The pitfalls of graduating early
Ready to enter a small, unstable job market? Ready to be out of school? Not quite. When I entered into my fall semester of my senior year, I was expecting it to be my last semester. I had planned on making this my last semester, finishing all my classes and starting an internship in the spring. Dec. 1 was the internship paperwork deadline; the date to have everything set and to have a plan.
The deadline grew closer and the job search proved to be harder than I originally thought it would be. The Associated Press reported that one out of every two recent college graduates is underemployed or jobless. This stress was making me doubt my original choice to graduate early. I began to realize the situation I was in: I was at a liberal arts college in a No.1 college town, in my last year of what is supposed to be the “best years of our lives.” Why would I want to rush away from that? I began to realize I have plenty of time to get a job and go to grad school. There is no reason to rush into it.
There are around 1,800 students in the 2013 graduating class. Of those students, roughly 300 are graduating in December. Finances are a primary reasoning for most students’ decision to graduate early. I understand some people don’t have the luxury to choose whether to stay all four years or graduate early, but I urge the class of 2014 to think about the benefits of staying at Ithaca College for both semesters.
Finances played a role in my decision making too, but in a way many don’t often consider: in my case, I would have needed to take a three credit winter course and then a nine-credit internship, all paid for out of pocket. By staying a full time student next semester, I could take classes and cancel out all of those out-of-pocket credits. I know that a big reason to graduate early is student loans. No matter what I do I will be paying those off for quite a while. The New York Times said that the average debt for the graduates of 2011 was nearly $27,000. Ouch. But even though another semester will add to my loans, it will also push off paying them just enough that I will hopefully have a starting income and savings to help with the debt. And the classes I will be taking next semester will make me more marketable and give me more knowledge to help me land my future job — whatever that may be.
I plan on attending graduate school for education. This plan helped to shape my reasoning for postponing graduation. For students who plan on graduate school right after their undergrad years, consider how much you forget just over the three-month summer break. Now, add in a whole spring semester of time spent away from an academic environment. The fall academic calendar starts eight months after December graduation and that is the soonest you can enter graduate school.
Most articles I have read regarding early graduation have all had the same kind of message: cherish spending the full four years at your college. I have heard from many people who say they wish they could go back and “relive the old glory days” or redo their college years. If that is how I will feel in 10 or 20 years, then why would I rush out of this? It is a unique experience to be in such a social setting where I am surrounded only by people my own age and I feel that I should take advantage of it. It seems like a silly thing to say I want to stay at college an extra semester for my friends, but it is a huge reason to want to stay.
When it all comes down to it, I am simply not ready — not ready to be in the forever daunting “real world” and not ready to leave the situation I am in and enjoying. Having another semester will allow me to really embrace the experiences I have had here and be ready to leave. I’m not “Ithaca College Ready” yet, but give me another few months and I’ll be there.
Ryan Butler is a senior Outdoor Adventure Leadership major who is making the most out of his glory days. Email him at rbutler1[at]ithaca[dot]edu