Stop Saying Four-Year Degree

Stop saying “Four Year Degrees,” okay?

A lot of focus has been put on the Class of 2020. For college students it meant delayed commencements, unemployment, cancelled trips, and a host of other cancellations. Now in 2022 I realize that there are other unsung heroes we’re not focused on, the game changers if you will. That is, the entering frosh and transfers from 2019 and 2020.  Hear me out, these students are the true revolutionaries!

2019 students, you started off on campus in the fall coasting along and then bam!! spring comes along and… Zoom anyone? For those of you who were frosh or transfers in 2020  “Going off to college” meant shopping for a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones. You never realized just how annoying family can be until this semester.  Maybe you went to college to make your parents proud, to be the role model for your younger siblings.  You envision that day when you walk across the stage and there they are there in the audience standing up applauding in your honor.  It’s a day you have replayed over and over in your mind but in fall 2020 your family annoyed the hell out of you.  You’re not tech support so why is your dad asking you to “just take a quick break” to help him with something.  You’re trying to study chemistry and your younger sister is whining about how you didn’t do the dishes last time.  Or maybe you’re a transfer student and your roommate is bellyaching about how the guy they met on Tinder looked nothing like his profile pic. Or maybe you’re a student parent. Not only do you have to worry about reliable internet for yourself but for your kid, too!  You had to go an entire year online!!!!  The whole year!!!  It was awful.

Suddenly fall 2021 rolls around and you’re on campus but guess what, you can’t find anything.  2020 folks you have no clue where anything is because that virtual tour was useless and 2019 folks you don’t remember where anything is? Oh and wait they changed the name of the buildings when the campus was closed. I get it those namesakes had a checkered past but can we please at least update the maps or put a name on the building????  True story, this happened to me.

Why are you the unsung heroes? Because let’s be honest for the first time it’s normalized that students might not finish college in four years and that is totally okay.  For years community college transfer students silently cringed when they heard “a four year degree.”  I mean if you started off not knowing what you wanted to major in it probably take you longer than four years. Maybe you had an undiagnosed neuro condition (not at all uncommon) and struggled a lot then guess what?  Now you’re doing amazing, sweetie! Or maybe you had undiagnosed depression (yep, that’s me) You do realize that the 2019 and 2020 folks spent their entire first and second years on campus.  You worked your butt off to get here and now you’re already a sophomore or a junior? You spent all of fall trying to adjust and getting lost in the mix.   So think about it, would it be horrible to stay an extra semester?  Would a December graduation be that bad?  Actually, you could participate in commencement in May and then officially graduate in December.  People do it all of the time and probably get double the gifts, just saying.  Like I said you entering 2019 and 2020 folks you are the revolutionaries! You are normalizing that it does not always take four years to complete your degree.  Fun fact: yours truly took seven years!! Yep, it took me seven years and that is okay. You had a worldwide pandemic, I had a kid so yeah.

Let’s normalize and stop saying “four year degree.”  Some people do take four years and some don’t.  Life happens, plans change, our interests change, our relationships change, and best of all we change.  Isn’t that what college is all about?  Discovering who we are and what impact we want to have on the world?  So while you entering 2019 and 2020 folks focus on the impacts that you would like to make on the world, ’ll tell you the impact that you’ve already made, you have normalized that not finishing college in four years is completely okay and that’s awesome

Tiffany Reardon is the founder and creator of REU Finder.  For over twenty years she has been working with STEM undergraduate students. Her book “Rose Colored Lenses” is available on



Scholarships with Upcoming Deadlines

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.