Graduating a year early or taking a fifth year doesn’t change your personal value or make you a better or worse student.
When someone adds or changes their major, they might think they have to take six or more classes a semester and several over the summer just to graduate “on time.” Taking a lot of credits in one semester can overwhelm students, possibly affecting their grades and not leaving them time to enjoy college.
When registering for classes, you can plan ahead and see if you might need to graduate early or stay another year. If you’ve recently realized either of those apply to you, there’s no need to panic. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to graduate college as long as you get there in the end.
When classes were moved online during the pandemic, my grades started to suffer. I was not someone who learned well online. I ended up dropping a couple classes during the past two years because I didn’t want to get a bad grade or possibly fail. I thought I was going to have to take another semester of classes.
I came into college with six credits from high school, but a few of my friends came into college with more than twenty. They were able to add second majors or switch majors without worrying if they were going to graduate in four years or not. The amount of credits you come into college with can have such a huge effect on if you can graduate early or need to do a fifth year.
Talking to your advisor can also help in the decision making process. You can schedule an appointment with them anytime throughout the semester, not just when you need to schedule for classes.
“I found out from my advisor half way through my sophomore year that I could graduate a year early and I was shocked,” 2021 IU alumna Claire Kolb said. “Apparently, most of the business classes I took my first year transferred to my new major, so I didn’t fall behind like I thought I would.”
Kolb said she still sometimes wishes that she had one more year left in college but she is glad that she graduated early.
“Graduating early meant I could save some money on student loans, but I was kind of upset that I wouldn’t get to graduate with most of my friends,” she said.
There are also students who decide to take a fifth year so they don’t stress themselves out by doing too many classes in a semester. This is not always an option though. Some students might not be able to afford an extra year of tuition payments.
IU fifth year Andrew Webb is pursuing degrees in biology and comprehensive design with minors in animal behavior, environmental science, music and psychology. Webb originally came to IU as a biotechnology major and was considering pursuing a dual degree in vocal performance.
“If I had done the dual degree I knew it was likely that I would not graduate on time,” Webb said. “However, after taking the first year of courses in both degrees, I realized that neither of them were right for me, and that’s when I switched to biology and began the exploration that led to me discovering my love for design.”
Some students have many passions and want to pursue all of them, which might take a little longer than expected.
“There’s nothing wrong with doing a fifth year because you’ve failed classes,” Webb said. “I just take a lot of pride in my academic achievements, so it bothers me when I feel like people are judging me without knowing why I’m staying.”
Although it has become engraved into our minds that you need to graduate from college in four years, that is not always the case. Sometimes people want to change majors or save money. Taking classes in a pandemic has not helped everyone stay on track. No matter the reason, don't feel like you have to explain yourself. Not everyone is going to have the same college path.
Olivia Franklin (she/her) is a junior studying journalism with a minor in political science. She is a member of the swim club at IU and the Women in Media organization.