When I was in community college (2016), I wasn't on good terms with the school. I was harassed occasionally and complained about it very forcefully to representatives of the administration. I passed my classes, but didn't do homework and had an average GPA. In my last semester, I decided to stop going due to continuing issues with the faculty.

After a few months, I got a diploma in the mail. I called them and asked about it and they said it was all on the up and up, and that the VA representative had taken it upon himself to transfer some of my military experience into credits (my remaining requirements were very basic, like P.E.), which is what pushed me over the edge.

I still have a hard time believing that I could graduate without knowing it. The VA rep was new and had recently replaced the old one, and I'm stoked he took it upon himself to transfer those credits over, but I am curious if this is a normal thing? Has this ever happened to anyone else? Am I worrying too much? I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I also am afraid there could have been some mistake.

The reason I'm worried about it now is that I want to go back to school for a CS degree in the near future now that I've matured a little and have a better idea of what I enjoy learning. If there's any chance I need to be worried about my previous degree I want to know about it.

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    It's most likely that the CC did this in order to get credit for another graduate. One potential downside for you is that if you do enter a four-year degree program and try to get federal financial aid, the credits that you earned at the CC could count against your lifetime limit of credits paid for by federal financial aid while probably not being helpful towards earning your bachelor's degree. – Brian Borchers Feb 4 at 3:29
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    I'm at a loss what you hope to gain by trying to get your college to invalidate your degree. Say 'thank you', then move on. – Valorum Feb 4 at 7:41
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    I don't want anything of the sort I just want to do an integrity check now so I'm not blindsided later in life. – some_guy632 Feb 4 at 7:53
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    Please clarify: Are you concerned that your degree may get invalidated in the future? I'm not sure if this is normal or not, but even if it is exceptional, why why it be a problem? – Mefitico Feb 4 at 16:46
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    Are you in California? Under recent state legislation, California community colleges have massive financial incentives to award as many degrees as possible. At my school, basically every engineering major graduates with at least 3 degrees, because the counselors know that the requirements for physics and math degrees are a subset of the requirements for engineering. It's not uncommon for students to graduate with 6 degrees. – Ben Crowell Feb 5 at 0:57

I still have a hard time believing that I could graduate without knowing it.

Me too. I would request a transcript and perhaps investigate to see whether "transferring military experience to credits" is something that routinely happens. It would be nice to document your concerns and get a written response from the college saying that everything is on the up-and-up. When documenting everything, I suggest not going into detail about your issues with the teachers; that is a separate issue.

I am curious if this is a normal thing? Am I worrying too much?

I can say that it is entirely abnormal for well-ranked, 4-year colleges in the US. However, community colleges are a different beast. While I can't say anything for sure, I can speculate:

  • They may have wanted to boost their graduation rates, and looked for "almost-done" students that they could convert to "done"
  • Perhaps your VA rep is just an awesome guy who helped you out.
  • Maybe there were legal issues with the harassment case.
  • Or, it's possible that something improper was done, and it will eventually cause problems for you.

Short answer: I suspect all is OK, but I would still try to document what happened and get the college to state in writing that your degree was not awarded in error.

Edit: I do agree with the other answers that you should proceed with your application to 4-year schools; don't let this slow you down. I just think it's worth protecting yourself...for example, the diploma-generation system could be different than the degree-verification system, and they might disagree about whether you finished...best to have the whole thing documented in case something comes up.

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    Granting academic credit for military experience is a very common thing these days. Many institutions are also trying to improve their graduation rates by identifying students who have unknowingly completed requirements for some degree (perhaps not the degree they wanted) and then offering them the chance to graduate. – Brian Borchers Feb 4 at 3:39
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    To combine this with the concerns from the “don’t kick a sleeping tiger” answer: you can phrase your request in a way that doesn’t mention any doubts about the propriety or validity of the degree, but instead just as a request for detailed documentation in writing. “I’d be grateful if you can supply a full formal transcript showing how all credits were transferred/awarded, in case I’m required to provide such details in my further degree applications or at some other point down the line.” – PLL Feb 4 at 10:25
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    I suspect this "Perhaps your VA rep is just an awesome guy who helped you out. " is this case. Upvoted the answer, and would like to add: The VA Rep is frequently a real butt-kicking kind of person. Typically at the intersection of three separate bureaucracies, this is the person who knows how to make things happen. And veterans are typically clueless about this sort of thing, because we know ONE system, not three. As soon as I saw this question, I thought back to my old VA Rep, and immediately thought "Perhaps your VA rep is just an awesome guy who helped you out!" – Haakon Dahl Feb 5 at 0:38

I think it is generally a mistake to kick a sleeping tiger. What will you gain if you are told it was a mistake?

I'd ask for a formal transcript and see what it shows. If all looks well, then use it to apply to a four year program and see what happens. My best guess is that you will have no particular issues about this, other than a poor gpa. If you then learn there is a problem you can seek ways to overcome it.

If you get in, all is well and it won't come back to haunt you in the future. Just apply yourself more diligently in the future.

If you dodge a bullet, don't ask for a re-shoot. For less violent imagery, maybe you just won the lottery. Spend it wisely.

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    I figure it's just better to find out sooner instead of getting snuck up on later, but your reply is re-assuring. – some_guy632 Feb 4 at 0:20
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    I'm pretty sure that the admission to a 4 year program would be a one way door. If this were a master's degree in question, I'd think differently about it. Partly my answer is based on your wanting to move on soon. Just do it. It doesn't really matter to you whether it is a normal thing or not. – Buffy Feb 4 at 0:23
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    This. Take the associates and use it for what you can. 4 year schools can be fussy about transfer credits anyways, but that is more based on courses than associates (they don't care). And maybe it helps you on the job market instead. Nothing wrong with just moving ahead. You did a lot of work and glad that something came of it instead of you just flaming out. – guest Feb 4 at 0:33
  • I don't know if this is a common term in the US - but it's a common phrase in the UK: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/let_sleeping_dogs_lie – UKMonkey Feb 4 at 18:28
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    @UKMonkey it is well understood in the US, but as a new parent I prefer "let sleeping babies lie" – emory Feb 5 at 0:56

If all you were missing is stuff like PE, I don't find it weird to have military count and seeing you finish. Many friends didn't have to take university PE because they were climbing, doing martial arts etc. Additionally, once we were changing system from the old one to Bologna, some were asked to just submit whatever minor thing relevant for the minor courses to get the lowest passing grade, or even had irrelevant stuff like PE and humanities ignored, so they could finish before the deadline. All as a courtesy of the students' office and nice people working there (Students graduating or not wouldn't change a thing for them, university or anyone else.)

If the new guy is nice and wants to help students, he will sort out such minor things and let you finish, considering you were nearly done. Even if there is nothing he or college would gain from that. The only really weird part is that they just sent you diploma - in all cases I know, the final interaction had to come from the student, even if it was (paraphrased) just to sign the paper. But well, you got diploma, consider everything done and be happy you have that paper.


It's a great story in that it happened without you having to do anything. It's not that unusual to get some field credits for military service. During outprocessing, they counsel people coming out to try to get some credit for A-schools, etc. Varies what you can get but not surprised that it helped you at the juco, getting the associates.

The one thing I have seen more often is the service member needing to be on top of things to get the credits. Little bit of a learning here--what if you had not had someone looking out for you--how many people are not getting all they can get.

Good luck, going forward.

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    What is an A-school? – Azor Ahai Feb 4 at 15:20

I'd like to point out that you don't need an Associates Degree (AA) to get into a 4-year college. A high school diploma is sufficient. The fact that you have an AA shows that you can start and finish courses like an adult, and that counts well in your favor. But the 4-year college won't care so much about the degree itself, but only the individual credits they transfer in. If there is a PE course they don't like, you just won't get credit for it. (This is unlikely, since in the current climate, colleges want to push through as many students as they can as quickly as they can. They'll give you any credit they can get away with.)

If something wonky happened and somehow your AA is revoked, you won't get kicked out of 4-year college. Because it wasn't a requirement for admission.

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    This is not universally true. Some community colleges have transfer agreements with some 4-year schools that grant automatic coverage for a particular (large) packet of general-education courses. Where I am, there's a very large incentive for students to finish the degree for this reason. – Daniel R. Collins Feb 5 at 0:55
  • @DanielR.Collins Yeah, we have "core curriculum" in Texas. But still, it's not the degree, but the packet of courses. I'm pretty sure P.E. is not part of the core. – B. Goddard Feb 5 at 3:02

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