Before the “Pomp and Circumstance” What you need to do before you graduate

After years of hard work, you’re probably itching to graduate and dive into your plans for the future. But don’t start proudly humming “Pomp and Circumstance” just yet. Before walking down the aisle at commencement, be sure that you reach official graduating status by following these steps.

Meet with your academic adviser: Even if you’re absolutely sure that you completed all the courses you need, you should double check that everything is OK. Your adviser will be able to answer any questions you have about graduating and tell you if you are missing any courses or if there are problems with credits from another university. Be sure to have his or her e-mail address and phone number in case you think of any questions after meetings.

Stay updated on your loans: If you have loans, you need to make sure that you are prepared to pay them back after you graduate. Educate yourself on your options. Qwesha Coutou, debt management counselor, said that students preparing to graduate need to know their balances and the amount of loans they have.

Coutou said that students can go to the National Student Loan Data System’s Web site, www.nslds.ed.gov, to see all the federal loans and grants they have received. Coutou said that the site also has lender contact information and that it is important to know who loan lenders are.

Coutou said that students are required to start repaying their loans six months after their degree is conferred. The standard payment plan is 120 monthly payments in 10 years, but students can opt to extend the plan up to 25 years. They can also choose a graduated repayment plan, which has an interest rate increase every two years.

Students who cannot make payments can qualify for a forbearance to either stop making payments temporarily, make smaller payments or temporarily make smaller payments, extending the time given for major payments, said Coutou. Students can also qualify for deferment, which is similar to forbearance but does not accrue interest like forbearance.

Coutou said that students may also be interested in consolidating their loans.

“With consolidating, you just make one payment,” she said. “Everything is lumped into one payment, and you just have to pay one lender.”

Coutou warned that if a student fails to make payments for nine months or 279 consecutive days, the student goes into default, which shows on his or her credit report. While in default the Department of Education can take students’ tax refunds. Since a default status shows on credit reports, it may also prevent students from buying a car or a house. Also, students cannot receive loans for graduate school until they end their default status by making six consecutive payments.

Apply for your degree: Even if you complete your college or school’s requirements for graduation, you won’t officially graduate until you apply for your degree.

Shawn Martin, coordinator of degree conferral and diplomas, said that conferral is the university’s approval of the diploma.

“When they apply, it goes to the college first,” said Martin. “The college has to approve the application for graduation. Then the college sends it to Enrollment Processing Services. They’re the ones that actually award the degree.”

Martin said students can apply for graduation anytime since degrees are conferred at the end of every month. The degree is approved when students complete their program requirements.

After the degree is approved, students are mailed their diplomas, their transcripts and their NSU Alumni Association membership card within the next month.

Martin said that students who change their addresses or move should send an e-mail to diplomas@nova.edu stating this change.

Know what commencement is all about: Commencement is the time to formally celebrate your achievement, but there a few things you should be prepared for.

Devri Pratt, coordinator of commencement activities, said that each college has its own requirements for students to walk at commencement. Also, students do not have to have their degrees conferred to walk at commencement.

Pratt said that once students complete the requirements of their college to walk at commencement, they will be e-mailed instructions to submit an electronic commencement participation form at NSU’s com-mencement Web site, www.nova.edu/cwis/registrar/commencement.html.

“Completing the CPF reserves a spot for the student in the appropriate commencement ceremony,” Pratt said. “But candidates should refer often to NSU’s commencement Web site for updated and additional information.”

Pratt said that NSU offers commencement ceremonies in the spring for undergraduates and in the summer for graduate students. The ceremonies are held in the BankAtlantic Center. Each college or school has its own commencement Web site where students can find the ceremonies’ dates and alternate dates. The dates are also on NSU’s commencement Web site, and Pratt said that students should consider these alternate dates when planning to attend the ceremony.

“The finalized dates for commencements are dependent on the BankAtlantic Center’s schedule of events,” she said. “The center’s management has assured us that we will receive a minimum 30-day notice of any mandated change.”

Graduation is the culmination of all the hard work, long hours and sleepless nights you committed to obtain your college degree. Follow these steps, and you’ll enjoy it even more, knowing that everything is completed on the big day, and you’re ready to step into your future.

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