Essential Graduation Checklist

In all the excitement (and terror) of your final semester, it’s easy to overlook some of the important final steps in your academic journey. Whether you’re about to graduate in May or just want an idea of what to expect a few semesters down the road, this essential graduation checklist is a must-read.

Take your exit exams

Bad news: you have to take at least one extra test during your last semester since MTSU requires all of its students to take a general education exit exam in order to graduate. Good news: there’s no minimum score required to graduate, and your score won’t be reflected on your transcripts. It’s just a measurement of the general knowledge of each MTSU graduate and is used by the school to improve its gen-ed programs. In addition to the gen-ed exit exam, some departments also require their students to take a major field test before graduating. Much like the gen-ed exit exam, the score from your major field test won’t go on your transcripts and won’t affect your graduation. It’s just used by your department to determine the effectiveness of the program’s learning experience. To check whether your program requires a major field test, check out this list, and to schedule your exit exam or major field test, click here. (Pro tip: schedule them as early in the semester as possible. You don’t want to be hassling with either test during midterms or finals). 

Schedule a graduation review appointment

Towards the beginning of your last semester, you should get an email from your graduation review advisor requesting to set up an appointment. Definitely, take this step. Your graduation review advisor examines your transcripts and class requirements to make sure that you’re on track to graduate after all. These meetings only take 10-15 minutes, but they can save you some major headaches and prevent a last-minute realization that you’re missing an elective or course substitution form.

Pick up graduation regalia

At MTSU, the cost of graduation regalia is covered by your student fees, so there’s no need to worry about ordering a cap and gown. Graduation regalia can be picked up from Philip’s Bookstore in the Student Union building and is only available for a limited time period each semester. For May 2018 graduates, regalia is available from April 27th through May 4th; for specific days and times, click here and scroll down to “Caps and Gowns”. Definitely plan on picking up regalia sooner rather than later, especially if you’ve scheduled a graduation photo shoot or plan on decorating your cap.

Drop by during Senior Day

Grab some snacks and a free, hard-earned “MTSU Alumni” T-shirt at Senior Day! Head up to the student union ballroom on April 10th from 11:00-2:30, and revel in your upcoming alumni status. If you like, bring along your resume to have it reviewed and improved by Career Services representatives, or check out a booth about applying to graduate school. Or just take a bunch of selfies in your new alumni T-shirt. (You know you will).

Request letters of recommendation

I know, your main priority right now is probably just keeping your head above water for graduation. It doesn’t hurt to think a little ahead, though, and let’s face it: in a few months, you’re going to be embarking on a job hunt, if you haven’t started already. A couple of letters of recommendation from your favorite professors can really make your resume stand out, but you need to go ahead and ask for them while all your stellar attributes are still fresh in your professor’s mind, and they’re more likely to say “Of course!” than “Who are you again?”  Don’t forget to update your Linkedin profile as well.  This is one of the first places that potential employers will likely check before deciding if you are a good fit for their company.  They can also write your digital recommendations on Linkedin so don’t be afraid to connect with them and send them an update when you land your first job!

Take senior pictures

You know it’s graduation season when the weather gets warm and people start swarming the Horseshoe in caps and gowns, with photographers in tow. Senior pictures are a definite must, and you’ll probably want to schedule your photo shoot to take place a few days before graduation. This will give you ample time to get the pics just the way you want them, so you won’t be stressing about whether Grandma’s camera is making you look good right after the graduation ceremony (and besides, let’s face it, you’re going to be starving after the ceremony. The last thing you want is a two-hour photo shoot). Remember to pick up your regalia as soon as possible so that you can get the perfect pictures beforehand. Not sure where on campus to take your pictures? Check out “Best Places to Take Pictures at MTSU” for inspiration.

Decorate your cap

MTSU graduate sitting in auditorium with decorated cap that reads Next Stop Grad School.

Photo by J. Intintoli, MTSU Photo Services

If you’ve been scrolling graduation posts on Pinterest or Facebook, you’ve probably come across tons of creatively decorated caps. Decorating your graduation cap is a great way to express your individuality, and it helps family and friends spot you in the sea of graduates. I highly recommend throwing a cap decorating party: grab the friends you’re graduating with, make a Hobby Lobby run, order some pizza and get to work. Just be sure to follow MTSU’s rules for cap decorations (yes, it’s a thing): “decorations must be tasteful, cannot include lights, and be no more than 1 inch in height”.

Set aside time for friends

This is definitely one of the most important steps towards graduation. Let’s face it: you and your friends are about to conclude the four-year journey you’ve taken together, and your lives will probably take you in different directions very quickly. It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of your last semester, but remember to leave some time for making a few more memories with the people who have helped you survive college. Visit your favorite coffee shop or bookstore, take a long walk around campus, decorate your caps or take pictures together, and do that one thing (yes, there’s always that one thing) that you’ve always talked about doing together but somehow never got around to. Make memories that will last!