You Are Not Behind, You Are Right on Time!
Last updated September 27, 2023
In a world that places expectations on you and when you will reach important milestones, remember that your journey is uniquely yours. The pressure to graduate college in the traditional four-year timeframe can be overwhelming. However, it's important to recognize that taking more than four years to graduate is normal, and in many ways, can add more value to your college experience. There are many reasons why a student decides to finish college in more than four years. Here are some benefits of reframing your extended college experience and embracing your individual path!
Is It Common to Take More Than Four Years to Graduate College?
The expectation to graduate college in four years is deeply ingrained in American society. However, the unpredictability of life can lead you down a different path. For students who have taken time off to explore other pursuits, or for those who needed to support their families before returning to school, your journey is valid and as worthwhile as any other. Just as the saying goes, "All who wander are not lost," your path may diverge from the norm, but that doesn't mean you're off course.
Life is complex, and responsibilities often extend beyond the classroom. Family commitments, work obligations, or personal challenges might make it necessary to slow things down when it comes to your education. Rather than viewing these situations as roadblocks, recognize them as opportunities to build resilience, develop time management skills, and really understand and appreciate how to juggle various aspects of life. Balancing your education alongside other responsibilities equips you with a well-rounded skill set that extends far beyond the classroom.
Perspective is everything. If you find yourself feeling behind or doubting your place in college after taking longer than you planned to finish, here are ways you can reframe your college experience:
Embrace Your Own Timing
Comparing your journey to others' can be a significant source of stress. The truth is, everyone's journey is unique. Just because your pace is different doesn't mean you're behind– your education, career, and life milestones unfold in a way that's unique to you. It's natural to feel the pressure of keeping up with your peers, but remember that your worth isn't determined by your academic timeline. Instead of measuring your progress against others, focus on personal growth, self-discovery, and the joy of learning. If comparing yourself to others becomes overwhelming, consider exploring mental health resources and seeking support. You can also check out our We Belong In College (WBIC) series, where you’ll hear firsthand from students about their own college journeys and how they’ve persisted. While you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, it’s also important to know you’re not alone!
Gain Perspective and Independence
Taking longer than four years to finish college offers you a chance to gain deeper self-awareness and a clearer understanding of your passions and goals. This extended period can allow you to explore different subjects, discover your strengths, potentially build more lasting connections, and define your direction. In addition, reaching the age of 24 automatically qualifies you as an independent student for FAFSA purposes, potentially providing you with more financial aid opportunities.
Taking breaks (like a gap year) from school to explore different paths can lead to unexpected treasures. Whether it's traveling, volunteering, or starting your own business or creative projects, these experiences can provide you with a broader perspective and a deeper understanding of the world. Then, when you return to college, you bring with you a unique collection of experiences that enrich your perspective in the classroom. This diverse background can lead to richer discussions with your professors and peers, innovative solutions, and a more holistic understanding of your major or field you’re interested in.
Staying Current and Relevant
The world evolves rapidly, and industries are in a constant state of transformation. Spending extra time in college can help you gain a deeper understanding of your chosen field, like up-to-date industry knowledge, techniques, and trends. This advantage can be valuable as you step into the job market with a wealth of practical and relevant career skills.
Have Compassion for Yourself
Life's unpredictability is what makes it fascinating. While it's natural to feel a sense of urgency to meet traditional milestones, remember that growth doesn't stick to a strict schedule. Your journey is a collage of experiences, each contributing to your personal and professional development. So, whether you stick to the traditional four-year college timeline, or your life takes you on a different path, embrace it with open arms.
In a world fixated on deadlines, remember that your timeline isn't a race. Your journey may wander, but it's uniquely yours! In need of extra support? text #College to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!