Why Four Years?

Why Four Years?

Emma Brown

We see the four year graduation plan everywhere. In movies, TV shows, in our own lives; it seems like everyone who goes to college is expected to graduate in four years. However, why is this the norm? Why is it looked down upon to take longer than four years to complete a degree? Digital communication arts Academic Advisor Selena Vallespir breaks down the expectations.

“Traditionally, a four-year graduation timeline is expected for full-time students seeking an undergraduate degree in the United States. There are some programs where five years is required. Graduating around the four-year mark is beneficial to students in terms of finances, as well as timeline for graduate school, but it does not always work for everyone,” Vallespir said. Taking about 15 credits a term is what is required for students to complete a degree in four years, however, there are many circumstances where this just isn’t possible. Vallespir continued, saying “Students who work, have families, are part of the military, or participate in many co-curricular activities, may not feel as academically successful taking 15 credits per term.”

Oren Shalev, a fourth year student studying digital communication arts is on track to graduate after a fifth year. He discussed why he personally decided to take longer than four years to graduate. “I’m not the best at school and have never enjoyed it. I dropped out junior year thinking I’d never graduate but I came back a couple terms later to finish.”  

So why do we put such pressure on a four year degree? Parental expectations and comparison to friends often lead students to believe that the best route is a four year path. “I see stress related to graduation timelines from two main sources. The first source of stress come from students comparing themselves to their friends and classmates,” Vallespir said. “The second reason I often see stress related to a graduation timeline is a result of parental expectations, especially from students who are lucky enough to have their parents fund their education. College is expensive. The longer it takes to graduate, the more money it costs”

However, there are many advantages to taking longer to complete your degree. A few of them include “allowing time for additional majors or minors, allowing time for one or more study abroad experiences, having the ability to be flexible in the amount of credits you need to take each term, and achieving balance between work/family/co-curriculars, etc.,” Vallespir said. Shalev supports taking more than four years to graduate by saying “it’s a less stressful life.”

If you are thinking about extending your college education past four years, there are a few things to consider. Cost is a huge setback for a lot of student and the longer you take in college, the more it will cost. It is helpful to look into scholarships as well that may help in diminishing the cost. “I’m sure it comes as no surprise, but I highly recommend talking to your advisor,” Vallespir said. “We are here to help you navigate the curriculum and build a plan that works for you. Advisors are also aware of on-campus resources that can help you graduate in YOUR desired timeline.”


Photography by Zbyszek Sikora 

Was this article helpful?