The events of my life prevented me from starting college directly after my high school graduation. My mother, who would die a month after said graduation, had convinced me that four years at a university wasn’t in the cards for me. And my numerous fellow musicians were quick to point out that I needed no diploma to hustle gigs. Finally, the lure of a speedy Associate’s Degree and job with bankers hours to bank-roll my life as a gigging musician was so appealing that it blinded me . . .for about thirty days. A month into my training to earn said AA in accounting from trade school that shall go unnamed, I woke in a cold sweat swearing I’d rather lose a limb than work a “10-key” for the rest of my life. It took me seven years to get back to college and another ten beyond that to earn the two degrees that now grace the wall of my office.
Could I have returned sooner? Yes, had I planned better. Would my life be any better today? No idea, I don’t own a crystal ball or believe in second guessing life in that way. Do my two degrees (Cum Laude in my undergrad and 4.0 in my Master’s coursework) carry any less weight because they took me longer to earn? I’ll put them up against any other diplomas earned in a shorter time frame and feel confident competing for the position.
Another couple of observations:
A.) The national average on a Bachelor’s Degree is presently 5.5 years
Secondly.) Unless you’re graduating with credit hours in excess of 120, those five years aren’t costing you any more than peers who finish in eight semesters
d.) Graduate School Admissions Officers and Employers do not confuse efficiency with effectiveness–neither should you
It makes me_completely_insane when students feel defeat when they “fall behind” in credit hours. As if all they need to do is amass 15 credits per semester for eight semesters and that will make everything right in the end–they’ll graduate “on time.” And it frustrates me even more, as an advisor to primarily first-year students, that I don’t get to speak with many of my advisees on their exit from this phase of their educational journey. I had the opportunity today, though, to encourage a graduating senior to not let artificial time lines, imposed by others, diminish his sense of accomplishment.
Even if your road to graduation or your first professional position isn’t a straight line in one direction, you should view any left or right turns along the way as detours that offer you opportunities to gain valuable life experience. These experiences make you an even stronger candidate when coupled with the Über-high GPA you’d boast by not confusing efficiency with effectiveness.