If you are one of the 2,000 or so UMBC seniors planning to graduate this May, there are steps you need to be taking now to ensure a glitch-free graduation and a smooth transition into whatever it is you want to do next. Below are some common mistakes to avoid.
Mistake # 1
Forgetting to apply to graduate
Applying to graduate is simple and free and vitally important. Guess what? If you do not tell UMBC you believe you have completed your degree, we will not know it! The graduation application triggers a systematic review of your record to be sure all i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. Even if you will be backpacking in the Himalayas during the ceremony on May 23, you still need to apply for graduation! (see Mistake #2 below).
The formal deadline of Friday, February 15 for a May diploma may have come and gone, but the online application system continues to accept applications for a little while beyond that date. If you miss the online application opportunity for a compelling reason, contact the Office of the Registrar immediately.
Confusing the commencement ceremony with actually receiving a UMBC degree
When you participate in the commencement ceremony, you are a “candidate for graduation.” You are allowed to participate because a review of your record indicates that you are very close to completing all the requirements for your degree. However, you will not actually receive a diploma and have a degree posted to your official transcript until you have completed (past tense) each and every requirement!
For almost all students, this means that there will be no diploma until grades are posted, which happens after the commencement ceremony. And for some students, additional coursework will be needed (for example, repeating a course in which you slipped down to a “D” grade in that final term). Participating in the ceremony does not make you a UMBC graduate!
Overlooking one of your requirements
This is what your degree audit is all about! Study it carefully. You will find it on myUMBC under the topic “Advising and Student Support.” Make sure every category is “Satisfied,” because just one “Not Satisfied” can prevent you from receiving your degree.
Do you want to be the student whose diploma is delayed from May 2013 to August 2013 or even December 2013 because you came up short on upper level credits, PHED courses, or ENGL 100? Advisors can help you stay on track, but it is your job to check and double-check every piece of your degree---university requirements, general education requirements, and the requirements for your major. And if you choose to pursue a minor, certificate, or second major, you have even more items to track.
Having Outdated Majors, Minors, and Certificates on your Degree Audit
If your degree audit’s idea of what degree, minor, certificate, etc. you are pursuing differs from your own current thinking, you need to update your program immediately by submitting a Declaration of Major form to the Registrar’s office.
For example, if you still have “B.S., Computer Science” as your major of record, your degree audit will show your Global Cultures requirement as complete with just one course. If you are really going out for a B.A. in Economics, you need two Culture courses. Also, having the wrong programs on your record can delay your review and raise needless issues that it will take time to resolve.
Mistake # 5
Slacking off during your final semester
Failing a course in your final semester or failing to achieve your usual standard can cause big problems. Graduate and professional schools who are expecting you want to see your final transcript and this is why. Students have had job offers rescinded due to failure to complete their degrees as expected. Avoid that grim scenario by keeping up your pace!
This is particularly important if you put off courses that are especially challenging for you to the very end—i.e., Math, foreign language, research methods. Get a tutor! Join a study group! Do whatever it takes to succeed in those tough courses so your degree will be complete.
Mistake # 6
Procrastinating about submitting coursework or test scores for transfer credit
Posting and evaluation of transfer and test credit takes time! Do not wait to send those official transcripts and score reports (such as CLEP or AP) to UMBC’s Office of Admissions for processing. UMBC will not “take your word for it” that you completed a PHED course at Montgomery College over the summer.
And remember, you need to have submitted a “Verification of Transfer Credit and Residency Waiver Form” to go along with those outside credits. If your transfer courses are coming from a private or out-of-state institution, it takes even longer for UMBC to evaluate them and you want to avoid last-minute surprises if the evaluation does not yield the expected result.
Good Things to Ask Yourself to Prepare for your Post-UMBC Future
Do you have a fully polished, complete, up to date, road-tested and optimized resume and portfolio of accomplishments (work samples, publications, awards, clippings, testimonials) appropriate for the field in which you are seeking employment?
Enough said. (Except, if you do not have this, visit the Career Services Center immediately.)
Have you made plans for Spring break week (March 18-22) that include:
- Job interviews—either for a vacancy or strictly informational
- Graduate or professional school visits
- “Shadowing” a professional in your field
- Interviewing for the Peace Corps, Teach for America, or Americorps
- Trying out for the NHL, NBA, NFL, WNBA, etc. (athletes only)
- Re-taking graduate or professional school tests
Using that spring break week to good advantage when graduation is just two months away is frankly a no-brainer. Go to Cancun next year when you have landed a job to help pay for the trip.
Have you lined up a summer internship or placement?
If you are not walking directly into a full time permanent job after graduation, look for a summer position. Many summer internship programs are open to recent graduates and can provide opportunities to earn money, gain experience, and potentially qualify for permanent jobs later. And the last thing you want to do is follow up your exciting graduation launch day with a retreat to the family sofa to watch TV all summer.
Discussion Question for May 2013 Prospective Grads
What are YOUR plans for the summer after graduation: rest, work, vacation, job hunting, or WHAT? Let us know in the comment section!