A bit of background on this - I had this job interview in the fall of my senior year of college (on-campus interview). At the time, my expected graduation was spring 2019, and I had that on my resume. Got the job offer in December with a start date of summer 2019 - after graduation. However, some things happened (not gonna go into detail) senior spring, and I didn't finish my senior thesis, which was a requirement for my major to graduate. I did finish all my course requirements, though.

My college told me I could finish my thesis after graduation and get my degree once I did. At the time, I was heartbroken because I thought my company would rescind my offer. I decided to be honest, though, and told HR that I hadn't gotten my degree, but could get it in the fall. Surprisingly, they were okay with it. Just told me to send the degree once I got it. The people I was working directly with never knew this to my knowledge; only one person at HR.

However, I wasn't able to finish my thesis in time, so I didn't get my degree still. I was really worried I would get contacted by HR any day asking for my degree, but didn't hear anything from them.

Now it's late February, and I just got an email requesting my degree. I'm freaking out because I still don't have it, though I still could get it at any point if I just finish this thesis. I'm really worried about disappointing my team; I've actually been doing really well in this job for the past several months.

Really not sure how to move forward. I ignored the message today but I definitely have to respond Monday. Do I come clean and tell them I'm still working on getting my degree, but that I don't have to go to any more classes or anything? I do have my full transcript still. I really don't want to make too much up and dig myself a deeper hole. But I'm not in a spot financially where I could be fired and survive for more than a month.

Would appreciate any advice on this.

  • 8
    Have you made significant progress on your thesis since September? How close is it to completion now? Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 3:10
  • 5
    You could have communicated before september when it became clear you are not going to finish, again. Commented Feb 22, 2020 at 19:05
  • 1
    Do you have written proof that once you complete your thesis, you get your degree and that this is not bound by a deadline in the near future (i.e. that it is plausible that you will be able to finish in good time)? Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 4:10
  • 1
    Monday has come & gone. Can you tell us what happened? Enquiring minds want to know
    – Mawg
    Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 7:04
  • 13
    @MawgsaysreinstateMonica heh something tells me the OP might not be prompt at a written response...
    – bharal
    Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 10:24

5 Answers 5


This might depend somewhat on the size of the company, industry, and location, but generally if you are a valued member of your team your managers aren't going to want to lose you.

In the workplace, honesty is always the best policy, there is no benefit to trying to stall or mislead here, it will only serve to stress you out. Remember the HR person is not losing sleep over this, they are just doing a mundane task of chasing paperwork and documentation.

I would approach your manager or direct supervisor with this information right away (first thing Monday), and ask their advice on how best to position yourself in your response to HR. This brings them into the discussion and sets them up to come to your assistance/defence if needed.

Assuming your position requires this degree, make a plan now that lays out exactly how and when you will complete your thesis. Be prepared to present that to the company, and this time stick to it.

If you are having trouble forcing yourself to sit down and complete your thesis, figure out a strategy that will help you do this. Maybe you could pay a high level tutor or general 'life coach' to sit with you weekly and help keep you on task, maybe you have a friend or family member who could help, maybe it's just about setting aside time in your calendar and going to a library. You may still be eligible to avail yourself of counseling or advisor services offered by your school, maybe they can help.

Ultimately, most companies will work pretty hard to keep a good, productive, honest employee. This will probably all work out ok.

  • Unless there’s a regulatory requirement that demands you have a particular degree (e.g. working as a nurse without a Bachelor of Nursing, or as an engineer without a Bachelor of Engineering).
    – nick012000
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 22:58

Do I come clean and tell them I'm still working on getting my degree, but that I don't have to go to any more classes or anything?

Yes, of course.

Explain that everything except your thesis is complete. And, assuming you are actually planning to complete your thesis and get your degree (as you had implied to them), tell them when you now expect to complete your thesis.

Then - complete your thesis and put this worry behind you! It will be better for this job, and better for all future jobs.


So, I want to make sure I get this right.

  • 17 Months Ago: Final Semester starts (Fall 18). Your thesis is assigned.
  • 16 Months Ago:
  • 15 Months Ago:
  • 14 Months Ago: You get a job that is somewhat expecting you to graduate in a few months
  • 13 Months Ago:
  • 12 Months Ago: ... thesis still not done.
  • 11 Months Ago:
  • 10 Months Ago: Thesis still not done! You've got 1 month left...
  • 9 Months Ago: Whoops. No graduation. You didn't finish it on time.
  • 8 Months Ago: Hey, that's okay. Just complete it and we'll give your diploma in 2 months.
  • 7 Months Ago:
  • 6 Months Ago: Still no thesis?
  • 5 Months Ago: ... and still no diploma.
  • 4 Months Ago: Company isn't pressuring me on this. So let's forget about it.
  • 3 Months Ago: I mean, who actually needs a college degree, amiright?
  • 2 Months Ago:
  • 1 Month Ago:
  • Now: Still no thesis. Still no diploma. And it turns out the company cares after all.

Are you kidding me?


I can't emphasize that enough. This is your course of action:

  1. Finish your thesis. Literally every minute you are not sleeping, working, or eating, you are writing your thesis. No excuses, no delaying, get the *#&%^#@ thing done! Like, by this weekend.
  2. Contact your college and grovel for them to accept it a year late and still let you graduate.
  3. Contact your employer and apologize for the delays on this. Tell them that the college is reviewing your senior thesis still, but you're expecting to hear back from them within X days.

I mean, holy freaking snot buckets. Forget for a second about this specific moment in time. Do you honestly think, 5 years down the line, that you'd say, "Well, I don't think missing out on a college degree really hurt me all that much. And it saved me 40 hours of time writing a silly thesis."

No! You'd say, "What the heck was I thinking?! I let a bit of laziness and procrastination cost me a college degree, when all I needed to do was sit down and write one lousy paper!"

  • 5
    +1 for the timeline. Really put the situation into perspective, even if this wouldn't be my choice of words. Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 18:25
  • 5
    This is a great timeline. OP is going to be lucky if the College even accepts the thesis this late.
    – Shadowzee
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 22:16
  • 7
    @DoJobGooder - Agreed. And I generally don't use that sharp of terms... but this is just... ridiculous. I'm just imagining going up to a 23 year old and asking, "How would you like to get an accredited college degree, for absolutely no money, and all you have to do is spend 40 hours writing a paper?" I mean, at this point, the OP (or the OP's family) has spent tens of thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of hours/effort... and they're throwing it all away because they can't find the willpower to write one last paper. That's like running a marathon and willingly stopping 15 feet short.
    – Kevin
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 22:33
  • 2
    Hi Kevin. Reading between the lines, I think OP has struggled to write their thesis due to depression. Telling someone who is depressed to "just ####ing do it" is not productive, and is more likely counter-productive. This answer is not useful.
    – AndyT
    Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 10:52
  • 9
    @AndyT - You're trying to make a psychological analysis by 'reading through the lines' of an internet post, arriving at a conclusion nobody else did (nobody else has mentioned depression) and then simply announcing "this answer is not useful."? Besides, even if it was depression, OP managed to complete their college courses. They managed to get a job. They managed to excel in that job for over a year ("I'm doing really well"). There's zero evidence to think that they can do all of that through a crippling depression, but they can't spend a few days writing a paper.
    – Kevin
    Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 16:55

Tell them you're done with all the classes (add a proof!) and are working intensively on your thesis, which you are planning to submit by ... at the latest.

Then complete your thesis by the date and send them your degree.

  • Hey I just read my comment back, it's really brusque, sorry about that. Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 13:34

There are rare cases where a degree is required. Like some job can legally only be performed by someone with a degree. If that is the case, and the company can't have someone else doing this job, you may have to get the degree or leave the company.

In many cases having a degree was taken as evidence that you must be good at something, so you get hired. The degree isn't actually important, just the fact that you were clever and hard working enough to get it. At your point in the company, that shouldn't matter anymore.

And then of course it may be the case that HR just has to fill out a form. It has been recorded that you plan to get a degree, so 18 months later they want to change this to "has a degree" or "has no degree", but it doesn't matter really.

In either case, you tell them that you have no degree (because its the truth and you can't really claim you have one) AND ask what this information is used for.

(An extreme case I heard of was a top engineer who everyone wanted to promote to the next level, but the company had rules that he needed a degree. Nobody cared, but these were the rules. The company found a "degree factory" kind of university where for $10,000 he got a totally legal and totally worthless degree without doing any real work for it; the $10,000 was less than his raise for the next year. )

  • Cracking story! I've heard of candidates resorting to so-called "degree mills". I've never before heard of the company sending an employee to one, and shelling out $10K, to get over their own internal hurdles!
    – Steve
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 10:56
  • Sorry, I think he paid himself - but even with that money gone, the raise for the next year alone more than paid for it. Personally I’ve seen situations where it was so difficult to buy required tools that they used all the tricks in the book. With full knowledge of higher management.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 14:40

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .