How to get to the finish line on time

How to get to the finish line on time

While I’m still riding the high of last week’s Spring Convocation ceremony, it hasn’t escaped me that there’s a cohort of our students who learned late in May that they were not eligible to graduate. I want to take a moment to acknowledge you and what you experienced, and offer some insights into the programs and processes we have in place to help you avoid getting such devastating news.

How Graduands are Approved

A series of events happens during a very tight turnaround period in May, to ensure students have completed their requirements to graduate at Spring Convocation (this year held on June 10).

First, students who intend to graduate in the spring must submit an Intent to Graduate application, usually in February of their intended final semester, although these applications continue to be accepted until the day before the Senate meeting during which graduands are approved. This year the Senate met on May 25.

At the end of the semester, once final grades are in (this year grades were due by May 4), all requests to graduate are reviewed by the Office of the Registrar. Every single record of each student that has requested to graduate is reviewed during a two-week timeframe, and students are notified as quickly as possible regarding the outcome. It isn’t possible to conduct these reviews earlier, because we need those winter semester grades in order to ensure students have met their requirements.

Understandably, if you’ve learned within a couple weeks of Convocation that you’re not graduating, you’re likely going to be pretty upset. We get it. But it’s simply not possible for this process to be tightened up any further. So how can we work together to prevent this from happening? We have a number of programs available to you to prevent getting such bad news.

Request a Graduation Assessment

Are you entering fourth-year this September, and hoping to graduate next spring? Now is the time to request your graduation assessment! Any student can request this at any point — you don’t even have to wait until you’re in fourth-year. An assessment tells you what your remaining requirements are for graduation. If you are going into fourth-year, we recommend you ask for an assessment early to give you lots of time to plan what courses you need to register for, to finish off those outstanding requirements. The assessment is conducted by the Office of the Registrar, and they ask you to allow for a four to six week period to process the information for you.

Drop in to the Student Advising Centre

Our Student Advising Centre staff have been getting a bad rap on social media lately. They have a tough job. They exist to help you figure out what you need to succeed. They will connect you with whatever program, service or academic advice that will help get you to the finish line. But the reality is, sometimes they have to give students some not-so-welcome news, and this can be tough for students to hear.

We meticulously document everything that happens in our Advising Centre so you have access to the notes of every meeting and correspondence with the office. You can find the advising notes in My Records. Follow the link from Student Planning to Plan & Schedule. Under that selection, you’ll see three tabs; your advising notes are on the Advising tab, with the most recent notes appearing first. Notes are entered either during the meeting with you, or immediately afterwards, and are an accurate reflection of the advice you received on a specific day. They are meant to assist you with your future planning, whether we’ve identified your outstanding program requirements, created a semester plan with you, advised you about an issue you’ve brought forward and the notes include referrals if any were made. The notes cannot be altered once entered.

The Advising notes also help us measure our efforts, but more importantly, they help us know what advice a student received and when. Because of this, we can tell you that out of the cohort of students who learned they were ineligible to graduate this spring, about 35% of them had no record of having sought academic advising. We also document all cases of misadvising, of which this year there was a single student who had applied to graduate and was misadvised (and that student graduated). Student Advisors have a thorough understanding of program requirements, university policies and resources available; they are a great resource for students. Like everyone, they are human, and — thankfully very rarely — errors happen. Advising won’t shy away from an error and they do everything in their power to make it right.

What we’re doing to improve

We’re working on a number of initiatives that will continue to improve student awareness of their requirements to graduate:

  • The My OCAD U Degree Audit function is available for students who began in 2013 or later. Currently the Liberal Arts & Sciences requirements are outlined within the degree audit, but we’re working on building out this complex functionality as part of ongoing development of our Student Information System.
  • We’re working on embedding Liberal Arts & Sciences requirements in our online Program Overviews. As well, the Student Advising Centre publishes check lists for every program.

In closing…

Students who learned they still needed a 0.5 credit to graduate were able to request to participate in convocation if they were registered in that missing 0.5 credit course. This process, available every year to students who find themselves in this situation, is outlined in the Graduation Approval Process policy. Requests are filed through the Office of the Registrar and are considered on a case-by-case basis.

If you found you were ineligible to graduate, the fee you paid with your Intent to Graduate application will be applied to the next graduation cycle.

Many students who need to finish Liberal Arts & Sciences credits are already registered for summer courses, but for those of you who are waitlisted for full courses, the Faculty office will work with you to assist you in the completion of your requirements through summer offerings. Other students have requested approval to complete their final requirement(s) on Letter of Permission at another university (e.g. by taking an online course). And some of you plan to take additional courses in the fall, and may graduate in the fall cycle.

The Vice-President Academic is working with the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the Office of the Registrar, the Student Advising Office and I to continue to improve the processes, programs and systems we have in place to help you make it to the finish line on time (in fact, it’s one of the goals of our Strategic Plan). Please don’t hesitate to share your ideas with me as well, either through a blog comment or an email to dfisher@ocadu.ca.