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The Rise of the Super Senior

By Arianna Skibell Posted: 01/17/2011
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We’ve all heard it: college is the best four years of your life. What if you could make it the best five years of your life?

For certain students at Emory University, delaying entry into the world of taxes, electrical bills and job applications for one more year is a feasible option. Students who have withdrawn from school due to illness or other extenuating circumstances are granted permission to return for a fifth year, as are students dealing with problems transferring their credit from another university. Emory’s Courtesy Scholarship grants partial or full tuition for five years to students whose parents are employed by the University. Courtesy Scholars, who choose to remain for an additional year, are some of the most common and perhaps most coveted super seniors on campus.

This extra year spent in an academic environment can further students’ exploration of previously unknown aspects of the Unviersity. Super Senior Sophie Edwards decided to take advantage of her courtesy scholarship when her parents asked her to stay a fifth year in order to add an English major to her theater studies major.

“I keep thanking my parents for asking me to take a fifth year. I have met the most passionate (and compassionate) professors; I have been challenged to think critically, write eloquently, speak articulately,” said Edwards. “I honestly can’t say enough about how I’ve benefited from just one extra semester.”

Edwards was cast in last semester’s Theater Emory performance of You Can’t Take it With You, which she describes as one of the best experiences of her Emory career. “Plus I was happy to put off joining the ‘real world’ for as long as possible.”

But not everyone chooses to become a super senior. In the middle of his junior year at Emory, Alex Brokaw withdraw due to illness.

“The University was unbelievably accommodating to my situation,” said Brokaw.
The hiatus gave Brokaw a chance to reconsider his previously-chosen career path, and upon his return to school, he changed his course of study from an economics major—Chinese minor to a creative writing major with a minor in economics. The opportunity to delve into a new, more captivating discipline is one Brokaw has taken very seriously.

“When I got back, I was less concerned with the social aspects of Emory and more concerned with Emory’s academics, which is probably how it should be,” said Brokaw.

Although there are benefits to extending one’s college career, it isn’t always an easy choice. Fifth-year student Sarah Wallace entered Emory as a transfer student and although the university gave her credit for her freshman-year courses, they were considered unequivalent.

“Basically, I had to start over from scratch,” Wallace said.

Although Wallace’s original plan was to finish in three years, it became much too daunting of a task to complete a double major in neuroscience and behavioral biology (NBB) and creative writing in just three years. Wallace decided to extend her overall college career to five years in total, despite her reservations.

“I was afraid that, with the recession, I might receive less financial aid in my fifth year of the college,” said Wallace. “Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. I also had reservations about not graduating until I was 24, since I had taken some time off before coming to Emory. I think I still have those reservations.”

Despite the difficulties, Wallace recognizes the extreme benefit of a fifth year.

“After five years, I’ve finally learned how to study, how to organize my materials and my time,” she said. “I’m more appreciative of the opportunities that a university setting provides.” 

Emory students considering a fifth year are also faced with the concern of being left behind by their graduating class.

“The worst part is feeling out of place. All my friends from my graduating class are gone,” said Edwards.

Sophomore Jake Krakovsky, a Courtesy Scholar, is contemplating staying on for a fifth year to complete a second major, in addition to his declared theater studies major, and perhaps to write an honors thesis. Krakovsky feels that an extra year would help facilitate these goals. The social concern of being left behind has also not eluded him.

“It will probably be a little weird seeing all my friends graduate and knowing they’ll be dispersing about the country while I remain at Emory for another year,” said Krakovsky. “Or seeing friends from high school who are already entering the work force and acting like adults.”

Although for many it is not financially feasible to take a fifth year, those who are fortunate enough to do so consider the experience of continued academic growth a rewarding and precious opportunity.

Besides, what’s more one more year?

— Contact Arianna Skibell

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