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Early Graduation? For MY Oberlin Degree? It's Likelier Than You Think

February 13, 2022

Charlize Villasenor ’23

In less than a week, I’ll be starting the spring semester of my Junior year. Although I love Oberlin and everything it has done for me, I’m excited that I’m getting closer to graduation and I’m ready for the next chapter of my life. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I have hopes for graduating early, so I want to talk about that a bit in today’s post. 

When I came to Oberlin, I wanted to make sure I graduated in four years and I wouldn’t be spending more money than I needed to on my degree. I made sure to only take classes that would fulfill requirements my first few semesters, and I realized that I was progressing with my degree plan pretty quickly. When I was talking with my advisor before spring semester registration, she asked me what my goals were and what I wanted to do after I graduated. After a lot of thinking, I realized that I wanted to take some time off between my undergraduate education and law school so I could save money. I told my advisor about this, and she asked, why not graduate early? She had told me that she graduated early when she was an undergraduate student and about her experience, and after a few days, I realized that it would be in my best interest to graduate early. I have taken the standard number of classes each semester to graduate in four years, so I will need to overload on classes for spring and fall 2022 and take two classes over the summer and transfer them to Oberlin. Although it might seem like it would just be easier to finish in spring 2023, I think finishing my degree a semester early and completing it in fall 2022 would be the wiser decision for me. I know that my financial aid package will look different next year since my parents’ employment situation is different than it was when I was applying to college, and even though I’ll be spending extra money over the summer by taking summer classes, I’ll end up saving money in the long run. Though this might not be the path that suits everyone, so far it seems to fit my needs and goals. I’m glad my advisor was looking out for me and my specific situation rather than just saying, “here’s your registration number, have a great day.”

Although graduating early is contingent on me passing all my classes and Oberlin accepting my transfer credits, working with the registrar at Oberlin and the other institution has been going smoothly so far. Most of my questions were answered by looking through the Oberlin website, so I only had to ask a few clarifying questions when I met with the Assistant Dean for Student Support. In order to ensure I have enough credits to keep me on (early) schedule, I’m registered for 21 hours (five full classes and a 1 credit class) this semester. I know I’ll be staying busy, but I’m excited that I have the opportunity to finish my degree early. Both of my parents took longer than four years to graduate due to personal circumstances like having children and getting married, so this is especially meaningful to me. 

Since I (hopefully) won’t have to attend classes in spring 2023, I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with that time. For now, I’m planning on getting an online data analysis certification and learning how to use Tableau and Python so I can strengthen my skills and my resume, traveling to various cities so I can see where I might like to live, and applying to more jobs that I will qualify for once I have my degree. The coming year will be hectic since I have the spring semester coming as I finish my winter term internship, I’m hoping to accept a summer internship, then complete my summer classes, and finally finish out the year with my fall 2022 semester, all while holding a job or two so I can save money for life after college. What I’m trying to say is, if you hear less from me this year, don’t be too worried. I’m working on my education, and most importantly, I’m working on myself. I’ve already planned to treat myself to something every semester and invest in my self-care practices, so as long as I stick to my personal commitments, I’m sure I’ll be able to accomplish what I set out to do.

As I said earlier, I wanted to write this post just to shed more light on my reasoning for pursuing an early graduation and how I intend to do that. This isn’t the path that many take, but I’ve decided that it would be the best choice for me. Many students choose to finish their degree in the planned four years, but I refuse to call graduating in four years or eight semesters “graduating on time,” because being “on time” is different for everyone. I know people who took time off between semesters or academic years, I know others who decided being a part-time student would be their best option, and I know others that transferred between four different institutions and still received their diploma in a relatively short amount of time. What is “normal” or “on time” is different for everybody, so don’t take this post as my encouragement to rush through your time as an undergraduate student, but instead as something to calm the nerves of students who are unsure if they fit into the mold of what it means to be an Obie. You don’t have to start college at 18, graduate in four years, come from the same state or region, or do anything else that you think you need to do to be an Obie in order to take full advantage of your years as an undergraduate student. The most important thing is taking your education (and life) at your own pace, and only you can determine what that pace is yourself. I’m just glad that the faculty and staff at Oberlin are willing to help me navigate what that looks like for me and trust that I know what is best for me.

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