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I recently signed an offer letter with a company for a sales position. I have a Bachelors listed on my resume, but the position did not require it, only listed a Bachelors as preferred. I filled out all of my background check forms yesterday and out of curiosity I went to my college website to see how to they would verify my graduation.

I walked in graduation in 2011 and for all intents and purposes believed I had graduated, but upon taking a look at my transcripts last night it looks like I am ONE class short of graduating. Maybe I must have failed and wasn't notified?.I applied for graduation and was accepted and as I said, I walked.

I am certain my background check will come back that they could not verify my degree. Do I wait until this happens and tell my recruiter I'm just as shocked as she and hope that the offer isn't rescinded? I plan to take this class now that I know I need it and the position doesn't necessarily require the degree. How can I minimize the damage from this so I have a better chance of keeping the job offer?

closed as off-topic by gnat, Jim G., IDrinkandIKnowThings, UnhandledExcepSean, Joe Mar 21 at 14:49

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    I must have failed and wasn't notified?- really? Don't you get a result sheet / certificate? – Sourav Ghosh Mar 21 at 10:54
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    @SouravGhosh I moved out of my home a week after graduating and assumed it was sent there. I actually asked my old roommates if it came several times to no avail and just moved on without it because I already had a job and lived in a new city. The paper itself didn't mean much to me as I had already walked in the ceremony. – jlar2007 Mar 21 at 11:00
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    @jlar2007 but now you understand that the piece of paper certainly is important, right? Talk to someone in the university to make it right. – Sourav Ghosh Mar 21 at 11:11
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    The answers here are surreal. It is common in state universities in the US to a) not present an actual diploma when one walks, b) have graduation requirements change in mid-program in such a way that you're not sure if you're grandfathered in or not, especially if communication is poor between students and administration. Also, the piece of paper is decidedly NOT important; diplomas can be faked, and the only proof is the word of the university, which will sometimes refuse to divulge that information if your bill is not paid in full. I would bet most employers don't bother to check anything. – schadjo Mar 21 at 13:56
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    I remember taking all courses that were outlined to me by my advisor. After being accepted for graduation and walked in the ceremony I didn't bother to check my final grades, because honestly I didn't care. I was young and dumb. As a previous commenter explained, in the US you aren't send your degree for weeks or months after graduation. I had already moved and was working a full time job. It wasn't important to me at 22 to have the paper. I assumed I graduated bc my application for graduation was accepted. My transcript states the class was failed so I did not receive credit. I plan to finish – jlar2007 Mar 21 at 15:02
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The ceremony of graduation is less important. I assume that even a stray cat might be able to walk it :D

Getting serious again, it is of highest importance for you to clarify your graduation situation. Get in contact with your university and ask for clarifications:

  • about the papers / diplomas;
  • about the graduation status;
  • about the information in the portal, stating that you are one class short.

I am just puzzled: After about 8 years (2011-2019), you still do not have the proper paperwork from university? This kind of attitude is what can create much bigger problems with any employer.

My friendliest advice: hurry setting things in order with university / graduation, as well as any other stuff assumed, but not guaranteed, to be OK.

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    In the US, the only actual paperwork I ever received from my university were tax and student loan documents mandated by law. Everything else was online. The university would purge your student account after a semester once you were graduated/inactive, so if anything important was there, it disappeared after a relatively short time-- no email, no student account, etc. Given that employers never ask to see an actual physical diploma and many people don't feel compelled to display it in their home or office, I don't think the OP was particularly incompetent or clueless for this oversight. – schadjo Mar 21 at 14:01
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    @schadjo just because you don't have a student account or email, doesn't mean they don't have extensive records... They will certainly have your name, year, subject recorded; and probably a load of what you may consider personal information; just because they might one day find that they need it to defend themselves from a lawsuit from the student - or some other equally dull event. Worse - if you're right and they do delete you; then you have no evidence you ever graduated. Walking away from a course with no evidence you completed it is; I would argue; incompetent. – UKMonkey Mar 21 at 14:25
  • But this isn't about failing or not failing a class; it's about obtaining or not obtaining a degree. I would agree that not knowing if you failed a class is incompetent, but not so much not knowing if you graduated based upon receipt of a paper diploma. It's strange how the OP suggests they "may" have failed the class. – schadjo Mar 21 at 14:34
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    Strangely (at least to me) in the US, it is very common to let people walk if they're within x credits of the graduation requirement so they can be part of the main spring graduation ceremony, instead of a small summer or winter ceremony. That said, people walk who never graduate on time (or at all) on the regular. – schadjo Mar 21 at 14:36
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    I agree that there's nothing particularly strange about this attitude. I have a bachelor's, a master's and a PhD. I have no clue where my bachelor's diploma is or if I even still have it. I have never had my master's diploma and my PhD is presumably somewhere in a drawer in my parent's house. I haven't seen it in years. Only one employer (the French state, which is famous for its love of bureaucracy) ever asked to see any of them. In fact, the only reason I even have a physical PhD diploma is because the French state needed to see it. – terdon Mar 21 at 14:50
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Two already good answers. but I think there something vital still missing.

If I were a hiring manager and you told me this story, my first thought would be not about the degree itself but: "This person must be either extremely incompetent or sloppy. How the blazes do you NOT KNOW whether you have a degree or not".

Sorry to be blunt: you screwed up big time: Your degree is LITERALLY a piece of paper that says you have a certain qualification. Walking the ceremony means diddly squat by itself. Actually, the point of most graduation ceremonies is to give you that piece of paper, just with some pomp and circumstance around it. It's puzzling that this didn't happen at yours.

Yes, you have to fess up to your hiring manager & HR, otherwise you come a cross as a liar. But a big part of the message needs to be "how did that happen, how did I miss that for 8 years, and here are the concrete steps I've already taken to fix it".

So start with the university. Get on the PHONE with them right now, figure out your status, create a plan to address any gaps as needed and have the university confirm in writing the current state and the plan.

Take that to your hiring manager, apologize profusely and hope for this best. Your approach should be: "Yes, I was inexperienced and sloppy 8 years ago, but I'm not anymore so I can be trusted to get things done"

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    Just to note, some schools do just give a tube or generic roll of paper in the ceremony, your actual degree arrives in the mail, my nephew's university was one of these. Not caring about actually getting that paper though, I've never heard of that. – pboss3010 Mar 21 at 12:15
  • Some schools don't even give tubes. When you've got a graduating class of many thousands, the ceremony ends up being, "Everyone in program X, stand up!" – dwizum Mar 21 at 13:28
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    @pboss3010 I think I got that piece of paper, as I have a memory of seeing it, but I don't think I've ever used it for anything. If I dreamed I saw it it would be consistent with my memory. I'm nevertheless believe I graduated. I couldn't tell you where that piece of paper is. I don't think anyone in my entire career has ever double checked that I graduated (nobody has ever asked me for permission to check), so if I'm wrong, I wouldn't have noticed. – Yakk Mar 21 at 13:29
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    This answer is spot on. Explaining to an employer how you were not aware of your education requirements is certainly going to be one of the tougher hurdles here. If you managed to botch your education like that then I would be quite reluctant to assign you any projects which involve thinking more than once. – MonkeyZeus Mar 21 at 14:43
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    I don't believe they're incompetent or sloppy. The school administration is if they were allowed to walk and went years without telling a student they didn't actually graduate. You need to think, why would someone even bother to check at that point? It would be unnecessary and weird. – Chris Mar 21 at 14:52
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In my part of the world, the university faculty will complete a "course completion check" before assigning a student to a graduation ceremony. Hopefully, this is what you mean by applying for graduation. For this situation to occur, several consecutive errors need to be made by faculty staff. Thankfully, both the course completion check and the graduation attendance will leave a paper trail.

You need to do two things immediately – firstly, contact your university and notify them that there is an issue with verifying your degree and that you may have been allowed to attend a graduation ceremony with missing academic requirements. Secondly, you need to notify your employer in writing that you have been made aware of an issue with your degree, that you are in the process of seeking confirmation from your university, and that you offer to take unpaid leave while this matter is investigated. Allow your employer to take whatever action they deem necessary.

A best case scenario, is your university is able to use their paper trail to determine they are at fault rather then you, and they write you a formal apology and explanation for you to provide to your employer. This may not prevent you from being terminated, but if you act professionally throughout it will prevent you being accused of fraud and suffering extreme consequences within your industry.

  • I have a slightly different point of view to some of the other answers when it comes to your perceived incompetence or malfeasance. I have many friends in tertiary study who are atrocious at paperwork and could feasibly be caught up in a situation like this. It reflects poorly on your ability to work in an office environment, but it's possible to be genuinely good at sales without being stellar at paperwork, so I will leave you the benefit of the doubt. – Bardi Harborow Mar 21 at 14:22
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    At my university, you were allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony as long as you needed 6 or fewer hours. This was so you could walk in May but finish your courses over the summer. All students were handed an empty diploma on the graduation stage and it had a note inside explaining that degrees were mailed after verifying completion of coursework. – Brian R Mar 21 at 14:34
  • @BrianR well culturally that's quite strange to me, but if this is the case, it creates quite a problem for OP. My advice to be extremely candid remains – it's the only thing that ever saves you in situations like this. – Bardi Harborow Mar 21 at 15:02
  • I thought it was fairly common. For example, the UT Austin liberal arts college says "If you wish to walk in a spring commencement ceremony and are not applying to graduate, you must: (1) Have graduated the previous fall or will graduate in the upcoming summer. (2) Be within 15 hours of completing your degree. liberalarts.utexas.edu/student-affairs/Graduation – Brian R Mar 21 at 15:07
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I've been in a very similar situation. I'd passed all my courses, left uni, applied for jobs, got them, and started working. Ten years went by, I thought nothing of it. Nobody checked my credentials, and I didn't suspect anything was up.

Then one night I was having a few beers with a friend, and he'd got a job at my old uni. I asked him why I'd still not got any paperwork for finishing my degree, thinking it'd probably been a mix up and it was sent to the wrong address or something. It turned out that I'd owed the uni some small amount of money (I think it was like £20/$30 or thereabouts) and so hadn't graduated. I was mortified. Anyway, I sent a cheque to the uni, and got it all sorted out (well, except for getting the micky taken out of me by said friend)

I suppose what I'm saying is:

  1. Don't fret. Apparently it's not something that's always checked, so it may not affect you anyway.
  2. Get it sorted out now. Write to the uni, see what needs to be done to get it sorted out, and do that as soon as you can. Eventually someone will check, and that won't look good on you. If it's only a trifling thing, you can get it sorted out. Might be an admin error, might be that you need to go back and resit one exam or something. You'll be fine.

Good luck with the job hunt :)

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Now this is a tough situation, but the only thing I can think of is that you should tell them as soon as possible.

You may lose the offer not because you are one class short from your degree, but because for them you LIED in your resume.

Explain the situation, tell them that you are shocked as well because you weren't notified. Bachelor is not mandatory for this position, so you were going to get accepted. I think you should just try to explain the situation to them before they discover it themselves, it's better than being considerer "lying" in your resume.

Good luck.

  • Actually, TO LIE implies to have intention. If there was no intention to deceive, it should not be a (big) problem. – virolino Mar 21 at 11:01
  • @virolino yes, that's why I recommended that he goes and explain the situation to them, if he didn't then he would be considered "lying intentionally" to boost his chances, since bachelor is a plus for this position. – Noblesse Mar 21 at 11:06
  • Unless they have bad intentions, they will be intrigued, but they will not assume a lie. Not from the beginning, at least. However, OP seems to have bigger problems than that. – virolino Mar 21 at 11:08
  • We're talking about humans and human nature. If you explain yourself it means that you were aware and tried you best, but if they knew about something about you from another source that means that you were trying to hide this face and there's something suspicious, so how can they trust that person ? The problem here is how they'll react to this change, OP is one class short, there's not much left for him to get his degree, so I don't think they'll make things complicated for him. But again it depends on how they think and their immediate needs – Noblesse Mar 21 at 11:15
  • I mostly agree with your statement. However, if you read again, OP did not care to have his proper paperwork from the university. In 8 years!!! Being one class short or having some discrepancies in the information can be "ignored". Not having proper documents even after 8 years... – virolino Mar 21 at 11:18
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How have your other employers handled it?

Have you left this off your resume until now? From your post, it sounds like you know you're a single class short.

You lied to your potential employer

They are almost certain to yank the offer, not because you don't have a degree, but because you knowingly lied to them.

You should either leave the degree you don't have off your resume or finish it

Call the university immediately and figure out how to finish out your degree. As you're likely to have your offer rescinded, now is probably a good time to re-enroll.

  • 2
    As I read the question, the "knowingly" just came last night, so it wasn't a lie at the start. – glglgl Mar 21 at 14:10
  • I haven't applied for a job in my field in a very long time, I was working jobs that didn't require an education. So this has never come up. – jlar2007 Mar 21 at 14:57
  • And I do know NOW but I didn't know when applying. – jlar2007 Mar 21 at 14:57

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