What Is a Degree Audit and Why Does It Matter?
Just as businesses conduct a financial audit to make sure their financial practices and reports are complete and accurate, college students should conduct a degree audit to make sure they are on track toward graduation. Based on the results of their financial audit, businesses may make adjustments to their financial processes. So, too, students, based on their degree audit, are in a better position to plan their degree completion.
Your college student should be tracking his own progress and course completion each semester, but just as many financial audits are conducted by objective, outside auditors, a degree audit should be conducted by the Registrar, Advising Office, or Academic Advisor at the college.
What is a degree audit?
A degree audit is an analysis of your student’s academic progress toward a degree. It helps your student monitor where he is and what he still needs to do to complete his requirements. A degree audit is an advising document that maps out degree requirements and compares them against your student’s transcript. It is a vital tool for academic planning, course selection, and scheduling and should be used in conjunction with consultation with the student’s academic advisor.
The degree audit is usually computer generated and maintained by the Registrar’s Office. An unofficial version may be available to students online. At some institutions, students may need to request an audit from the Registrar or Advising Office. The audit is not an official certification of the student’s academic record, such as a transcript, but is a planning tool. Like a financial audit, it is an unbiased examination and evaluation of the student’s academic progress.
What information is on the degree audit?
The information contained in a degree audit may vary by individual school. Some schools include only all-college requirements and other schools will include all requirements including major, minor and concentration. A degree audit may show all or some of the following pieces of information:
- Number of credits required to complete a degree
- Number of credits completed – both at the institution and transfer
- Student’s GPA (Grade Point Average)
- Courses currently in progress
- Incomplete courses
- All college requirements completed and still needed
- Major requirements completed and still needed
- Possibly minor or concentration requirements completed and still needed
Some audits contain a “What If” function. With this option, students can explore “What if I changed my major, minor or concentration?” Students can input a new major and the electronic audit will reshuffle the courses taken so the student can see where his current courses would fall and what he would still need to do to complete a different major. This function is especially helpful if your student is considering a change of major and wants to evaluate his progress.
When should my student check his audit?
All students should request an official degree audit as they come close to being within thirty credits of completing their degree. This is an important time to make sure that all required courses have been completed or are planned for the final two semesters.
However, for many students this may be too late. If the student discovers several missing courses, he would need to make sure those courses are offered when he needs them and that he has taken all pre-requisite courses required. It may not be possible to make everything fit in the final semesters.
Ideally, your student should check his degree audit, either by checking online if it is available, or by requesting an audit from the Registrar or Advising Office, at least once each semester. The degree audit is an important and helpful tool as your student is planning his courses for the following semester. He can see what he has completed and what he still needs. Then, working with his advisor, he is in a good position to plan his next class schedule.
Some students check their degree audits at several key points each semester. This gives them control over making sure there are on track. Your student might check his audit at the following times each semester:
- Before meeting with his advisor to plan the next semester’s classes
- After registering for classes to make sure he has made correct choices
- When grades are posted
- At the end of the add/drop period
- Anytime your student makes a change to his schedule
What if something looks incorrect?
Your student should check his degree audit regularly to make sure he is on track to graduate. But your student should also check his audit regularly to make sure that it looks accurate to him. If he sees something that does not make sense to him, or a requirement missing that he believes that he has fulfilled, he should speak to his Advisor or to the Registrar.
Whether the audit is generated electronically or by someone in the Registrar’s Office, placement of courses is on a “most likely” basis. There may be several courses offered by the college that could be used to fulfill several requirements. The computer chooses the “most likely” scenario for where to place the course. It is possible that your student may choose to use that course to fulfill another requirement and will need to request a “degree audit adjustment.”
For instance, imagine that an institution requires students to take one literature course and one international or multicultural course. Perhaps there is a course offered that is designated as both a literature course and an international course. But there may be a rule that students cannot use one course to fulfill two requirements. Perhaps your student took the course to complete his international requirement and plans a literature course for another semester. The audit may place that course under literature because most students tend to use it there. Your student would need to request an adjustment to move the course to international.
Or perhaps your student has received a waiver from his department to skip a particular required course because he has a great deal of background in that area. If the department has not completed the request or waiver form, or it has not yet been processed, that course may still show on your student’s audit as a requirement that has not been completed. Your student would then need to follow up to make sure that the request and approval are completed.
If your student sees something on his degree audit with which he disagrees or that he questions, it is important that he not ignore it or assume that it “will be taken care of.” One purpose of making the degree audit available to your student is so that he can take charge of his progress and path, keep track and make sure he graduates on time. It is important that he work with his advisor each semester, but responsibility for completing all requirements rests with the student.
A degree audit is a wonderful and useful tool. But like any tool, it is only helpful if used properly. Access to a degree audit gives your student the tool to take charge of his college career. Encourage him to make consistent use of this important tool.