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I have just completed my undergraduate studies in the United States this June. I have completed all degree requirements and have paid off all financial obligations. I received a scholarship for my masters for a school in Europe but I need to upload a scanned copy of my Diploma by the 15th of this month to be able to maintain the scholarship, otherwise I will lose it.

Last week I was told that the school would pre-order my diploma for me, however, when I went there today I was told that I would not be receiving my diploma until four weeks from now. None of the people working there seemed to care about my scholarship.

I understand that the school in not contractually obligated to provide me my diploma any sooner. How could I solve this problem?

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    Have you asked your prospective school if they can extend the deadline for you? Perhaps if you explain your situation they would understand.
    – adipro
    Aug 1, 2016 at 16:47
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    The problem seems to be at least as much the new school requiring early access to a physical diploma, rather than accepting a transcript showing your completion of all degree requirements. Aug 1, 2016 at 16:49
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    @PatriciaShanahan We don't know. Maybe the new school would accept any form of proof of graduation, to be scanned and sent (which seems more reasonable), and the old school refuses to provide it. Aug 1, 2016 at 17:57
  • It won't really help you, but there's a good chance they're not just delaying to annoy you. Diplomas probably need a special printing process (fancy paper, raised seals, etc) and so are usually printed in a single batch once or twice a year, possibly by an outside firm. They probably don't have the flexibility to move up the schedule for the whole batch, and a special order for a single print could be extremely expensive and/or logistically complicated. Aug 2, 2016 at 4:22
  • So before you complain about the lack of human decency, maybe you should try to find out what it is you're really asking them for, and think about whether your request really is reasonable. Aug 2, 2016 at 4:23

3 Answers 3

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Calm down

Getting angry at your university and/or its staff is tempting but solves nothing; if anything, it will make them less inclined to help you. Focus on solving the problem and being respectful to everybody, even if you don't want to.

In particular, it will help to act as if everybody involved is doing their best in good faith to help you, but may be unable or unsure how to do so. Don't treat them as though they're just trying to obstruct you, even if it seems like they are. Don't focus on the amount of tuition money you've spent; that's not going to seem like a relevant issue to anyone who can help, and it might be a distraction to you.

Understand the problem

At the root of your situation is the fact that you're stuck in the middle of a cultural misunderstanding.

In US academia, the diploma is strictly a ceremonial piece of paper. Nobody uses it for anything except to hang on the wall. If you want an official document that verifies your degree, you get a transcript instead.

As such, within this academic culture, there is no reason why anybody should be in a hurry to get a diploma, so university systems won't be set up to provide it on any particular timeframe; they'll schedule production of the diplomas in a way that is most convenient and cost-effective for the institution. This most likely means producing them as a single batch, perhaps by an outside contractor. Trying to do one as a one-off may well be quite expensive and/or a major disruption to their existing process. It's not necessarily a simple procedure that they're just putting off because they're lazy or uncaring.

However, my understanding (based in part on things I've read in this site) is that in European academia, the diploma is an important official document, which serves as the standard proof of a degree. Thus, a European institution would expect that anyone who graduates with a degree will get the diploma immediately, and the most likely reason for someone to be unable to show a diploma is that they didn't actually graduate.

I would focus on trying to help people at both universities understand this disconnect, and asking for flexibility from them in helping you navigate it.

Pursue all avenues

It seems like so far, you've been focusing on trying to get your university to speed up production of your diploma. But it looks like that could be a dead end. So try something else.

They've offered a transcript and a signed letter. Take it for sure. Then, I'd try to get the European university to compromise by accepting these documents as proof of your degree, at least temporarily. Try to explain to them that these are the standard documents that US universities expect to create and see.

Get faculty involved

It sounds like so far, you've been trying to negotiate directly with administrative offices on both sides. That's a good place to start, but at the end of the day, they don't have the same investment in your academic success that faculty do.

I'd look for any faculty at your current university who know you, and who might be able to make an impression with a letter to the European institution. For instance, is there anyone with contacts at the European university, or who at least is familiar with the academic system in that country? They might be able to help convince them to accept your alternative documents.

Likewise, get in touch with faculty in the European department; either someone in charge of your specific graduate program, or some other faculty member who you've had contact with. (If it's someone who has some familiarity with US academia, all the better.) Make sure they understand that this issue, if not resolved, might prevent you from attending their university at all. They went to the trouble to accept and recruit you; they'll be very disappointed if bureaucratic issues wreck it all. So they have an incentive to help.

Have a backup plan

Although hopefully you'll be able to get this resolved, there's always a chance that you might not. Life isn't perfect or fair, and unfortunate things happen sometimes. But your life will go on. Make a general plan as to what you will do if this problem can't be resolved and you don't get the scholarship. Attend a different program? Take a year off and apply again in a year? Follow a different path entirely?

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  • Very good advice and explanation of the underlying issues... Aug 2, 2016 at 19:15
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    Firstly, I was civil with my interactions with administration. It was very strange, I received a call from them today that they now have my diploma for me to come pick up when the day before they told me it would take up to 14 weeks. They came through in the end. Aug 2, 2016 at 23:37
  • @MunkhbilegSainbileg: Glad to hear it! Aug 3, 2016 at 16:43
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One thing to remember about the American University system: If your school is public, it's underfunded. If it's private, it's a business. Every school will tell you that their students are top priority, but in the face of budget cuts and other things that are imo just silly, they usually aren't.

Do you have an advisor at your current school that you can connect with someone at your next program? It might be good to find a way to get them just communicating directly with each other (with you being CC'd). If not, just keep as much documentation as you can, ask via email every day, and send copies of everything to your new school. You should also have an advisor at your new school - maybe they can help advocate for you in some way.

Another thing to consider - ask a lawyer friend to draft a letter to your Undergraduate institution urging them to speed things up?

Hope that helps.

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  • +1 for direct communication. The OP seems to be stuck between one school requiring early access to a physical diploma and the other not being set up to provide that. Aug 1, 2016 at 17:15
  • Its funny, my school complains about how it lacks money but it continues building expensive new facilities. I have tried talking to my adviser and they were of no help at all. I was told that they knew the vendor was horrible and that they were changing it next year as if that would make me feel better. It seems the best they can manage is to provide me my transcripts and a letter stating that I have completed my degree requirements. Aug 2, 2016 at 15:03
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    If it's private, it's a business. This is in fact false A large percentage of private universities in America are not businesses but rather non-profits (naicu.edu/about/page/…).
    – virmaior
    Aug 2, 2016 at 15:07
  • Non profit does not mean "not for profit". It's still a business. They still have bills to pay, teachers to pay, infrastructure to keep up, and a board of trustees to answer to. They absolutely do have profit margins and need to keep them up. It's very very rare for any private school to ultimately put students before what the board wants. Aug 28, 2016 at 18:46
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Try asking the head of your department if he can send a letter on university letterhead which states that you have received the degree and that the diploma will be available after (give date). If they won't accept that, perhaps the head of your department can get someone associated with the school itself (Dean?) to do so.

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  • I have tried that but it seems everybody is on vacation, everyone from the dean to the presidents of the university. The one person I have talked to did say that they would talk to the school in europe and try to work things out that way. Aug 2, 2016 at 14:59

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