Congratulations! Your college student has worked hard, you’ve stood by and supported him, and he’s almost made it to the finish line. Commencement is around the corner. But what if he’s almost there, but not quite? Does that mean that participating in graduation ceremonies is out of the question? Or that he’ll need to wait another year? The answer is — that depends. It depends on what your student still has left to do, and it depends on the college or university policy.
Each college establishes its own policy regarding who may participate in commencement ceremonies. Some institutions will allow students to participate if they are within a very few credits of completion, and other schools will not allow students to participate until they have completed all requirements. In some cases, it may depend on how soon the next ceremony may be. Schools that have only one graduation ceremony a year, rather than an additional summer or winter ceremony, may be more willing to allow a student to participate if he is close to finishing. Most likely, a student would need to be within three to six credits of completing his degree.
If your student is close to the completion of her degree, she should definitely check her school’s policy. There may be a formal policy, or permission may be granted at the discretion of the Dean or Provost.
Depending on school policy, your student may need to complete all graduation applications, audits, etc. He may need to be registered for his final credits or at least show proof that he will finish in a timely manner. Usually no honors are conferred on students who have not completed all coursework.
If your student’s school does allow students to ”walk” at graduation, she will likely receive her diploma folder, but will receive the actual diploma later. The commencement audience, however, would not know the difference. Her name may not be listed in the commencement program, since that is considered an official document. Her name may appear in the program the following year. Again, policies vary by school.
There are many reasons why a student may fall short of completing his degree in time for graduation. Some students opt to wait until the following year to walk at commencement, and still others may opt to forego the ceremony altogether. The formal graduation process is a significant recognition of your student’s accomplishments. If participating in commencement is important to you and to your student, she should carefully investigate her school’s formal (and possibly, informal) policies. It may be possible for your student to participate — and for you to have the opportunity to publicly recognize and congratulate her.