Covers the Island Like the Tourists

The Not-So-Four-Year Degree

My least favourite question, besides, “Hey, wanna go to the bar this weekend?” (hey introverts) is “What year are you in at UPEI?” It forces me to go through the grueling process of explaining my messy, extended undergraduate degree to an innocent stranger.

It would be too easy to simply say, “I’m in my fourth year,” so instead I opt for, “Well, it’s my fourth year at UPEI, but I’m technically only third-year standing because I changed my major three times in my first and second year, and then I did part-time for a year.” I don’t even bother to mention that I still won’t graduate in my fifth year since I will still be shy of a few credits.

It seems like we expect ourselves to finish our undergrads in a neat and tidy four years so that at the fresh and young age of 21, we can move on to the next step of our lives, whether that be a career, a family, or more education. I certainly had that expectation of myself, but instead, here I am at 23, with another two years to go before I will receive my degree.

My financial planning under MyUPEI is a hot mess, filled with repeated, dropped, unused, and unfilled courses, with no end in sight. I’m older than almost everyone in my classes, and with the passing of each year, my age makes me feel more and more redundant.

I hear people say that employers will frown upon a student who doesn’t finish their degree in four years, because it proves that the student can’t handle a full course load, and therefore, a busy work schedule, but to achieve an undergrad in four years would require students to take ten credits per academic year, unless you take summer courses. This leaves less time for students to explore their academic and personal interests, study abroad, work part or full-time, and raise families, among various other things. It also excludes those of us who live with physical or mental illnesses that wound our capability to take five courses per semester.

If I tried to cram my undergrad into a neat and tidy four-year affair, I’d come out as an inexperienced, carbon-copy adult with very little knowledge about myself and the working world. I needed more than four years to figure things out for myself.  I know of many students, however, who have gotten more out of their four-year degree than I will ever get out of my entire education. Those people are just as valid as someone like me.

Cheers to those that acknowledge that there is no standard, linear, four-year-degree. There are just students, working towards their goals at whatever pace works for them.

By: Allison O’Brien


Photo: UPEI Galleries

This article belongs to The Cadre’s opinion section. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Cadre.

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