I’d like to congratulate my colleagues and classmates who are graduating because it’s a great achievement and a milestone in most people’s lives. I’d also like to share my opinion on the subject of graduation and rethink what it means to spend more than four years achieving it.
As my fourth year of studying forest management at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is coming to an end, I am not preparing for graduation, rather, I am preparing for one more semester of class.
I realized my graduation would be delayed during an appointment with my adviser in the fall of my junior year. We scoured the cryptic document called a Degree Progress Report and discovered I had taken about a semester worth of extra-curricular classes that didn’t count toward my degree. I had been taking German and intro-level math instead of courses in the forestry major.
I wasn’t particularly concerned with the news because I had friends in the same situation and the thought of spending more time in Stevens Point was comforting. Taking more than four years to graduate, after all, isn’t so uncommon, right?
My junior year came and went and it wasn’t until the end of the fall semester of my senior year that I realized I wasn’t as eager to stay another semester as I had thought. I began to feel like the extra time would be a good chance to squeeze out the last bits of college life I know and love, but it may not be the “victory lap” I had imagined.
This realization came on the heels of a summer internship in northern Wisconsin, which helped me mature as both an individual and a professional. I came away from that experience feeling like I had a better understanding of what I needed to do to be successful; I became more aware of my preferences, goals and abilities. In essence, I had grown up a bit.
I built on the internship the following fall and set my sights on graduation. I left my campus job for two others that were better suited to help me grow. I spent less time blowing off assignments and spent more time doing them.
Most recently, I have scaled back some of my club sport commitments and ruthlessly sought summer jobs across the country. I have constantly been busy and certainly stressed, but noticed I was most bored, anxious and unsatisfied when I had nothing to do. My efforts have been successful. I have accepted a summer job, and I feel ready for graduation.
I feel ready for graduation not only because I have stepped up my game as a student and a professional, but because I’m anxious to start a career and college can be a pain. I want financial stability, a permanent job and home. I also want a regular schedule that doesn’t require taking quizzes on D2L.
I’m dreading the thought of moving my furniture and belongings in and out of an apartment next semester for what seems like the thousandth time in four years. I’ll have to pay another security deposit, which I probably won’t get back. I’ll add to my mountain of debt by paying for a semester of classes that stand between me and a full-time job. To top it off, I’ll be spending the last semester without some of my closest classmates and friends because they have graduated and left town.
I feel there is something unnatural about graduating in four and a half years. It’s like throwing a wrench into the four-year degree plan you buy into when you decide which university to attend after high school.
At the same time, one more semester feels completely natural. Whether I admit it or not, college life is all I’ve known since graduating high school, and Stevens Point feels like home. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy drinking cheap beer on weekdays. I’d also be lying if I said I can’t wait to graduate because the truth is, I can wait.
I’m looking forward to my final semester not as a “victory lap,’” but as a final opportunity to take advantage of the information, people and resources associated with a college experience. It’ll be my final chance to make sure I am ready for a career in my field and it will be a last moment to be immersed in study before life’s other challenges take priority. Learning, of course, does not end after graduation, but the situation is different.
Stevens Point has been and will continue to be good to me. I’m excited for another semester at The Pointer and UWSP. I can rest easy at night knowing tests, assignments and most importantly, dollar bottles are in my future.