The practical differences between Stern College and other universities are pretty staggering. I’ve come to experience one of those differences in particular whose impact is quite often overlooked by the Stern student body: the rarity of staying for a “super senior” year on campus.
There is an overwhelming number of students at Stern who spend a year abroad in Israel and attend classes for 3 years on the Beren campus before graduating, while a number of other students enter Stern directly from high school and graduate after 4 years. Though these two paths differ, both lead to graduation after the same amount of time.
The real oddballs on campus are the super seniors: people who go to Israel for a year and subsequently opt to stay on the Beren campus for 4 years anyway. Justifying a fourth year on campus can be a little difficult. For instance, one might assume that a pre-med student who attended a year in Israel and faces 4 additional years of medical school, plus residency which is usually an addition of 3 years minimum, would take advantage of the opportunity to graduate after 3 years instead of 4. And that would be a totally valid assumption. Even if one weren’t planning on continuing on to graduate school, the argument for finishing college in 3 years instead of 4 sells itself
But as one of those very pre-med students who has decided that a super senior year is necessary, I want to explain myself.
I will be the first to admit that there are a plethora of reasons why staying an additional year doesn’t always make practical or logistical sense. Extending your time in the oftentimes overwhelming and stress-inducing college environment might not, understandably, be among somebody’s top priorities. It’s also not always financially feasible to pay an additional year of college tuition. And in response to those who say, “Don’t worry, what’s another year of college?” I would and do say, “Another year is another year.”
All of these are valid points and if those reasons resonate with students I encourage them to do what is right for them. My intentions are not to preach until I’ve converted you to my personal graduation path. I merely want to counter those stigmas that have plagued the super senior status and have surely dissuaded many students from considering it as an option that might be right for them.
I’m 21 right now, I’ll be 23 by the time I graduate, and assuming I go through medical school and residency I will be no younger than 30 years old when I receive a degree in medicine. My friends can corroborate that since my 18th birthday I’ve spent a lot of time kicking and screaming about how I can feel the gradual formation of wrinkle after wrinkle on my face. If you had asked me when I began Stern if I intended on staying for a super senior year, I would have assuredly answered that my plans were to finish undergrad as soon as possible so I could start the next chapter of my academic career. And yet, here I am, a proud senior-going-on-super-senior student, with another two years in Stern ahead of me.
What influenced such a seemingly illogical decision? During my first year on campus I arranged an entire schedule with all the courses I needed to take. With all my pre-med, Biology major, and core-required courses taken into consideration, I could still manage to graduate in three years as a senior. But after a few months of the year had passed, a sense of regret gradually sank into me, though I couldn’t initially explain why. Eventually I realized that this regret stemmed from my decision to take only the classes I needed, without factoring in the so-called “extraneous” classes that I wanted to take. Since high school I had always enjoyed Jewish Studies, but in my perfectly mapped out schedule, my priorities only allowed me enough time to take a very limited number of Jewish Studies classes. I began to toy with the hypothetical scenario in which I actually took a number of Jewish Studies classes that I was comfortable with, and the result was a choice between two options: a three-year plan with a densely packed schedule that gave me minimal time to breathe, or a four-year plan that was significantly more doable.
Thinking about my schedule became a personal trigger of anxiety. After a lot of internal debating, I concluded that there was only one option that would be sustainable and self-fulfilling. I was not going to pressure myself into getting everything done in an amount of time that was unnecessarily shorter than it had to be. I was going to take the unconventional route and stay for another year. Once I reached that decision, the weight of my self-imposed impractical expectations was lifted and I had never felt better.
My newly synthesized schedule also gave me ample time to participate in more extracurricular activities. My position as TAC president was only a viable option once I knew I could juggle it with a more manageable academic schedule. I saw endless opportunities in how I could spend my time in and outside of the classroom.
We know that college can be done in 3 years. So many of our predecessors have completed their college degrees in that amount of time, completely content with their decisions–as they should be. However, that precedent and the status quo now should not prevent you from making a personal decision as important as this one.Whether you would like to explore other academic areas that you weren’t able to with your major and core requirements, alleviate some of your anxiety from the time constraint that only three years of college imposes on many students, or if you simply want to take your time experiencing what many people describe as the most liberating era of their lives, don’t allow the fear of an additional year to prevent you from making the right decision.