While students have completed the scheduling process for spring semester, many other students were prepared to take that walk to the stage for their diplomas and start a new chapter of their lives.
Winter commencement, on Dec. 14 in Heiges Field House, granted more than 500 students their ticket to find their dream jobs and the lives they’ve worked so hard to accomplish over the past four or so years. For several students, this semester marks more than four years that they have spent on a college campus, or multiple campuses. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 59 percent of students seeking a bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution completed that degree within at least six years in 2011.
“We obviously encourage students and work with them to provide them with the services they need to graduate in four years … it’s a decision by the student as to when they want to graduate based on a number of different factors,” said Peter Gigliotti, executive director for university communications and marketing. Students may have transferred schools, changed majors or minors, been set back by scheduling difficulties or failed or dropped a class they needed in order to graduate on time.
Kacey Buffington, a supply chain management major, received her diploma in December. Although she was close to graduating, Buffington chose to change her major from accounting to supply chain management. The decision delayed her graduation date, since she had to fulfill the requirements for the major. Buffington added that level of difficulty of some of her major classes limited her credit load during some semesters, but relieved her workload.
Gigliotti stressed that Shippensburg University strives to give students the resources and support they need to graduate according to their schedule. Students are given a general outline to follow when they choose a course of study in order to complete that major on time.
“It’s really not a scheduling issue per se, it is what the students decide what they want to take when they want to take it, and that will ultimately decide when they graduate” he said.
For communication/journalism major Kyle Stum, transferring along with a few other bumps along the way set him back a semester, but he graduated in December as well. Transfer students regularly lose credits due to conflicting academic plans between schools, especially state to state.
“I’ve also only been able to schedule 12 credits a semester since I’ve been at Shippensburg due to budget cuts on classes, crowding, prerequisites and restrictions to minors,” Stum said.
Although students may spend more time on campus then they had expected, Gigliotti assures students that their graduation in winter is just as important as a spring commencement ceremony, which may seem a bit more glorified by the general public. “There is no difference in the excitement or the atmosphere. When a student graduates, it is really a special moment not only for the student but for the student’s family.” The only difference between the spring and winter commencements are the locations.
Senior Days, an event for soon-to-be graduates, gives students the opportunity to take care of all the new graduate must-haves. Students are encouraged to purchase senior photos, senior class rings and even diploma frames ahead of time. Tara Richardson, assistant registrar, informed students about how to receive their academic transcripts after all their courses were complete.
“Students that complete the remainder of their requirements during the winter term will also be eligible to graduate in January,” Richardson said. There is no ceremony but these students are allowed to walk during the December commencement ceremony.
“Graduation is the celebration ceremony on what you expect to accomplish,” Gigliotti said. Students do not actually receive their diplomas at the commencement ceremony. Diplomas are sent in the mail at the completion of students’ courses.
There may even be a benefit for “super” seniors. Most businesses work on a calendar year and may have more openings during the wintertime, than they would mid-year for graduates in the spring. For some majors this is not the case. Schools follow the academic year calendar and may be more willing to hire new teachers during the summer. Gigliotti is hopeful that businesses will always be looking for new employees and that a graduate in December has as much of a chance in the professional world as a spring graduate.
“I don’t think there is a late time to graduate. I think there is an appropriate time. Some students may not want to take as many classes as others. It may take them longer to go through (school), so their graduation time is appropriate for them. There is no “late,” there is only what is best for the student,” Gigliotti said.