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It’s time to kick the arbitrary four-year timeline to the curb

By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor

Post-secondary educational programs are often presented as allotted timelines that correspond to annual requirements. For example, a four-year bachelor’s degree assumes five courses a semester, or 10 a year in Ontario. Yet, these are only guidelines and are not set in stone. 

There are benefits to both shortening and prolonging a degree, along with costs. Unfortunately, the latter is often met with criticism in our increasingly workaholic society. This stigma needs to be reevaluated so that students can achieve success at their own pace without undue pressure.

Firstly, it is worth noting that there are multiple benefits to extending the time one takes to complete a degree. For one, with fewer courses at one moment in time, there are more opportunities to pursue extracurriculars, work and social activities. The former two are highly valuable in adding to one’s resume and expanding future job prospects, but the latter is also important in encouraging a strong life balance. 

It is worth noting that there are multiple benefits to extending the time one takes to complete a degree.

With the unfortunate increase in mental health disorders today, striving for such a balance is even more crucial. Additionally, focusing on fewer courses means there is a greater chance of savouring course content, as opposed to working only to meet deadlines. Given the exorbitant time, energy and money that education demands, one should take every chance to get the most out of their education. 

One should also consider that there is a positive correlation between time spent completing a degree and the graduation rate. For instance, Harvard’s four-year graduation rate is approximately 85% whereas the five-year graduation rate is almost 95%. To put it into perspective, this 10% increase represents about 700 students at Harvard and 3000 students at McMaster.

If extra time spent on your degree makes such a significant difference, then why haven’t we yet accepted taking your time? Especially in a society where degrees are progressively becoming more valuable. Overall, there are a myriad of benefits to slowing down one’s education instead of trying to relentlessly pursue the socially-accepted completion time. 

These benefits are met with only a few consequences. Firstly, prolonging one’s studies could eventually dispel motivation. One may start eager to learn, but eventually become apathetic and neglect coursework by the end of the study period. Moreover, the jobs one may obtain in their extra time, or even school guidelines, may lower the amount of scholarships available. This is most distressing for those who have high financial need, but not as much for those who already obtained sufficient scholarship funds at the beginning of their education. Individuals considering a longer study time should reflect on the benefits and costs to decide the right course of action for them. 

In our increasingly competitive world, part-time studies — or any form of studying that takes longer than what is outlined — seems to be frowned upon. Individuals might believe that such a person lacks the time management, productivity skills or even basic intellect to finish a degree at the same time as others. 

However, this is far from the truth. It takes a high level of honesty to commit to putting oneself first in a time where there is a binary between an actual person and their work. Taking the time off to focus on self-development and maintaining balance in one’s life will pay off more than attempting to fit in with the status quo. In this way, such individuals should be revered for their courage as opposed to being discriminated against. 

It takes a high level of honesty to commit to putting oneself first in a time where there is a binary between an actual person and their work.

Everyone is incredibly unique and one’s education should follow suit. There is no reward in joining the same race as everyone else if one would be better off running to the beat of their own heart. So, instead of discouraging the truth in our manipulated and photoshopped society, let’s reward those with the courage to defy it. 

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