What It Feels Like to Graduate Late

When I started attending UCSB nearly four years ago, like most of my incoming freshman class, I too expected to graduate in 2019. I think it's safe to say that most people don't expect that they'll drop out of college or that they'll graduate late when they first come into college. In fact, for so long I fought having to take a break from school because I didn't want to graduate late or feel like a failure. So when I finally did leaving school on the account of mental health, it really devastated me, even though it was definitely what I needed to do at the time.

When I came back to UCSB this past summer after having taken about a year and a half off, I knew very well that graduating "on time" was not in the cards for me. And while it wasn't easy, I eventually learned to not only be okay with graduating late, but to also feel really good about the choices I've made that have led me to where I am today.

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With the end of spring quarter being so close, I imagine what it might've felt like to be graduating this school year like I was supposed to, and honestly, it's a terrifying thought. I know that so many of my classmates are actually quite scared about what life is going to be like after graduating, and I genuinely feel so fortunate that I do have extra time to figure things out. What taking my time with school has allowed me to do is give me the opportunity to find a major I really love and to plan out what I want to do after graduating, which I know not everyone has had the chance to do yet.

However, it's still not easy being the last of my friends to graduate. It's hard not to compare yourself to people around you, especially when it feels like they're ahead of you despite having having started the same time as you. Of course, it's in times like these that it's important to remember that everyone's journey is different, and that the path to success isn't always going to be straight.

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In fact, I've realized that graduating late doesn't necessarily have to mean I'm behind either. I feel like in having taken time to focus on myself these last few years rather than in being concerned about graduating on time, I've learned and grown so much in ways I don't think I otherwise would've. I look back and think about all the relationships and opportunities I would've missed if I had let graduating on time take over my life.

Lastly, even though graduating late can feel isolating sometimes, it's important to remember that this feeling is only temporary and that you're definitely not alone. I know that even though my last year of college might feel more lonesome, I'm not the only one who's in this situation feeling this way, and I know that my friends and family are always a text or phone call away to support me as I slowly but surely finish my degree.

Though it took me a while to really believe it, there's no shame in graduating late, and while life has not gone the way I expected it to, I'm much happier with the way things turned out to be.