BHSU Students Blaze Trail to Graduation

Students count down the months, days, and even the hours until their graduation date. The trail to graduation is clear and easily marked to reach the summit of obtaining that diploma. However, many students do not stop to read the trail markers or forget to complete the instructions that the signs provided. This leads to students rushing to fulfill obligations for graduation, or worse yet, not being able to graduate when they believe that they should.

The trailhead to graduation begins during a student’s final semesters at Black Hills State University. The first task could be to start a graduation preparation checklist. For most students, contacting their adviser to help guide them is an important first step.

“I would encourage students to reach out to advisors or faculty members that they’re comfortable with,” said Becky Cornell, a student support specialist for BHSU — Rapid City.

Once a student has established a plan with their adviser, it is important to make sure that their program evaluation on WebAdvisor and other details on their transcript are correct and up to date. Janette Hettick is a recruitment/retention specialist for the College of Liberal Arts. When checking the program evaluation, Hettick suggests making sure that “all requirements [are] “Completea�� or “In Progress’ two semesters prior to your graduation.”

“Many students are not aware that they need 120 credits in order to graduate with a bachelor’s degree,” Dawn Kennedy, a registration officer for BHSU-Spearfish.

Completing all of the general education, major, and minor requirements does not always mean that a student has completed the 120 credits required to graduate.

When a student is sure that these requirements are satisfied, they begin to plan for the actual graduation day and their lives immediately after.

Both Cornell and Kennedy agree that the number one thing students forget about or are not aware of is that all students, including those in Rapid City and online, must apply to graduate through the registrar’s office the semester before they are intending to graduate. So, for those seniors who expect to receive their diploma in May, they must apply by December of the previous year in order to do so. Students can call 605-642-6092 to begin this process.

Another task is to make sure there are no holds or fines on the student’s account. These will prevent a graduate from obtaining official transcripts. Transcripts are especially important for those planning on obtaining higher education.

“Pay your parking fines!” said Hettick.

All BHSU graduates have specific exit requirements. These vary by major and emphasis. They could be “a test, a portfolio, a show or project, or some combination of these,” said Hettick.

These projects are required to be completed for graduates to receive their diploma.

Prior to becoming a graduate, students should begin to write their resumes and search for jobs.

“Some jobs are willing to hire students when they know the student is close to completing their degree,” said Cornell. “Advisers and professors are happy to help students by reviewing resumes, cover letters, and to do practice interview questions with them.”

Utilizing the networking tools of LinkedIn and other resume builders is important to get hired following graduation.

Hettick also offered advice for building a resume.

She said, “This is another process that really should have started when you started college. The work you have completed in class, with campus clubs, volunteering with community organizations, at internships, and in any part-time work should be included. That means you should be mindfully doing things throughout your time at the University, and keeping a resume up to date so it’s not a daunting task at the end. The retention adviser in your college can help with applications, resumes, cover letters, or interview skills. There is also an opportunity to attend career preparation workshops before the career fair next semester.”

After all of this has been accomplished, students can look for their graduation letter to come in the mail four to six weeks before the ceremony. It will list the next steps to take in order to graduate, including cap-and-gown information and other frequently asked questions.

Dealing with the stress of a pending graduation can be difficult. BHSU offers counseling services for students needing help to work through those overwhelming feelings.

When students begin to doubt their ability to finish school or become increasingly frustrated, Hettick encourages them to use the resources and to keep their eyes on the prize — the degree. However, that alone is not what makes attending BHSU worthwhile.

“The education and skills you pick up here not only assist you in your professional life, but also enhance your personal experiences and can make you a more engaged citizen,” Hettick said.

Getting to the summit takes persistence and staying on the trail can feel complicated. Making sure to read the signs, asking for help, and being prepared will ensure that students will reach the summit and obtain their diplomas.