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OPINION: Not everyone finishes their degree in four years and that's okay


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Alanna Sparks

Ever since I was 8 years old I’ve known what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew what I wanted to go to school for, and I made sure that my plans lined up accordingly.

For me, it’s always been photography. Photos have a special place in my heart because no matter what happens in life, those photos have frozen a moment in time forever.

By the time I was a senior in high school, my yearbook adviser set my sights on Central Michigan University and encouraged me to pursue photojournalism. I signed my major in October of my freshman year. That was in 2015.

I haven’t changed it once. But I haven’t graduated yet.

And that’s okay.

As it stands now, to graduate from CMU you must have 120 credit hours. Let’s break that down over a four-year period. One hundred twenty divided by four is 30. Thirty credit hours each school year is what you are required to complete to graduate "on time," pending no obstacles jump in your way on the journey. 

I’ve just about had it with people judging me for not finishing college in four years.

I’ve had it with anyone receiving backlash for not finishing in four years.

Things happen. Majors change. Mental health takes a toll. There are many factors than can play into not having a “four-year degree” completed within four years. Failing just one class could push you back an entire semester.

For me personally, I had to drop out during spring 2018 to undergo brain surgery. Feb. 28, 2018 is a day that I will never forget. Nor will I forget my 24-day hospital stay, during which I had to learn how to walk again.

I didn’t return to CMU until August 2018 to try to tackle the next academic year.

During my first year back, I learned that I could no longer handle the course load required to be a full-time student. And that’s okay.

College is hard and you are allowed to admit that. More importantly you’re allowed to have hard times.

It’s time for the judgement to stop.

Other students might not have something as severe as brain surgery that has pushed back their graduation date, but they don’t need a “severe” or “tragic” reason why they haven’t received their degree yet.

We don’t owe you an explanation. We are here sitting in class, taking exams, working on projects and crying in the library right alongside the rest of you.

If we change our major, that’s okay.

If we take time off, that’s okay.

If we don’t take as many credits as the kid next to us, that’s okay.

I will graduate from CMU and receive my degree after five-and-a-half years, and I couldn’t be more proud to be telling you that. It’s time you all start to view it the same way.

A degree is a degree. We don’t deserve judgement just because our timeline doesn’t match up with someone else’s.

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About Alanna Sparks