Graduating in four years has been the norm for most college students, but with the installation of five year programs, students have more free will on deciding how many semesters they need to enroll in to graduate.
“I would assume a student who has stayed five years or more has changed majors on the pathway that is better fit for them then where he or she first began,” Kerri Keller, executive director of Career and Employment Services, said. “I might also assume at some point they took a semester off, traveled abroad, had an internship or a co-op; there are many reasons.”
There are programs at K-State that require five year participation, like the architectural engineering program. The length of the program helps students not only specialize in an area of the profession but also get a basic knowledge of all the tracks.
“The length helps because it gives you a chance for internships,” Josie Doefer, senior in architectural engineering, said. “It’s also a reasonable pace for all that we have to learn in our program.”
Architectural engineering has different specializations within the program. Students specialize in one area but are required to learn about the others.
“You specialize in a field,” Doefer said. “I am in electrical and lighting design, but we learn a basic of each field.”
Graduating in five years is the standard time for architectural engineers, and Doefer said she believes if you can do it in less you’re crazy.
“I know some who are close to doing it in four years and that seems like madness,” Doefer said. “You have to take 18 or 19 hours a semester and bring in at least 12 hours too. Doing this, you don’t have time to enjoy your college experience.”
While some programs are set for a five year graduation, another popular reason students stay at K-State longer than the typical four years is changing majors.
Lillian Akins, senior in architectural engineering, is graduating this May after six and a half years of college. She switched into a five year program in her sophomore year and nothing transferred between programs.
“I switched from architecture to architectural engineering and nothing transferred,” Akins said. “I’m also getting a minor in German.”
Mike Offerman, senior in history, said he also had experience changing his major trying to find out what path suited him best.
“I decided to switch my major this semester,” Offerman said. “I went from a secondary ed major to history. And before education I was in engineering.”
Changing majors may be a popular reason, but it’s not the only reason some students stay at K-State. Some students also take a year off to follow their passion.
“Two years ago I decided to drop out of classes for a semester,” Offerman said. “I took four credit hours at K-State to stay enrolled and went and got EMT certified at Barton (Community College).”
While taking longer to get a better education may seem tiresome, these students said they have loved every minute of it.
“It allowed me to get involved with a lot of different things,” Akins said.
Akins said she has been involved in over ten different clubs at K-State, including Society of Women in Engineering, Engineering Ambassadors and German Club.
Clubs aren’t the only advantage to taking more than four years to graduate. Doefer said that students graduating in five or more years are a little more mature when they go into the real world.
“You have a whole year to grow up,” Doefer said. “So, I feel you have more maturity when you leave.”
Even though five, six or even seven years helps these students find themselves and what they want to do, they are still ridiculed for following their passion and finding their place.
“I get a lot of crap from the paintball club, and family,” Offerman said. “Even though it’s taking me longer, but for me personally it had to be four years just to get where I want to be.”
Another downside to graduating later is the financial burden it causes for the students.
“Taking out loans and getting money sucks,” Offerman said. “Financial aid is hard to set up, but it’s a big thing.”
While being the butt of jokes and finances are hard for these students, there are also some upsides to staying longer.
“My activities make college a little bit more worthwhile than doing school all the time,” Offerman said. “Being a senior is really helpful (in clubs) to help freshman acknowledge that there are opportunities out there.”
Taking more than the standard four years to graduate is not a bad thing. There are many reason students need or want more time to finish their education.
“Four or five years, it doesn’t matter as long as it meet your particular fun and individual needs it shouldn’t matter how many years it takes you to graduate,” Keller said. “You should give up the notion that there is a right and a wrong way to do this.”