Degrees, majors and minors have many different course requirements, which are listed on the relevant worksheet. At some point shortly before you graduate, the department and the school go over your worksheet(s) with a fine-toothed comb and make sure that you are on track towards graduation. If you are planning to graduate in spring (which is typical), your senior audit will happen near the end of the fall semester; if you are planning to graduate in the fall, it will be near the end of the spring semester. At this point, you will have received the Advance Registration results for your final semester at Penn, so it should already be clear which classes you will have taken by your intended graduation date; however, at this point it is not yet too late to make changes, since you can still drop classes or additional ones. So this is an ideal point to get feedback on your worksheet.
What is a senior audit?
Senior audits start at the department level. A member of the advising team will pull together your worksheet(s), your transcript, and information about any approved petitions. They will then go over your requirements carefully, checking that each is satisfied, and fixing any issues that are immediately fixable (such as Technical Electives that are acceptable but not yet approved on the worksheet, or petition results that are not yet reflected on the worksheet). A similar process then happens at the school level (in the case of SEAS, this is handled by the RAS office), and you will receive an email to notify you of the results.
If you do not receive an email with the results of the audit by the end of your penultimate semester at Penn, you should follow up with your academic advisor. This sometimes happens, e.g., because your graduation date in Path is wrong (see below).
Common problems discovered by senior audit
Below is a list of problems we see the most often:
Unapproved substitution. You are trying to satisfy a requirement with a different class than the one that is listed on your worksheet. Such substitutions are sometimes possible (e.g., to replace a basic course with a more advanced one), but they require either an approved Core Course Substitution Form or an approved Petition for Action. If you have not filed the relevant form or it was rejected, we will notice it during the audit. If you need to file the form, you must do so right away. (Approval is not guaranteed, however; it is much better to file any necessary forms before you take a class.) If you did file the form and it was approved, but the result hasn’t been noted on your worksheet, we will simply make the change at that time.
Missing course. You may have forgotten to satisfy some requirement, or you may have misunderstood what it meant. Ideally, this kind of thing would have been discovered much earlier, in a conversation with your academic advisor or the CIS Advising staff, but if you haven’t discussed your worksheet with them recently, the issue may only be discovered during the audit. You may then need to take an extra class in your final semester.
Course does not count as expected. This sometimes happens in the Social Science and Humanities category. Please refer to the relevant rules and check whether the course ought to count or not (i.e., whether Path is wrong, which does happen). If the course really does not count, you may need to take an extra course in your final semester. Sometimes a petition can be used; please consult with your academic advisor.
Outdated degree program or graduation date. At some point, you may have decided to switch to a different program (say, from CSCI to ASCS, or vice versa), or to extend your graduation date, but you may not have filed the necessary paperwork. If so, you will almost certainly fail the senior audit for the original program. The solution is easy: just file the necessary paperwork to get your degree and/or your graduation date corrected. Changing the degree requires a Change or Add Curriculum form. To change your graduation date, please contact the SEAS registrar.
As you can see, many of these issues can be avoided early if you talk to your faculty advisor or the advising staff regularly. Please do meet with them every semester!
Failing senior audit
Although the email sounds scary, the problems are very often quite fixable - either by filing some forms you may have forgotten to file earlier, or by taking an extra class during your final semester. The important thing is to contact an advisor right away, and to be proactive about fixing the problem as soon as possible. If you do these things, you can almost certainly still graduate on time.
Does a passed audit mean that I will graduate?
Not necessarily, for two reasons. The first is that there are some problems we cannot detect; for instance, you may be pursuing a minor or a concentration but you forgot to actually declare it. We can only check the requirements of degrees/majors/minors/concentrations that you have officially declared. So please make sure that all of the goals you are pursuing actually do show up in Path!
The other reason is that, even if you are on track at the time of the audit, things can still go awry before graduation. For instance, you may accidentally drop a class that you needed, or take it pass/fail when that was not allowed, you may fail a class, etc. A passed audit only means that, to the best of our knowledge, you were on track towards graduating at the time of the audit.