If you squint your eyes a bit you might be able to see one.
They’re rare around here – there are only about 100 in existence on Lehigh’s campus. They seem to know the lay of the land, but they don’t quite blend in seamlessly. Something about them is off, like they don’t necessarily belong in the environment they’ve been placed.
No, I’m not talking about the sometimes obnoxious South Mountain tree dwellers commonly referred to as the Lehigh squirrels. I’m talking about the fifth-years.
I am one of those rare animals. You may not know that because either you don’t know me, or when you asked me at a party if I was a freshman, I responded with “yes” simply because that question is the worst and I have a dry sense of humor.
But the truth is, I’m a fifth year undergraduate. And despite the fact that my standing is not an option listed on add/drop or pass/fail forms — or anything I’ve ever filled out regarding my student status, for that matter — it is, in fact, an option. And a rather inspiring one at that.
At this point, you may be questioning why anyone in their right mind would want to continue going to school for an extra year. The simple answer is that, well, continuing my education was the simple answer. I didn’t know what to do next, and all I’ve known my entire life is how to be a student. So here I am, filling up an another year with partying with my friends and occasionally going to class, right?
No. That’s not the truth, regardless of how many people think my lack of major, program or adviser means I’m just here messing around.
The truth is that I didn’t know what to after working four years to satisfy degree requirements that earned me the title and piece of paper that my parents paid out the nose for.
And yes, I graduated. I took physics, calculus and 300-level computer science courses. I have a bachelor’s of science and a high GPA, and nevertheless, I don’t feel confident or qualified to apply for any of the jobs I want. There’s still so much I need to learn and so many classes that I want to take. And as nerdy as that might sound, I really believe that’s what college should be about – taking the courses that interest you and being honestly intrigued by the subject matter, rather than completing assignments just to get the “A” and studying just to pass the test. Isn’t that what high school was for? College is about learning how to learn. College is about figuring out what you want, who you are and how you work best.
So here I am, still, after four years, taking classes simply to enjoy learning. I’m overloaded in credits and have stepped foot in every department. My schedule is filled with a computer science course, a mechanical engineering course, an industrial engineering course, an art course, a journalism course and an entrepreneurship course. I’m taking classes that I know will be necessary to achieve the career path I want, and not ones that are merely filler courses for some secondary degree requirement.
So no, I don’t currently have a major, a college, an adviser or a status to check on student forms. But I do have more than four years of experience at Lehigh and my commencement, I was “certified as smart” by Kevin Clayton. And therein is my credibility when I say that doing an extra year in school is something that should be embraced, not eschewed.