And I have had 'Beauty School Dropout' from Grease in my head ever since.
February 9, 2011 6:51 PM   Subscribe

I dropped out of college with one class to go. How do I go about taking that one class four years later?

I had one class left to take in the second semester of senior year when I was offered a very good job in my field. I took the job and just stopped going to college. I was living off campus at the time, so I just...never registered for that semester. I couldn't afford it anymore, anyway. Now, four years later, I want to officially complete my degree. How do I do this? I honestly have no idea. Who do I talk to at the university? Any idea what this will cost? Where do I begin? I don't know who (else, besides mefi) to ask for guidance.

Possible complication: I was really, really terrible at school. Just awful. My transcript is...yeech. Will they even take me back? Can I take the class at a community college and transfer the credits? It's a low-level math class that I'm missing.

I don't care about walking at graduation or anything like that, I just want to close that door. Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Education (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This happens all the time--there's no need for embarrassment. You need to contact the Registrar (or your university's equivalent) to discuss the situation. GPA issues will vary depending on the institution. The more likely complication will involve matriculation requirements: if you've been officially dematriculated, then you may need to take a minimum number of credits in residence in order to rematriculate. Moreover, because you've been out of school for four years, some of your coursework may have officially expired. Some of this you should be able to find out for yourself via the university's website, as many schools now have their entire catalog/student guide posted online; I'd check there first to prepare yourself for chatting w/the Registrar. If your department had a head undergraduate adviser, then you might also want to be in touch w/them.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:00 PM on February 9, 2011

I would contact your university's registrar's office. If they can't help you, they should be able to direct you to office that can. Cost, etc. will depend entirely on a host of factors (whether it's a public vs. private school, cost per credit, possible registration fees, etc.) that no one here can know.
posted by scody at 7:01 PM on February 9, 2011

Call the admissions office and explain your situation. They have definitely had to deal with situations just like this many, many times before. Knowing people who have flunked out of university and then went back, I am sure that they would take you. It is probably as simple as registering for that one course and then applying for convocation. Forget about being embarrassed and just give them a call tomorrow. It will be a lot simpler than you think.
posted by Nightman at 7:01 PM on February 9, 2011

Who do I talk to at the university?

In my case, it was the advisor in the dean of my major's college.

Most schools will "take you back" if you weren't on any sort of academic probation. In most cases, you're not applying again, you already applied and got admitted, you just need to enroll in the upcoming semester for the remaining class.

It will cost whatever the university charges for the class (reg fees, tuition, lab fees, fee fees, and fees on fees).

Note the degree requirements may have changed since you left. There's a certain amount of time where you can still graduate under the catalog you started with, but after a certain point, you have to meet the requirements of the current catalog.

In my case, I could take the required course at any accredited university or my school (or other recognized by my uni) correspondence program. But it really depends on what class you must take.

So talk to an advisor in your major and see what they say.
posted by birdherder at 7:04 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

The college would probably love to have you graduate by the way. It's good for their numbers. At our institutions you'd talk to an advisor or counselor.
posted by idb at 7:19 PM on February 9, 2011

I'm in the same boat and I recently talked to the Advising office. Some schools have Open University or Extension programs and if the class is available through those programs, that's usually the best approach and it's cheaper. You only pay for the one class.

If those programs aren't available, then you will probably have to re-apply, in which case you'll need to talk to Admissions and the Department Advisor. This tends to be more expensive, application fee and you have to pay part-time tuition, student fees, and whatever other miscellaneous fees go along with being a 'regular' student.

Some schools will let you do it independent study depending on the class. This is situation is very, very common.
posted by shoesietart at 8:45 PM on February 9, 2011

Talk to Admissions and Advising. And don't feel funny about it. It happens all the time. Ask if you can do the course by distance or by transfer, if you aren't in the area.

FWIW, I know someone who went back to her university 20 years later and asked to finish her degree. Her sons graduated around the same time she did!
posted by acoutu at 8:50 PM on February 9, 2011

I took care of mine last year, and all it took was a call to my old department's advisor.

Call the department office, set an appointment, and show up. I was even out of state and did everything over the phone. Was able to register for online courses and take those; the very last course wasn't available online through my school so I took it at another school where it was and had it transferred. This was all set up and ready for me to go ahead with when I had my advising appointment. Make sure when you set your appointment you leave your full name, old student ID number if you know it, maybe your SSN, and maybe email your transcripts to the advisor in the meantime as well (if you can). The idea being to let them browse through your file and see what's what compared to current courses/requirements/etc. Then they'll hopefully be prepared to help you when you actually speak to them.

The crippling anxiety I felt about my situation and getting started doing this evaporated the moment my advisor laid out the plan for me.
posted by carsonb at 10:09 PM on February 9, 2011

A friend of a friend waited long enough to do this that the requirements for graduation had changed and he already qualified for a degree. Oftentimes you can use either the original requirements for graduation were when you first enrolled OR whatever they've changed to, whichever is more convenient for you. Just something else to ask about when you go back.
posted by gerryblog at 4:02 AM on February 10, 2011

I encourage you to get in touch with someone on the faculty of your old program. If you only need a couple of credits, you can probably enroll as a part-time or continuing ed student. It should be easy to get some financial aid for that.

I left my first, disastrous and drawn-out attempt at a degree with a 2.4 and one stupid requirement missing. Then I spent 4 years working full time in a completely unrelated job. When I couldn't do that job anymore, I decided it was time to finish my bachelor's. I looked up one of my old professors, who took me on as an advisee and helped me figure things out. I ended up with a new plan to take on some more difficult coursework and end up with a better degree. The professor eventually offered me a place in his lab as a grad student, and here I am.

Look up the requirements, have a gander at your old transcripts (cringe! I know!), and email a professor you got along with to set up a meeting. It's worth it.
posted by vortex genie 2 at 8:51 AM on February 10, 2011

Some schools offer correspondence classes, which is how I finally picked up my BA after leaving school 3 credit hours short of my degree three years previously. It is especially easy to accomplish given you're one class short and it is a common, lower-level course. Much harder to pick up a capstone class.

But, yes, talk to the school's registrar and/or the advising department for your major and the ball will begin rolling. Good luck!
posted by Fezboy! at 2:08 PM on February 10, 2011

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