So you’ve looked through all the loopholes you could find, endured a half-dozen bouts of rescheduling and the classes still aren’t adding up: you aren’t going to graduate in four years. That’s okay though.
In the face of the new performance-based funding bill, where Rhode Island school’s finances are based on factors such as a timely graduation, the focus on RIC’s low four-year graduation rate has become the focus of even more scrutiny. It’s easy to slip into the mindset that graduating in anything more than four years is somehow inferior to the more traditional method. The fact of the matter is this simply isn’t true. Whether you’re a non-traditional student working through college and taking classes part-time, decided to switch majors late in the game, or just ended up taking too many of the wrong classes every path to a degree is equally valid.
Ultimately, the traditional four years taken to acquire a degree is arbitrary, a span of time chosen on the basis of rough estimates regarding what constitutes a manageable workload and how much work must ultimately be completed before a degree can be awarded. To get a sense of how unreliable the four-year estimate really is just think about courses you’ve taken in the past and the wildly different time commitments required for ostensibly equal level classes in different fields of study. Even without taking extracurricular responsibilities into account different degrees demand different amounts of time and attention so how does it make any sense that there should be a single predetermined timespan in which every degree is to be obtained? Education is much more fluid than our regimented society would like to believe and thus it is perfectly natural for the time spent in an institution of higher education to vary from person to person.
At times, there may also arise the perception that someone who takes longer than four years to get their degree is simply not trying hard enough. In reality, this is almost never the case. Of the “super-seniors” I have known just about every single one has been remarkably accomplished and driven, staying in school longer than others not because they are lazy but because their life necessitates attention to other pursuits. There is no basis on which to judge someone who can only afford two classes per semester because they are paying their own way through school and so there is no reason to be ashamed if you also find yourself in a position of staying longer than you would like or had intended.
At the end of the day, how long you stay in college is a product of your goals and circumstances, and no one else should be able to impose their irrelevant ideals on your educational path. Since you’re reading this paper, chances are you’ll be here or have already been here, for longer than four years and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. We all have our own struggles to face and we all carve our own channels through life; don’t let anybody ever tell you different.