Graphic by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer
On September 16, 2012, I became the first person in my family to go to college.
When I moved away from my hometown in Long Beach, it was a dream come true. The 17-year-old me wanted to experience life without having parental guidance 24 hours a day, seven days per week and wanted to have a real “college experience.” I envisioned going to football games, wearing cute college gear found in stores like Forever 21, joining at least two clubs and meeting a ton of people, just like I had seen on TV and in movies.
I think having the traditional college experience is important. This is the only time where you can make mistakes, spend more time with your friends, dye your hair different colors and party as much as you want because after that, you become focused on starting your adult life, employers expect you to not have dyed hair and hanging out with friends becomes difficult due to everyone going on different paths.
For the most part, I probably had a more typical college experience than some students. I lived in the dorms, went to some fraternity parties and tried Cream, a trendy ice cream sandwich chain located in Berkeley. But these experiences took a downfall as soon as my friends and I got into our major classes and became overloaded with homework and studying.
Once my classes became more time consuming, I focused on maintaining my grade point average above a 3.0 just in case I wanted to go to graduate school in the future, which resulted in me only concentrating on schoolwork rather than having fun. I missed out on exploring popular spots in Northern California such as Mission Peak, Santa Cruz Mystery Spot, going to concerts, traveling to different destinations during spring break or the nightlife of Downtown San Jose.
During my college years, I had to retake math classes and switched my major from Business Administration to Communication, which resulted in me becoming a fifth-year student.
Unlike most of my peers, I don’t mind being a fifth-year; if anything I’m grateful. If I had graduated in 2016, I would be like a deer in headlights and I would not have been as prepared to continue life outside of college as I am now.
My ultimate career goals are to be a full-time blogger or a content creator for a fashion or entertainment magazine. The additional year gave me a chance to continue to work with my internship as a Social Media assistant and to become a staff writer for The Pioneer, experiences employers look for in that field. Because of these experiences, I am confident in turning my resume into employers after I graduate college.
However, I’m ready for a new chapter in my life after college. Over the past three years, I’ve worked hard to keep my grades up by spending most of my time in the library. My classes are not hard, but rather time-consuming with long pages of reading for midterms and weekly quizzes.
Because of this, I barely spent time venturing out exploring the Bay Area with my friends. I didn’t go out as often because I didn’t want a hangover to prevent me from doing homework. But I had a plan: this quarter I would spend a little more time sinking my teeth into the college experience I’d been missing out on the past few years.
My plan was solid. I’ve been visiting the communications department since spring 2016 to help choose classes that will fit my career goals and that will keep me on track to graduate by spring 2017. I was told in last year that I would only need to take 12 units during spring this year and this was music to my ears. I would be able to focus on my style blog and I could take more time to explore the Bay Area and spend time with my friends before I move back to Long Beach.
Sadly, my quarter did not go as planned due to miscommunication with communication department advisers. Upon starting this quarter I realized my plan wasn’t foolproof: I had a remaining class that I’d need to take this coming fall quarter to graduate.
This was an issue for me, purely because you need 12 units in a quarter to qualify for financial aid, and this one class would not meet those qualifications. I have relied on financial aid all five years to make ends meet. One class in fall quarters means I would have to pay full tuition and my rent all just to finish up one class to obtain my degree, something I can’t afford. Thankfully, after speaking to my adviser about my financial situation I was able to take my remaining class this spring quarter, leaving me with 16 units and barely any free time.
The scenario I just explained is not new to me nor to East Bay. I’ve heard my friends and classmates speak on being a fifth-year due to lack of proper advising, not knowing about extra classes they needed to take and not getting into the classes they needed, which led them to be fifth-years.
The Complete College America, a nonprofit organization that works with states to make sure their citizens are eligible to get a college degree, determined in a 2014 study that most students who attend four-year public universities do not graduate within the four-year mark.
Students don’t graduate on time due to the lack of a clear plan or advising, changing majors, changing universities and taking unnecessary courses, according to USA Today.
In order to avoid delayed graduation or taking unnecessary classes, meet with a counselor and keep track of any changes they make to your schedule and make sure they properly filed them. In the future, when you’re being told something you knew wasn’t right, you can use it as proof and help you continue on with the plans you had.