Graduation? It’s just a fairy tale

by Staff

If you spend enough time listening to veteran SDSU students, sooner or later you are going to hear something about the “10-year plan,” probably in the context of graduation.

Freshman: “So, when do you graduate?”

Disillusioned Senior: “Graduate? What’s that? I’m on the 10-year plan!”

New students can rest assured that this is no grand and glorious scheme available only to a select few. You, too, can experience the fun and excitement of spending 10 long years in an attempt to earn your degree! The real question is, why would you want to do that? Do you even have a choice in the matter?

Years ago, before the concept of a four-year college education became obsolete, the joke was probably about being on a five-year plan. Gradually the exaggeration was forced skyward to the point where it is common for students to spend eight years or more just trying to get that bachelor’s degree. Maybe joking about the 10-year plan is a sign of cynicism, or maybe it reflects some difficulty students are trying to conquer with humor.

Time and again I hear horror stories about someone being unable to get into the one class he or she needs to graduate, thereby throwing all of life’s plans off by at least 16 weeks. Fortunately, I have yet to face such a situation, but I am hoping that the current debate about declaring SDSU an impacted campus manages to accomplish something, making those trials and tribulations rare.

I graduated from high school in June 1991, and the most realistic estimates indicate that I will be around until December 1998. Here is a word problem: If I took one semester off, how long will I have been laboring toward that bachelor’s? Counting on the old fingers yields seven years 14 arduous semesters which undoubtedly is not too far from average. But why, if I’ve never had to clear the hurdle of too many students for too few desks, am I dawdling? I guess it could be chalked up to a classic case of fear of commitment.

When I first arrived on the college scene, I decided to major in journalism. There would be no days wandering in the haze of being an undeclared student. No, I knew what I wanted to be. I had spent three years working on my high school newspaper, so it seemed only natural that I should follow that path. As it turned out, I spent three days at that first college and three days as a journalism major. That aborted attempt at higher education marked the only break I have had from school in the last 18 years.

My next stop was community college, an experience I looked forward to as much as I relished two more years of high school, for that is exactly how I had been led to think of community college: high school plus. I had to have a major. This time, it was some fuzzy concept that could best be described as sports medicine. This time I lasted more than three days. It was, in fact, much closer to three whole weeks.

I gave up on sports medicine because I actually convinced myself that I wanted to take as few science classes in college as possible, preferably none at all. Oddly enough, science was what I had excelled at in high school, so somewhere deep in my psyche must have been some need to rebel. By now, though, I had overcome the rebellion and decided to major in biology. A month into that course of study, I read “Jurassic Park,” and suddenly paleontology beckoned, though under the guise of majoring in geology. I wavered back and forth for a while, considering a double major. Eventually I earned an associate’s degree in geology, although I’ll be the first to admit that I could no longer tell a slate from a shale if my very soul depended on it.

And so I came to SDSU as a declared geology major. Four semesters later, I am still, technically, majoring in that field, though I have taken a grand total of one geology course here. Any day I expect to receive a letter from Admissions and Records: “It has come to our attention that you claim to be majoring in geology. May we suggest that you actually enroll in geology courses if you ever plan on graduating?”

I think I decided to change my major about two weeks into my first and only oceanography class. It was back to biology for the time being.

Last spring I thought I would endeavor to attend veterinary school … until I had an epiphany that sent me enthusiastically toward a higher calling. I had tried almost everything else, why not be a man of the cloth?

True to form, I was a religious studies major for two weeks. I remember sitting in class last September, experiencing a follow-up epiphany, realizing, in no uncertain terms, “I don’t want to do this.” I have a tendency to come to that conclusion only after my schedule is set and the semester is underway. If nothing else, always remember, timing is everything.

So now I’m majoring in English or almost majoring in English which, ironically, was the subject I despised the most in high school. This semester, I’ve filled out student information cards with such nebulous terms as “senior, technically” and “English major, eventually.” Now that I’ve come to terms with this version of my destiny, it is about time I come to terms with jumping through the administrative hoops as well.

The moral of the story is this: Fret not, enjoy college while it lasts, for it keeps the real world at bay … and once you graduate, you have to start paying off those lovely student loans, anyway.

Jason McCarty is an English senior (at least for this week) and a contributing columnist for The Daily Aztec.