Ah, college. One of the best times of any young, 18-year-old’s life. Well, fast-forward about three or four years down the road, throw in a few failed classes and many, many all-nighters fueled by coffee and desperation, and you are now a college senior desperate to get your years as a undergrad over with while still trying to hang on to your youth. Unfortunately, you were told those three words no undergraduate wants to hear: “You’re not graduating.”
Up until this point, you have had a pretty awesome time in college: getting away from home for the first time, starting off fresh in a place where you don’t know anyone, meeting amazing new people, maybe joining a few clubs or organizations and occasionally getting into some shenanigans that your parents most definitely would not approve of. But like all good things, it must end eventually. Part of you is itching to finally be out of school and on with your life, while the other part is trying so hard to hang on to the good times and the carefree attitude.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had a bad case of “Senioritis” since you were in kindergarten, and college is no different even if everyone you know tells you that you need to take it more seriously. Even though you know you’re not a good student, and you know that you fell a little behind, it’s still never easy to hear your advisor tell you that there is no way—no matter how well you have perfected your ugly cry and puppy eyes-you can graduate in four years.
With this information comes a wave of emotions, some that even I have not quite figured out yet, but it get’s better (then worse) but then better again. And thus, I give you the nine stages of coming to terms with not graduating on time.
1. Complete Devastation.
You have been screaming #classof2016, #classof2017, #classof2018, since you came to college as a little, naive freshman. Now that’s all gone. Now all you can think is, "What do I do now? I won’t get to graduate with all my friends! All my friends are going to leave me! I have to watch everyone I know graduate without me!" It seems that everything you have looked forward to for the past three or four years is now over. Gone.
Immediately you think, "What are my parents going to say? They’re definitely going to kill me! Can I even afford an extra year (or two) of college?" Panic only lasts a moment or two, but let me tell you it’s a very scary stage.
You begin going over your entire college career in your head, from classes you took, classes you dropped, to assignments you did and extra study time you skipped that may or may not have made a difference. You immediately blame yourself for this situation you have found yourself in, and from personal experience, it is the worse stage to be in.
Immediately, you wonder what people are going to think when you tell them that you’re not graduating on time. You think that they’re going to automatically assume it is because you’re not smart enough or you didn’t try hard enough or you are not a good enough student. When I was told I would not be graduating on time, I immediately thought that this is what people are going to think of me. And it's true. People will assume that you just weren’t a good enough student to graduate on time. Little do they know that there are many reasons why someone might not graduate on time. It could be that they have more than one major; or it could be that their major is one of those harder, more tedious ones like education or athletic training; or it could have been something personal.
For me, it was because I transferred. I had to complete all of the general education courses that my new school required that my last did not. On top of that, the 30 credits I did take to stay on track at my other school did not all transfer. Along with transferring, I also switched my major. Switching your major when you’ve already completed part of another—classes that will now never do you any good—and coming into your new major at a time in your college career when most people are almost done will definitely set you back quite significantly.
For those of you who are graduating on time, but know someone who is not, be respectful. Do not automatically assume that they just weren’t smart enough to graduate on time.
So you call you parents, and they end up being a lot more understanding than you anticipated. Of course, they’re a little disappointed, but, hey, they’re not screaming at you and disowning you. Dodged a bullet there. You talk to your friends, and they get it. They remind you that people, on average, take about five years to complete college, and college is designed to do at your own pace. You don’t need to be restricted to these four years, cramming to get things done. You talk to your classmates and some of them are even in the same boat as you. You’re not alone! And look at it this way, if your GPA is maybe not where you want it to be or you always wanted to take on a minor, now you have the time to do so!
Everyone "claims" they can’t wait to leave this place, get on with their life, be an actual adult, but you know they’re all full of it. No one actually wants to be an adult: pay their own bills, be responsible, or get a real job. Lucky for you, you have a whole other year (or two) to put it off. Plus, the first three or four years of college were great, so now you get an extra year to have just as much fun. Plus, everyone knows that senior year is one of the best socially. You’re finally over the age of 21 and can go to bar/purchase alcohol (which you’re going to need a lot of if you’re going to stress yourself out for more than four years). It’s like have two senior years!
7. Devastation, Panic, Regret and Embarrassment all at once.
Soon it’ll be May. The May that was supposed to be your time. The time when you were supposed to accomplish one of the biggest things anyone could accomplish: graduating. Seeing everyone you graduated high school with post all over Facebook and Instagram how excited they are to graduate, getting their caps and gowns and participating in all the fun activities that come along with graduating college is heartbreaking enough, but on their graduation day, when you see them post pictures of themselves in their cap and gown with the caption “I did it!” or “I made it!” is devastating. Of course you’re happy for them, but you can’t help but feel sorry for yourself.
For me, the worst part was seeing all the people that I started out my freshman year with, at the school I now do not currently attend, graduate. I was so happy for them, but I was so devastated that I couldn’t be right there with them. This is where the regret set in for me. If only I had stayed at that school rather than transferring maybe I would be graduating with them right now. But transferring was the decision I made, and I would not change it. On top of that I watched someone I knew graduate with her Masters degree in four years, so in the time it has taken me to not get a degree, she graduated with her Masters. You can imagine how inadequate I felt.
Immediately you panic. Everyone you know is actually getting their life together. They’re actually moving on, getting a job, buying a house/car, getting engaged/married. You think am I ever going to get my life together?
You’re soon embarrassed that maybe your former classmates will notice, as much as you do, that you’re not graduating. What will they think of you? Will they think it was because you weren’t smart enough? As much as we like to say that we don’t care about what others think about us, we definitely care.
8. Back to excitement.
While everyone you know who is graduating cries because they’re not ready to leave or are going to miss all of their friends, you know you have an extra year (or two) to spend at the school you love with the people you love. Not only that, but while they now have to try to act like an adult you get another year (or two) to be irresponsible and drink excessive amounts of alcohol. And yes, you will most likely rub it in their face.
You have finally come to terms with the fact that you won’t be graduating in four years. You understand why it happened, you parents understand, your friends understand, you’re really excited to be in the place you love for a few more years, and you still have friends who may not be graduating or are younger than you so you won’t have to go at these next couple of years alone.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that finding out you’re graduating late is easy because, as you probably already know, it’s not. At all. Graduating college is a huge accomplishment, and whether you do it in four, five, or even eight years it is still just as big of an accomplishment.To my fellow Super Seniors: we are in this together!