It’s time to drop the fifth-year stigma

Recently, I have had so many people ask me the worst question you could ever say to a college student: When are you graduating? Those words bring physical pain to my body as I recount the past four years I have spent in the hallowed halls of Truman State University. 

I’m now in the beginning of my fifth year here at Truman, just an English major struggling along trying to live her best life. After arriving in Kirksville as a dewy-eyed freshman in fall 2015, I have now been effectively jaded by the ever-moving finish line that is graduation. I have made arguments plenty of times to defend myself against those nosy family members that have been waiting for a graduation announcement in the mail. Not even my loving and supportive parents can keep them at bay. I tell them I studied abroad, took a semester off because I got sick, etc. I always had an excuse to play off the reason why I am still not graduating, and now I’m just mad. 

No one who is going to college and working hard to further their goals owes anyone any kind of explanation. Truman has such a negative stigma of putting academics before the real people in this town and we shouldn’t be adding to it by putting a time limit on our college experiences. Yes, it’s going to take me five and a half years to get my bachelor’s degree, but you know what else I have been doing during that time? I have learned two different languages and traveled the world. I have lived in Europe and completely immersed myself in a culture totally different from my own. I got sick and picked myself up and came back to Truman when no one thought I could. None of those things did anything to further my English degree that I will be leaving Truman with next fall. 

The truth is that I’m just not graduating on time. Plenty of people don’t adhere to the “standard” four-year plan. But I have taken so many classes I never thought that I would, learned things that I had never dreamt of and traveled the world in the process. I’m lucky that I have supportive parents, but not everyone has that luxury. I’m the first person on either side of my family to go to college outside of the military. No one I am related to has any kind of advanced degree, so the buck stops with me. It’s both a blessing and a curse, because everyone is waiting in the wings with bated breath for my shining moment. The real question I want to ask those nosy family members is: Where did you get your degree from, Aunt Jen?