“So, When Are You Graduating?”

Some college students mark graduation day on their calendars during their freshman year. For others, that date has been scratched out and rewritten many times.

Story by Niyra Tealer

Gif courtesy of Giphy

“So, what year are you?” “Well, technically this is my fourth year of school, but I’m a junior by credit. Transferring messed up my progressed a bit.” “Oh. So, when are you graduating?” “Not quite sure.” “Well, that’s okay too, I guess!”

Pause.

I can’t recall the amount of times I’ve had this conversation. A great conversation starter among college students consists of asking about your name, major and year. While I often proudly answer the first two categories, I find myself hesitating on the third. Is junior-ish an acceptable answer? Sure, I usually get the scattered chuckle here and there when I do choose to identify myself as such, but it’s not simply my attempt at humor or self-deprecation. It’s a reality. I actually don’t know what I am.

Transferring from Austin Community College to the University of Texas at Austin meant that some of my credits were susceptible to rejection. After repeated trips to my community college advisor, I was ensured that my 46 credit hours would allow me to transfer into UT halfway to becoming a junior. It made me feel comfortable and satisfied that I was on track to graduate on time. However, to my dismay, a handful of credits did not count towards the advertising program.

As a student who heavily depends on financial aid to get through college, I had to be conscious of the amount of debt I could accrue by taking additional classes I had not planned for. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I felt frustrated, completely overwhelmed and defeated. My fear of the future was like an itch I couldn’t scratch., like a cycle of academia without a definite ending. As a person who anxiously anticipates the future, it was bothersome to me.

When I choose to tell those who ask that I will not be graduating on time, I usually receive a look of pity. I notice a sudden condescending demeanor. Some are unsure of how to answer while others seem compelled to try and console me. After a while, I concluded that, to some people, there is a negative stigma with the idea of delayed graduation. If you’re taking a prolonged time to graduate, that somehow means that you’re doing something wrong, slacking off or just have no sense of direction. My frustration with the process began to feed off of their reactions, and I found that unless I changed my perspective, I would forever view my predicament with a heavy burden on my shoulders.

For students like me, a delay in graduation is not explained by the stigma. Each situation is unique. Sometimes, unexpected circumstances beyond our control prevent us from finishing school when we planned. Sometimes, we want to take time to explore our options. Our hard work shouldn’t be judged by the amount of years we’re in school, nor should we compare our progress with others. In the end, we’re all in pursuit of a common goal. There’s no rush. The race is better run at our own pace with importance placed on our own experiences. Once you cross the finish line, the feeling of accomplishment trumps the amount of time it took.