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If You’re Missing A Credit Right Before Graduation, Here’s What To Do

Picture this: You’re a second semester senior, about to graduate and move into your next phase of life — things like graduation credit requirements and class enrollment are already in the rearview mirror. You don’t have everything all planned out, but you’re trying. Senioritis is starting to kick in, but you’re pushing through those final few research papers and group projects, looking forward to graduating on time. Applying to full-time jobs is becoming a full-time job in and of itself. Oh, and then there’s the grad school debacle. To go, or not to go… you just don’t know!

All of this and more is keeping you busy, but you still show up to class and work with a smile. You’re almost done, after all! Then, one random Wednesday in February, you get the email.

“It’s come to my attention that your graduation status has changed from ‘Pending’ to ‘Missing Requirements.’ That means that your DegreeWorks showed that you had all requirements and units accounted for when you applied to graduate, and now it does not. You seem to only have 123 units, and you need 124.”

One credit. Yup. A single credit short. 

If you hadn’t already guessed it, this credit catastrophe indeed happened to me. Fortunately, I was able to late-add a class and get everything resolved fairly quickly, but I realized this situation is more common than students might think. If a missing credit or two sneaks up on you like it did for me, don’t panic! Or, do panic (I know I sure did), but know that it’s all going to get resolved. You will get to graduate, even if it means finding a tape-and-glue sort of solution to get you there. So, what do you do if you find out you’re one credit short in your final semester?

Communication is the best way to Prevent a missing credit scenario.

If you’re already in the “missing credit” boat, this might not be what you want to hear, but prevention is key to avoiding this kind of panic-inducing situation. I decided to find out more about how to stay on top of your credits with Rachel Van Houten, the woman who’d originally sent me that email above. As the Senior Coordinator of Academic Services for the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Loyola Marymount University, Van Houten works to ensure all students make it through their necessary coursework and are connected to the right academic advisors.

“While there are many staff and advisors monitoring students’ records internally, ultimately it’s the students’ responsibility to ensure they’ve met all the necessary requirements for graduation,” Van Houten tells Her Campus. “It’s crucial that students are constantly checking the degree-progress tool being used at their institution and immediately notifying their advisor if something doesn’t look quite right.”

Communicating with your academic advisor is so important. Whether something looks off or not, keeping each other in the loop about what’s going on with your degree will save you from a lot of unwanted stress — you should be checking in with them more than just the required once a semester. Even parking tickets, registration holds, and library fines can keep your degree from being valued as authentic, according to the Fiscal Times. So many of these little things have the power to cause a lot of damage when it comes time to receive your diploma, but can easily be prevented by having the right conversations with the right people that know how to help you resolve these inconveniences.

Transfer students are uniquely disadvantaged by credit evaluation.

After doing some serious digging, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that this credit catastrophe probably has something to do with the fact that I’m a transfer student — aka, all of my previously earned credits were evaluated and articulated differently from those that I completed at LMU. According to the New York Times, nearly 40% of transfer students get no credit for any of the courses they’ve completed at their prior institutions, and they lose 27 credits (which is equivalent to about a year of school) on average. Heed this warning, fellow transfers! We have to be extra on top of it when it comes to our schedules and degrees. Since we took a different path in, it may confuse or jumble up our pathway out

Just as she reminded me, Van Houten often has to remind many of her other transfer students to “stay open to various options. This is super important since they may interfere with other plans, but just be flexible and consider all potential paths to resolving your missing-credit issue.”

there are credit-bearing solutions even halfway through the semester.

Realistically, what are your options if you’ve been told you won’t be able to earn your diploma with the rest of your class? For me personally, a lot of it had to do with timing. I found out four weeks into the semester that I was missing that one credit. When I did, I immediately started scrambling. I reached out to Van Houten, who then shared some ideas of classes I could potentially late-add. Although the classes I had to pick from were limited, I was able to enroll in a one-unit, asynchronous internship course that’ll just get me that final credit I need in order to graduate. 

If late-adding a course is not an option due to timing (maybe you found out too late in the semester), consider the possibility of taking a summer class! If this is an option, your college or university may even let you walk with the rest of your class during your originally scheduled graduation ceremony — you just will receive your diploma a few months later in the mail. 

If the class you’re missing will count for something as little as one credit, you may also consider taking that class at a community college. It can be a much cheaper option, and usually the scheduling works out a bit better for those who have work or other commitments during daytime hours.

If you find yourself in a missing-credit situation, you’ll still get to cross the finish line. It might be extremely frustrating and take you a bit longer than you’d like, but just remember to talk to your academic advisors frequently, keep an eye on your degree progression, and remain open to all alternative options concerning how to get your diploma if you’re a few credits short at the very end. There’s still cause to celebrate! As a senior, you’re almost all done, and this is a battle that can be won.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Rylie Walsh is a class of 2022 graduate from Loyola Marymount University, where she earned her degree in Communication Studies and English! She was President of Her Campus LMU for the 2021-22 school year and is also a Her Campus National Writer. When she's not reading or writing, you can find her hanging out with friends, SoulCycling, or enjoying her all time favorite dessert: a Pressed freeze.
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