There you are, age 18, with your dorm room set up and ready for your first year living on your own. You pick out new sheets to fit a twin bed, meet the person you’ll be sharing very tight living quarters with for the next ten months, and your mom probably bought you a shower caddy that you stow away under your desk.

This is your first time living away from home, and you’re ready to be on your own. Four years later and you’re ready to grab that cap and gown and walk into adulthood. It seems like all you had to do was blink. Four years of your life spent on a campus that watched you grow...

This is at least how it’s “supposed“ to go. But this was not my college experience at all.

I’ve always been a homebody. I have always been surrounded by friends and don’t get me wrong, my extroverted personality often times leads me to be with my friends out doing something. But at the end of the day, I love my home and I love my mom!

When freshman year of college was approaching, I wasn’t yet ready to move out. I went to a commuter college, Grace, and achieved my Associate’s Degree at the end of my sophomore year. By then I was definitely ready to move out, so I applied to Ball State and was ecstatic to be accepted. I expected to live out my junior and senior year and get that diploma in May. But, that wasn’t the case.

I found out I couldn’t graduate this May back in October when I went to sign up for classes. There was a miscommunication (a pretty big one) and a few major classes I needed to graduate were Fall only. Seeing as the fall semester had already come and was almost gone, there was only one solution: I had to stay for an extra semester.

The first stage I experienced was anger. I have loved my time at Ball State, but I was ready to get my degree and be done with this chapter of my life. I was so angry that this had happened and I had to extend my college career.

Then, I experienced embarrassment. For a long time, I didn’t tell anyone because I felt like I was doing something wrong. I felt really low like I couldn’t even graduate “on time.” I was sad as I thought of all my friends I’d been with for the past two years and even my friends from all over who I went to high school with who would be graduating and how I wasn’t apart of that. When I finally did tell my friends, I felt the second wave of embarrassment as they would explain “I have no idea what she’s doing” or as they told their parents “she has to stay another semester.” It felt like I just wasn’t doing things “right.”

Graduation weekend was painful. I watched everyone put up their pictures and post captions of their four-year achievement. I was happy for them but so upset I wasn’t doing it with them. But then I had a revelation.

Ok, so I’m going to be a 3rd-semester senior. So? I transferred! I already had a degree, now I am doing what I need to in order to get another. Sure, it would’ve been nice to get it done in four years but that isn’t my story and that’s okay! After taking time to pout about it, I started to see others post that they were staying another semester, some even a full year, or that those who had taken a year off would be graduating around the same time I was. I finally realized I wasn’t alone!

Sure, I did things differently than the traditional four years in, four years out. But it was what worked for me and there’s nothing to be ashamed of! I know now that my story looks different, and that’s okay. All that matters is I make it through the fall so I too can decorate my cap and post my photo of achievement!

YOU CAN DO IT! And when you do it, no matter the timeframe, remind yourself that you did something so special and amazing. Whether it takes four years or forty years, do what works for you and know you aren’t doing anything “wrong” you’re just doing you!