Everyone graduates at their own pace. This can be affected by the variety of different obstacles that life throws at us, from children to work to health concerns. I think it is very important to recognize that not every student has the same story, that everyone has different capabilities, and there is nothing right or wrong about how long it takes to graduate.
There’s a lot of pressure about graduating at a faster pace, not just from the expectations from others but the expectations you put on yourself. I chose to push myself to graduate a full year early and several factors played into that. Those included that I am an out-of-state student, so I pay about three times as much in tuition and housing as the typical in-state student at UMass Boston. I had to take out both federal and private loans for every year of school and work about 35 hours a week to pay for housing, food and everyday expenses. I also came into UMass Boston with about 21 credits worth of courses, which is equivalent to about a semester and a half for a student taking the typical five course load. I felt I couldn’t let those credits go to waste since I had worked so hard for them in prior to attending here.
So I put pressure on myself to graduate a semester early, later becoming motivated to graduate an entire year early. It took a lot of planning, advising, and staring at course listings and my degree audit before I came up with my plan.
I have since then done credit overload by taking six courses for half of the semesters I have attended college. It has not been easy, but I have made myself think it is worth it. Some semesters have been easier than others. Last semester was one of the toughest (I have said this every semester until now). I was registered for eighteen credits, which is equivalent to six courses. I was working 33 hours on campus, interning for a campaign for about fifteen hours a week, running a club, and participating in activities off-campus, all while being so far away from home. The biggest lesson I learned was that I needed to take care of myself, learn to say no when I couldn’t do more, and not be too hard on myself when I did.
I would say the most difficult part is realizing that it is all happening so soon, and that what are supposed to be your “fun college years” are not as much as you would have thought they would be. The environment at UMass Boston is very different than most four-year universities, but when you’re so focused on class and work, you forget to enjoy even those quick three years.
Currently, I am working on my Masters in Public Administration with a track in Gender Leadership and Public Policy, while also completing my last semester of undergrad; I am also the youngest member of my cohort. I often am the youngest in a lot of these situations that make me feel as though I am less. I do not have as much experience in the workforce or in life that a lot of my classmates who are married or have children do.
Overall, college has been quite the experience with making friends, and most importantly, finding out who I am as an adult. I have held myself to expectations that I am following through with, but I do feel I have given up a lot in the process.