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Why It’s Okay to Pass On Graduating Early

By: Courtney Erat, Account Executive


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Like many other students, I came to Penn State with dual enrollment credits from high school. When I arrived on campus for freshman orientation, I was told I could graduate in two and a half years if I didn’t minor in anything, or three years if I did. However, in a few weeks, I will start my fourth year at Penn State. In May, I will graduate with a bachelors in public relations, two minors (sociology and business in the liberal arts) and a certificate in sports journalism.

The decision to stay for four years was not an easy one. Pro-con lists were made, deliberated, scrapped and started again. It was a decision that I was even a bit self-conscious about when friends from my high school graduating class with were walking across the stage this past May. But ultimately, I know that choosing to not graduate early was the right choice for me. I knew that Penn State had much more to offer me than I could take advantage of in three short years.

My last two semesters in Happy Valley will be spent as a part-time student. One of the main reasons I chose this route was that it will give me the ability to focus on getting a substantial internship. While many people balance internships with full-time course loads, I have given myself the opportunity to take on an internship with more hours and tasks. As a result, I am hoping to gain more hands-on experience before I step out into that big, scary “real world” that waits for all of us on the other side of Mount Nittany.

Not only will I have more knowledge to draw from when I enter the workforce, I will have more time to spend applying for jobs, researching where I want to live, and planning for life after college. As a part-time student, I can focus on giving myself the best future after I leave Penn State — and isn’t that why we all came to college to begin with?

This is a choice that shows conscious decision-making. Employers will see that I chose a path less taken and made an effort to improve myself and expand my skill set. Additionally, it shows time management. I knew I had to spread out my classes so that I could gain more professional experience through an internship during my senior year.

Perhaps what I am most thankful for is that choosing to not graduate early gave me the opportunity to expand my extracurriculars. Because I decided to stay, I have the time to be a Public Relations Captain for Penn State Homecoming and an Account Executive with HVC. These roles have not only taught me more about PR, but about post-grad life, the interview process, and how to be a leader.

So, as I enter my senior year and the “real world” looms closer than ever, I’m still not ready to leave the home I’ve made in Happy Valley. But, because I decided to pass on graduating early, I’ll be more ready than I could have ever hoped when I walk across the stage in May.


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