An ode to the fifth year

April is here, and as graduation looms, the questions have begun. Are you graduating in May? What are your plans for next year? Have you found a job yet? They are asked at every random encounter. They are the conversation starter in any awkward situation.

Perhaps this question is stressful for soon-to-be graduates. Choosing what to do and where to live in the next stage of your life will give any reasonably-minded senior anxiety. Given the current state of our nation’s economy, merely finding a job is considered to be a major accomplishment.

It being my fourth year at the Capstone, most expect me to be amid a job hunt or awaiting responses from graduate programs. However, I will not complete my undergraduate career until next May. That is correct. I will be a “fifth-year.”

Being a writer on the Opinions page, I am well versed in the various stereotypes and prejudices that exist on this campus. Additionally, being a white male, I rarely encounter such prejudices first hand.

Until I became a “fifth-year.”

Whenever I inform anyone of my plans next year, it is immediately met with a look or tone of surprise. Not graduating in four years is frowned upon at UA. The term “fifth-year” represents laziness, incompetence and apathy. While there are certainly people who take six hours a semester and party their way through school, that image does not represent the entire group.

Many people take semesters off. There is nothing wrong with taking a break from academics and spending time in a different environment. Others, like myself, take an extra year to pursue other courses of undergraduate study. (Hence the double major listed at the bottom of this page.)

Some students change their minds. I know plenty of students who began in business who ended up switching to communications after their first statistics class. What seems like thousands begin in engineering only to end up in a GBA 145 class a year later.

The point is that not all “fifth-years” are deadbeats. Graduating in four years is an admirable accomplishment and often essential for those under stressed economic conditions. However, it is not for everyone.

If anything, we should be praised for pursuing all this fine university has to offer. In one year, I will leave the Capstone with two unique degrees and an elongated college experience. “Fifth years” are normal students, too, and it is time for them to be treated as such.

 

Jake is a fourth-year student majoring in journalism and economics. FYA (Fifth Years Anonymous) meets Tuesday nights at the DKE house. As always, beverages will be provided.

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