Breaking the 4 Year Myth


So you didn’t graduate in 4 years. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Many college students don’t receive their Bachelor's degree in four years. Be it taking classes we don’t have to take, having to retake classes, not getting into the program we wanted to right away, or, if you’re like me, switching your major (I did 4 times )While it might seem like you failed because you couldn’t make it out in 4 years, my victory lap year (that’s what I have chosen to call my 5th year of undergrad) was probably the best year of my college experience!

Once you stop pressuring yourself to graduate in four years, a world of opportunities opens for you. There is no longer that stress of trying to cram in all those classes and extra curriculars. After four years of college you pretty much have the flow of how things go, so you can better manage your time for all those fun things you haven't done yet such as:

  • Take classes you’ve always wanted to take (I did Japanese, it was way harder and not nearly as fun as I had expected).
  • Get more involved on your campus to leave a lasting impression.
  • Developed stronger relationships with faculty and staff  You never know what those relationships might offer you in the future- such as serving as a reference for a job!
  • Take part in wonderful opportunities you never thought you would have- this was my reason for loving my 5th year so much

During my victory lap, I became an Orientation Leader, which made me fall even more in love with everything about my campus. I learned what it was like, at least a little bit, to work in higher education. I learned better how to manage conflict within a group. I ran for homecoming. I received a bid from a fraternity full of wonderful men whom I would have been proud to call my brothers, had I not had life get in the way of me being able to accept my bid. I was able to continue my mascoting activities for another year, which is probably the most fun job I have ever had. I was able to run and get a leadership position with BACCHUS Initiatives of NASPA co-leading the Student Advisory Committee. And finally, I was able to develop even stronger friendships and bonds with the great students and staff who walk the halls of Saginaw Valley State University.

While my experiences with my 5th year might be different than what you may experience, you have that choice. To either feel defeated by the fact you didn’t complete a ‘four-year’ degree in four years or accept that you are just taking longer than was intended. If you feel saddened by the idea of having to be at your university another year, try looking harder into what your university has to offer. I will give you a bit of advice I always gave my incoming freshmen, get involved! Even though this 5th year MIGHT be your last year, you can still gain valuable experiences by only being a student organization for only one year. Rush that fraternity/sorority you have always thought about joining, join that club you always wanted, get some friends and play intermurals, run for homecoming (you might fare better than I did!). Use this opportunity you have been given to really enjoy college and get the most you can out of every day.

While my 5th year taught me a lot, I will end with the biggest piece of advice I can give to those who aren’t finishing in four years. You aren’t a failure. Even if you did everything right and according to plan you had and still didn’t make it, you didn’t fail. Your goal is to graduate, not get the record for completing your bachelor’s degree in quickest amount of time. Whether you get your Bachelor’s in 7 years or 3 years, you still have a degree. So enjoy your college experience, whatever it looks like.