This commencement season– among the caps, gowns, diplomas, and distinguished invited speakers such as Snooki — a question looms: How many fresh graduates were on the three-year college plan?
While the super senior — an undergraduate who takes five years or more to earn a degree — has long been a part of university lore, the so-called “speedy senior” is a relatively new breed of student.
The speedy senior graduates a semester or full year early — taking advantage of AP credits, course overloads, and summer and winter break sessions. Sometimes, the speedsters are spurred by academic ambitions or a general impatience to enter the job market. But mostly, they are motivated by the opportunity to stave off debt.
As The Eagle found, “Though many students acknowledged that they would be giving up opportunities like studying abroad, interning or taking more electives by graduating early, they explained that saving money is more important.”
While it is better for students’ bank accounts, it is troublesome for schools’ bottom lines. As The Cornell Daily Sun reported in February, “The upswing in early graduations has begun to put a financial burden on the colleges, which do not receive expected tuition dollars when students graduate early.”
School officials waving the caution flag on the speedy graduation trend also argue students’ college experiences’ come up short. They say speedy seniors may miss out on extracurricular activities, extra time with professors in high-level electives, and the chance to spend another year learning the ways of the world.
In the words of a Cornell University dean, “The opportunity to spend concentrated time taking courses will not come again in most of our students’ lives, and we want them to make and get the most out of what we offer. Hurrying through the wonders of our curriculum just doesn’t make sense.”
Students interviewed by The Eagle respect the slowdown stance, but ultimately feel a fourth year is not worth the extra loan payments that will follow. As one speedy senior who just graduated from AU shared, “I certainly don’t feel old enough or mature enough or even tall enough to graduate, but I don’t think another year would make me feel any more prepared. I’m as prepared as I would be and otherwise I will just fake it till I make it.”
How many students in your school’s current graduating class were speedy seniors? Have there been an increasing number of early graduates in recent years? What are the reactions of your administrators on how the speedsters are helping or hurting themselves and the school?
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