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There are all sorts of studies out there that I’m too lazy to look up regarding the rising trend of college students extending their four-year degrees into fifth and sixth years. This has been attributed to everything from the increase in course difficulty to the popularity of dual-degree programs. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I think that’s mostly bullshit. What many college students realized is that they were going to be saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt no matter how quickly they graduated, so they might as well squeeze a year or two of extra time in the college lifestyle while it was still available. Conversely, I went to school on a full academic scholarship, so I realized that I might as well let the university pay for me to stay there as long as possible. I’m of the belief, however, that if you are going to take on extra years of schooling, you ought to do it the right way. It’s not a fifth-year, my friends. It’s a Victory Lap.
Personally, I stuck around for an extra year because I switched studies my sophomore year from a Finance and Accounting double major to Political Science with a specialization in International Relations. This might sound ill-advised on the surface of it, but it actually worked out quite well (except for the part where my degree is of no use to me in my current career). All of my Gen Ed class requirements were the same, and carried over to my new major. But I also had taken exactly enough hours in my previous major to have a minor in Business. I was actually on track to graduate early if it weren’t for one pesky requirement. My focus in International Relations mandated that I take eighteen hours of a foreign language and since my shitty high school Spanish skills weren’t going to be enough to test out of any of them, I was doomed to spend at least three more years in school no matter what. So what did I do? I took one or two Political Science courses each semester, and padded my hours with electives. I took so many unnecessary English courses that I accidentally earned another minor.
Speaking of electives, make sure to mine those for all the value you can. Their only purpose for me was to provide enough hours to maintain my full-time student status. So I took shit that was either easy or really interesting. Another thing that you should always do is to fill in a 3-hour class slot each semester with three 1-hour courses. The great thing is that you can repeat certain classes every semester no matter how many times you take them. So my schedule always included Golf and a one-on-one Guitar Instruction class. That’s two hours right there. For golf, the rule was if you’re an “advanced” golfer, you only have to show up to the first day of class, take the final at the end of the first day (which was basically just a quiz on basic rules), and then turn in ten scorecards at the end of the semester. I was playing twice a week already, so why the hell wouldn’t I get some class credit and a half-off discount on green fees? Guitar was just me showing up for half an hour every Monday to hang out and jam with my 80-year old professor who used to play with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s dad and was Dimebag Darrell’s first guitar instructor. Then for the last one-hour, I’d pick some random lecture course that met three times the entire semester on a super specific topic. I shit you not, one of the lecture courses I took was “The Philosophical Foundations of Calvin and Hobbes.” No, not the theologian/philosopher Calvin and Hobbes, the Bill Watterson, “kid who has adventures with his stuffed tiger” Calvin and Hobbes.
One last thing about electives. If your university allows it, take them Pass/Fail. It’s literally the best perk ever, and I don’t quite understand how we’re still allowed to get away with it. You can show up to your electives as much or little as you want; as long as you get a passing grade, it goes into your transcript as “Complete,” and doesn’t move the needle on your GPA a single decimal point.
Ok, that’s it for classes. Now onto the fun stuff. Since you’re ending your final days as a student, you’re a veteran now. A lot of guys are basically inactive in their chapters at this point. Don’t be that guy. I’m not saying you have to show up for every bullshit philanthropy event or pledging activity, but be there for the important stuff. And take the time to get to know the JIs. I know they seem like idiot children to you at this point, but that’s because they still need to be taught in the ways of the frat. There were several fifth years who made the effort to show me the ropes when I was a young pup, so I made sure to pay it forward. Set them up with a fake ID. At this point you either know a guy who knows a guy, or you have a buddy with an old one that kinda looks like them. Then take those greenhorns out and teach them your ways. Which bars to go to on which nights based on a complex algorithm of bartender attractiveness, live music, and drink specials. Take the boys out to your buddy’s lease and kill some animals. Teach them to properly prepare and grill said animals. And for God’s sake, keep them from making rookie mistakes. Get those boys swimming in poon.
Basically, my point is that your final years should be spent doing what’s important. You’ve gotten all of the hard work out of the way, it’s time to clean up the last few credits you need to graduate and not fuck up badly enough to get kicked out of school. A lot of your friends will be gone, pursuing adult life, but not you. For a brief period, you have managed to continue living in the glorious collegiate bubble of free flowing beer, dozens of best friends, and thousands of girls who constantly rationalize poor life choices the same way you do: “It’s just college.” Make the most of it.