Column: My missing internship requirement nearly kept me from graduating

In Columns, Opinion
A graduating woman with curly brown hair, bright eyes, and a wide smile proudly holds up a diploma
Danielle Evangelista/Daily Titan

Looking at my Titan Degree Audit, I knew I was getting close to the end of my college career.  I would see section after section appear with a green checkmark next to it, showing all my completed graduation requirements.  At the time, I thought I was ready, but it turned out graduation wasn’t so assured.

Cal State Fullerton spans over 241 acres, with 39,343 students enrolled in the spring 2018 semester and 57 undergraduate degree programs according to CSUF, so it’s easy to get caught in the shuffle.

Part of the graduation process requires students to see a graduation adviser.  I woke up at 5 a.m. and fought morning traffic so I could be on campus before 8 a.m.  I went to the advising office and got in line behind about five other students who were waiting to see someone.

It took about half an hour of waiting before I could speak with my adviser.  She scrolled through my Titan Degree Audit, and after a minute of examining her computer screen she asked me if had enrolled in my internship course.  I hadn’t but I had done two internships.

My adviser said enrolling in the internship course while I was interning was a graduation requirement.  There was also another option that opted to replace the internship requirement; however, allowing me to pursue that option would not be up to her.  She got up and began leading me down the hallway to the internship advisers office and directed me to their assistant.

Shaking with panic, I explained my situation, doing my best to convey my desperation. The only cognitive thought I had was “I need to graduate!”  The assistant was kind and he was doing his very best to be helpful, but what he was saying was not what I wanted to hear.

The final decision maker was the internship adviser and I had yet to speak with her.  The fate of my graduation laid in her hands. I went through the day holding tight to that silver lining. Nothing was set in stone until she looked over my options and made a final decision.

I left the advising office, head in my hands and tears in my eyes, feeling defeated. I was mad at the system for being difficult and disappointed in myself for overlooking such a huge graduation requirement.

Solemnly, I sat through two back-to-back lectures. The only thing I could think was “I am going to be in school for another semester.” I didn’t want to fall further in with the statistics. It takes 53.5 percent of CSUF students six years to graduate, and only 13.6 percent of students graduate within four years, according to College Completion, a website that in part analyzes data from the National Center for Education Statistics to understand trends.

I wanted to beat the odds.  I wanted to be out in five years.

During my third lecture, I received an email about the internship course that read: “Korryn, come by after class.”  Overwhelmed I ran to the internship advisers office and she called me in immediately. After a bit of debate and lengthy explanations she decided to replace my internship requirement with another high-level course I was already enrolled in.

And then she spoke the words I had been waiting five years to hear: “You’re ready to apply for graduation.”  I thanked her profusely and walked out with tears in my eyes. I went through the rest of the day excited, nervous and absolutely terrified by the idea that I would soon be leaving the comfort of my college life and be expected to enter the real, working world.

When I got home I logged into my portal and clicked a button I had only dreamt of clicking before:  apply for graduation. I made it through the process in less than a minute, paying the $115.00 graduation fee and $3.16 processing fee. Hesitantly, I clicked submit and watched my screen as the transaction processed.

I felt a mixture of frustration and joy. College is a time of growth, learning and excitement.  In college, we are meant to find ourselves and figure out how we are going to spend the rest of our lives.  That’s what convinced me to come here and spend four plus years putting everything we have into making it to the end:  graduation.

Graduating, the most essential part of college, was frustrating and difficult.  At the same time, I realized that people are doing it every semester. I know I’m not the only one who has struggled and felt alone in the process.  Despite how difficult it was I have put in my time, I have grown, and now, after five years, I am ready to graduate.

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