Come this fall, millions of students will descend upon the hallowed ground of America’s college campuses. Nervous parents and freshmen will embark in loading zones as upperclassmen volunteers in matching t-shirts sing songs and hoist futons up sweltering staircases. Returning students who spent the entire summer at their parents’ houses will giddily (read: drunkenly) meander around campus posting record-length snapchat stories. Beer bongs will be unpacked and syllabi will be unfurled and textbooks will (maybe) be purchased and friends will reunite, and heads will bob to whatever soundtrack our peers have deemed The Songs Of Today.
And I will experience it all, too — again. For the fifth time.
Yes, I am the fabled Super Senior. The Matthew McConaughey, if you will, to your every-other-fairly-normal-Dazed-and-Confused-character. It’s hard to admit that this is what my life has come to.
I still remember my first week of college, when I heard a guy at a party admit he was a fifth year. He was, of course, met with encouragement to the tune of “Victory lap!!” along with all the additional cheers and woo’s characteristic of welcome week. But I was less impressed. Yikes, I thought. Is it really that hard to graduate in four years?
Well, joke’s on me. Here I am, almost four years to the date after that encounter, and I myself have yet to graduate. And while some people have to merely retake a class or tack on another semester before earning their degrees, I’m staring in the face of another full year of coursework. As such, I’ve had to change my position on fifth-years and humble myself to accept the given circumstances.
Would it be great to already have a job lined up in a desirable metropolitan location while experiencing mild homesickness and shelling out my life’s savings to live in a shoebox? Yes… it would. But I’ve come to terms with doing a fifth year. Here’s why:
An extra year to figure it out (whatever it is.)
I cannot imagine having had my act together by projected-graduation-date. How does anyone else do it? The first four years of college had me transferring schools, switching my major, adding a major, making and losing friends, taking unsatisfactory naps and eating more processed food than I’d like to admit. Factor in graduating on time and figuring out how to live my truth after school ends, and I think I would have spontaneously combusted.
A fifth year may not iron out all the kinks I experienced in those first four years, but this extended time in school gives me more time to explore what I like and what I’m really good at before going out into the world and trying to make it my livelihood. And speaking of money…
The financial aspect
While I’m having to take out more loans than expected to pay for the rest of my college career, I’m saving in other areas. The rent I’m paying in my small college town would probably get me a closet in LA — if that. For now, I’ve got some cozy digs a short walk away from campus bars where I can get beer for a quarter on Wednesdays. Luxury is a state of mind, people.
The ghost-of-college-past factor
Last year, while all of my senior friends were lamenting their “last (fill-in-the-blank),” I was right alongside them, enjoying my would-be “last (fill-in-the-blank),” but taking mental notes about how I’ll do it differently when it’s really my last time. For example: thanks to my best friend for setting an example of what not to do, I now recognize the importance of pacing myself on the night before graduation so that the Harry’s bouncer actually lets me in. (We wound up having a pity party on the sidewalk outside, trying to stay within earshot of the stubborn bouncer in hopes that he would change his mind. He didn’t.)
Experience sets me apart
I’m fully prepared for that defining moment when my fifth year and related breadth of knowledge make me the most unquestionable source of wisdom for every student on campus. When they need me, I’ll be waiting in the dusty lair that I’ve been in for all of eternity, ready to step out of the shadows and say something to the effect of “I haven’t heard that name in years.” That’s what Super Seniors are for.
Doing a fifth year doesn’t make me a failure
Yeah, this one seems more like something I’m trying to convince myself of than wisdom I’m hoping to impart. But for the sake of anyone else who may be struggling with their fifth-year diagnosis or sensing one looming on the horizon, I feel like it’s important to touch on.
So what, you have to do a fifth year. You may be nursing an already festering case of senioritis, mourning the entiiire year of post-grad life that you’ve now seemingly lost, or generally feeling like a failure. But having to stay in college for an extra year could be a good thing.
To paraphrase Drake, “You only college once,” and so, if a great campus with great pals is where I’m supposed to do my part to bend the arbitrary rules and deadlines set by our society, then so be it.
Come this fall, I will embrace the quintessential college-ness of welcome week and beyond, all while reveling in the bittersweet knowledge that it’s just for one last time.