I am faced with something of a dilemma. It is not a serious matter; there are no dire consequences no matter which direction I choose to travel. It’s more a matter of expectations and anticipation versus patience and perseverance. In the first place, I have been working very hard toward a goal that has proven to be elusive for many years. Due to a great deal of patience and perseverance, I am almost there. However, my expectation was to be there just a little bit sooner. Through planning, followed by the work necessary to realize my goal, I anticipated graduating at the end of this semester.
Graduations, like so many other ceremonious events, entail not just the pomp and circumstance of the moment of commencement, but all that the ceremony celebrates. The accomplishment and the time, the work and the sacrifice, all of the component parts that represent the completion of a bachelor’s degree. The document means much more than a cap and gown. It represents that a specified course of education has been satisfactorily completed.
It is not uncommon for some loose ends to be left at the tail end of a college career. Many graduating seniors still have an odd requirement left to complete. Perhaps it was overlooked, maybe there wasn’t time or availability was such that it couldn’t be scheduled before the commencement ceremony. It happens all the time. At Sacramento State, if a student is within six units (usually one or two classes) of completing his or her degree, he or she is permitted to participate in the graduation ceremony. Due to an oversight, I am six units short.
When I discovered this “error,” I was more than just a little disappointed. I have been chipping away at this college thing for more than two decades and diligently for the past four years. I thought I was done. After spending three or four days investigating causes, options and effects, I found a place of acceptance. Although I might have been able to lobby/coerce/manipulate the system into awarding my degree this semester, I didn’t go there. I want to know, for myself, that I met every requirement - even if that means returning for two classes in the fall.
Besides, I still get to “graduate” in the spring, right? The rules state very clearly that I can participate in the commencement ceremony as I originally planned. I don’t even need to rationalize or justify my reasoning, the rules allow for it and a large number of graduates this coming spring will not yet have actually graduated. When I say that there is nothing wrong with that, I mean it and I believe it. It’s just not for me. As much as I have been looking forward to this ceremony and despite the ability to legitimately participate when I originally planned, I need to wait.
There is one other teensy-weensy factor that comes into play as well. As a matter of fact, it was the straw that tipped the scale in favor of a fall graduation. My grade point average is currently 3.72. (UPDATE: After 15 more units at 4.0, my GPA is now 3.8) If I were to finish with that GPA, I would be graduating with honors - cum laude. But for those who have not yet finished, honors cannot be awarded at the commencement ceremony. Honors are awarded when the degree is, but not with any ceremonial recognition. If I can increase my GPA by just .03, I’ll graduate with even higher honors - magna cum laude. With just four weeks to go this semester, I am carrying a 4.0. I can get there; I know it.
There are other reasons, mostly personal, that I want to wait. Once I accepted that I screwed up and that the screw up would cost me six months, I consoled myself with the party that would still be on. However, the more I thought about it, the more hollow it felt. I don’t want to cheapen the experience knowing I haven’t yet completed my degree. I want to walk with honors. I don’t want to be handed an empty envelope. When I graduate, I want to be a graduate.