.edu beginning Jan. 10. You can also request tickets and find other information concerning the ceremony on the Web site.
What to do spring term 2003
Look over your degree audit and order graduation “accessories.”
“Students who do not carefully read their degree audits tend to miss outstanding requirements,” Garbarino said.
Your degree audit should be sent to you a term before you’re expected to graduate. It is what’s going to tell you how many credits you have left and what requirements you still need to graduate.
It is extremely important to attend to any incompletes or other tricky grade situations as soon as you can.
“Degree Requirements has a limited amount of time to process degree completions each term, therefore all courses needed for graduation must be on the student’s official record within two weeks of the end of the term,” Garbarino said.
If you feel a grade was given in error, contact the instructor immediately.
This would also be an excellent time to pay another visit to your adviser. She or he can help you decipher the degree audit, as well as give some pointers on the best way to fulfill those remaining requirements.
If you’re not careful, you could wind up getting to spend an extra term or two at PSU.
Jostens, a graduation retailer, will be on campus this spring to take orders for caps, gowns, announcements, rings, degree frames and a whole load of other merchandise you didn’t know you needed. You can find sales reps at the Graduation Fair in the SMSU ballroom on March 11 and 12 or in the SMSU main lounge on April 17 and 18 of 2003. You can preview some of their merchandise at www.jostens.com.
June 14, 2003: Commencement day
This is quite possibly the easiest day of your undergraduate career. Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back, because all your hard work gets recognized.
Wait! Did you remember to pay your bills to the college? And keep the administration updated for any change of address? If you have an outstanding balance or an outdated address, you won’t receive your diploma.
But the scariest moment of all comes after graduation: What now?
Well, you basically have two choices. You can go to school (again) or get a job.
If you’ve waited until graduation to think about this, you basically have to get a job. Unless, that is, you’ve won the lottery or some family member is willing to support your lazy (and lucky) bum.
Further schooling means more time, more money, more cerebral exercise.
If you know you want to go for it, or even think there’s a possibility, you should start looking now. “Now” as in fall 2003, not after graduation.
For a starting place, talk to your teachers and major adviser. Chances are good they know something about graduate programs in your field of interest. There are also books out there geared to help edu-addicts find their next nesting ground. Check the Orange Room in Powell’s Bookstore, next to the books that help you study for the tests.
Whether you’re applying for a liberal arts graduate program or something a little more specific, (law, medicine, etc.), there’s a test you’ll be required to take. You don’t know which test you’ll need to take until you figure out which program of which school you want to get into, so decide now and take the test as soon as possible.
The Prometric Testing Center in Portland and Milwaukie allows you to schedule a variety of tests at your convenience. For information on tests they administer, costs, locations and available testing dates, visit their Web site at www.prometric.com.
The deadline for application to many graduate programs is in early February or March. The Career Center at Portland State can assist you with one-on-one critique of graduate-school applications.
Also, you will most likely need to solicit recommendations from professors. Out of courtesy, give them at least two weeks to write a recommendation.
It can’t be stressed enough: The sooner you decide to take action, the better.
Get a job?
Many of you might be under the impression that it’s virtually impossible for a freshly graduated person to get a job right now. Dee Thompson, director of the Career Center, says otherwise.
“The myth that there are no jobs for college graduates is just that, a myth. Employers are interested in hiring new college graduates – and this applies to all majors,” she said.
The PSU Career Center is a resource for students and alumni seeking employment.
Career counselors are available for one-on-one sessions to help students set career goals. The center also offers workshops that help students find their skills, values and interests as employees.
Once you know what your career interests are, the Career Center can get you on your way by helping you find a job, beef up your resume and cover letter, and fine-tune your interviewing strategies.
The Career Center can even dig up unlisted jobs to broaden your search beyond the classifieds and online databases.
“We know that about 80 percent of the jobs people get are never listed anywhere, so it is critical that students understand how to look for work,” Thompson said.
There are also some recruiting sessions sponsored by the Career Center. Companies come throughout the year to interview students who may not graduate until next spring or summer.
The annual, university-wide Career Information Day is another opportunity to get information about career opportunities. More than 100 companies converge on the PSU campus to spot hot, young talent. This academic year, Career Information Day will be Feb. 12.
As with all things, there is a catch to the Career Center. It’s only free for up to six months after graduation. After that, alumni are charged a fee for one-on-one counseling. It would therefore be to a student’s advantage to tap into the Career Center’s resources as soon as possible. (This means you!)
For more information on the Career Center and its services, visit the Web site at www.career.pdx.edu.