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5 Things You Experience During Your Extra Semester

It’s becoming more and more common to take more than four years to finish college. Whether you’re like me and pursuing a dual-degree in two very different fields or you switched your major late or you had to take a semester off due to personal reasons or four years just wasn’t enough, you’re part of a special demographic of college culture. If you don’t fall into this category, chances are that you know someone who does. And yet, we don’t often talk about people who take longer to finish college. Why? Is there still some stigma attached to taking longer to finish? Do we just sweep us extra-timers under the rug and assume all college attendees finish in four years?

I want to take this time to address some special moments that we extra-timers experience, that you won’t often find on relatable posts and listicles. I’ve seen plenty of articles about people who graduate early, but I can’t recall seeing any on those who graduate late. So if you fall in this category — or you have suspicions that this might be you next year — this one’s for you!

1. Most of your friends are gone.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Chances are all the people you grew close to over the years graduated before you. Though you may have some younger friends, the crew that was by your side the past four years will be gone. This might cause some severe FOMO. After all, the girls on your freshman floor now have full-time jobs in glamorous cities, and you’re in the library studying late for an exam.

This is probably the time when you’re going to realize which of your friends you’re going to be friends with in the coming years and which ones are meant to just be temporary friendships. There’s no shame if you realize a lot of friends were simply college friends. What’s important is the ones that do stick around and keep in contact.

At the same time, this is a great time to reach out to people that you’ve been meaning to reach out to. Maybe someone you sort of knew is staying on for grad school. Maybe that younger friend of a friend is in your major.

The important thing is not to dwell so much on who is gone but instead focus on the friendships you have and the ones you can make.

2. You’re either super busy…or super not.

If you’re staying an extra semester, you usually fall in one of two categories. One: you’re cramming in the last half-dozen classes you need to and also an internship and volunteering somewhere because there’s just so much you have to get done before you graduate; Or two: you had a few straggling classes you couldn’t fit last semester that somehow are all scheduled on the same day.

Either you don’t have a second of free time to spare, or you have more free time than you’ve ever had in your undergrad. The latter could, of course, be attributed to the fact that you know how to time manage better — but still. Whatever the case is, it’s clear that this is not the typical semester. Remember

to take some time to visit your favorite places in town and on campus and do some things that you love!

3. It’s kind of satisfying not to face the real world yet.

While the people you know are talking about healthcare benefits and finding apartments (and maybe even getting engaged or married!), you’re still working on school stuff. While your friends talk about getting up at 6:30 to make their morning commute, you can sleep till noon because your first class isn’t till 3. Sure, there’s perks to the “real world” like a career and no homework — but at the same time, it’s pretty nice that you only have class three days a week, and there are free events on campus all the time.

Take advantage of this while you still can. If you’re already wriggling to get out of the college bubble and face the real world — relax. Soon, you’ll be on your way. But for now, just enjoy the convenience of using your .edu email for cheaper Spotify, football games and tailgates every other weekend and your Gator1 for free bus rides and student discounts.

4. You’re seasoned on your campus and around town.

I don’t know about you, but freshman year, after I got my schedule, I went around to find the exact locations of my classrooms. First day of this semester? I wrote the classrooms down on my arm and hoped for the best. By the time you’re on your ninth semester, campus is easy to conquer. You have a pretty good idea of where all the buildings are — even the ones you’ve never stepped foot in before. And though new buildings pop up all the time, you know that you’ll figure them out eventually (if even necessarily).

The same thing goes for the town. You know where the best places to eat are and the best places to go out. You know when the cool things are happening and when Archer Road is going to be absolutely horrible. By now, you’re the person your younger friends and siblings look to when they’re searching for a new place to brunch or something to do on a Wednesday afternoon.

5. You have more time to figure out what you want (and that can be terrifying).

My mother told me that this extra semester would be good for me to figure out what I want to do after college. I kept telling myself that as I watched my friends apply for jobs, fly off to places like Alaska, New York City and Colorado, so determined of what they were doing, because honestly — I have no idea what I’m doing next.

I don’t know if I’m expecting some sort of life epiphany to hit me as I make my morning coffee just because I’m in my last semester of college, but I know that since I’ve been granted “more time,” I should have a better idea.

Most other people in this extra-semester bind feel the same conflict. Sure, we have more time to figure out what we want, but the pressure is suddenly intensified; If our family friend has their life figured out after eight semesters, we definitely should have ours figured out after nine.

But here’s the thing: not everyone who confidently marches off after graduation is sure of what they’re doing. In fact, most of them aren’t. If you’ve been given more time to make your choices, understand that for the most part, nothing you do now has to be solidified. You have time.

Staying an extra semester is a unique experience. Whether that means more time figuring out what you want, more time taking advantage of college discounts or more time with your younger friends is up to you. Just take a deep breath, remember that you’re not alone and enjoy the journey.

Petrana Radulovic is a senior studying English and Computer Science. She hopes to be a writer someday and live in the Pacific Northwest, where she will undoubtedly divide her time between sipping coffee at a local café and sipping coffee in her living room, working on her latest story. She enjoys singing when she thinks she’s the only person at home, obsessively watching America’s Next Top Model, and wearing all black no matter what the weather. In her future, she sees many cats and many books and many mugs. She is currently the Senior Editor for HerCampus UFL, but writes the occasional article because she can't help herself. This is her sixth semester with HerCampus.
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