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Pro Tip: Locking in Your Catalog

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The only way to guarantee a credit is applied as you predict is to lock in the college catalog. In this post, I’ll explain what that means and how to do it!

What does it mean to “lock in” a catalog?

The academic policies in effect at the time a student accepts the enrollment agreement (aka matriculates) with the college will govern that student’s academic relationship with the college. In short, the college catalogs/policies that are in place at that time will “lock” and your teen will follow those through until they graduate college.

What is the advantage of “locking in” a catalog?

It means you’re not going to have to chase changes, and that’s a peace of mind. A perfect example happened in February of 2015 when College Board’s set of CLEP Literature exams were all unexpectedly downgraded from 6 college credits to 3. As you can imagine, this upset many people! Students whose degrees were already in progress were “locked” and their transcripts reflected 6 credits, while new students who enrolled after that date each received only 3 credits.

When can we “lock in” our catalog?

If your teen is enrolled in a college taking courses through a dual enrollment program, it is almost certain that your teen can NOT lock in their catalog yet. Some exceptions may exist for dual enrollment programs that allow teens to complete an associate degree in high school, but for the overwhelming majority of people, you are not eligible to “lock in” until you’ve graduated high school and met a college’s enrollment requirement. For most colleges, that means paying them some money. Simply applying to the college is not going to be enough, but you can ask a college to tell you exactly the step(s) that you must complete. It might be paying a deposit, registering for a class, etc.

Once we “lock in” can we delay registration?

The answer depends on your college’s policy, but you can be sure they do HAVE a policy and you should look it up. If you can’t find it, email the college and ask them to tell you how you can locate it in the college catalog or publications. Be sure to look for any differences between delaying when your teen STARTS (deferring admission) vs someone who is already enrolled and decides to take a BREAK (leave of absence or inactivity). Those two events are going to be handled differently. As a general rule of thumb, waiting to enroll/register means you won’t lock in until you do enroll/register. If your teen is enrolled but takes a semester off or experiences a period of inactivity, you can expect their catalog to reset. I believe understanding your college’s protocol BEFORE you enroll will help you always make wise decisions.

What is a reset?

When your catalog is reset (after a period of inactivity or leave of absence) the previous degree requirements are void. If a student withdraws and then re-enrolls, the academic policies in effect at the time of the re-enrollment take precedence. This resetting is what sometimes costs a student a lot of time and money, especially if they attempt to return to a college years later. I personally know two people who left college with 2 classes remaining but upon returning to college as an adult were required to take almost a full year of extra classes. College policy almost never works in your favor, so if you or your teen encounter a situation where the catalog gets reset, it may be to your advantage to ALSO look at other colleges.

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