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Opinion: Go at your own learning pace

Whether you finish college in three or six years, you should decide what works best for you.
Do+not+compare+yourself+to+your+peers.+
Image by Wejdan al Balushi
Do not compare yourself to your peers.

When they pass out our graduation tassels at freshman year orientation, they also say, “We will see you back here in four years.” 

That is not the case for a lot of students.

According to NBC, most college students do not graduate in four years. Instead, six years is a more accurate measurement of the typical college experience. Students also feel more pressure to secure internships earlier and stand out on resumes, according to The Hechinger Report

The pressure to graduate in four years should not hold college students back. Success is not linear. 

Plenty of my peers have had handfuls of internships and job titles, while I have only had a few. I felt like I should be running to catch up, but I have more time than I think. 

Anja Finstad, a third-year architecture student at the University of Minnesota, transferred from Colorado State University her freshman year. She is now considering doing an extra year of school because she needs to catch up on prerequisite courses. 

“Within my major, I feel more behind,” Finstad said. “I feel like I’ve already done a lot of school, and I see how I still have three years left when most of my peers my age only have a year or two left.” 

Finstad said she is eager to start working in architecture and feels like she is treading water in her part-time jobs. She said she is fulfilling her financial needs elsewhere until she can obtain an architecture internship.

“I’m just so excited to get into that world,” Finstad said. “It feels like I’m constantly problem-solving. I still need to make money, but I have to put up with an atmosphere I don’t really like until I can do an internship.” 

Finstad said she sees the stigma against not graduating in four years, but that is not what puts pressure on her. 

“I feel like I get more time to practice and learn,” Finstad said. “I just think the financial aspect is really hard.”

Niladri Aich, a fifth-year finance and health service management student, started as a human physiology major to go into pre-medical. A year after that, he switched to finance. Eventually, Aich added his health service management major, which required another year of his college journey. 

“I realized it would be good for me because I would be able to focus on the industry and be able to get more knowledge in that,” Aich said. 

At Aich’s current internship at KPMG in New York, a lot of his peers are receiving full-time offers and buying apartments in the city. 

“This could have been me, so it definitely makes me feel a little left out,” Aich said. “But at the same time, it is a blessing in disguise because I did not know what I was doing sophomore year.” 

Many students in the University’s Carlson School of Management get internships after their second year, according to Aich. Aich got his first internship the summer after his third year of schooling and said students who get their internships before their third year usually accept a full-time offer from their first internship.

“The people I’ve talked to that got their internships before junior year feel stuck,” Aich said. “The easiest option would be to accept the full-time offer and not really explore anything else. I got an extra summer to explore different avenues of finance.” 

Aich said he feels like he got more time to understand the ideal work environment he wanted. 

According to Aich, Carlson added pressure to prepare for internships and interviews, but in a way that benefited him. Aich’s only concern is not graduating with his friends. 

“I felt left out when all my friends graduated this past year,” Aich said. “I didn’t get my graduation in high school, so I was really looking forward to walking the stage and sitting with my friends at graduation.” 

Luckily enough, most of Aich’s friends are working in Minneapolis, so he still gets to see them. 

While taking longer than four years to graduate is not the cheaper option, it can be the smarter alternative when seeking the right career path and mastering it. 

There is no rush to prepare for a 9-to-5 job. Internships and learning experiences are still feasible and common after college

Sometimes people need to take more time to get to know themselves and what they want for their futures. We do not all fit in the same mold.

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