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Winter graduation impends

Laura Baumgartner | Friday, December 2, 2005

College is supposed to be the best four years of life, a time to let loose and be crazy between homework and class, something most students are sad to leave behind – but many students each year choose to graduate early.

Jennifer Locetta, an American Studies major, is one such student.

“I decided to graduate early for a number of reasons, one of them being that I didn’t really have to take a lot of classes other semesters in order to do it,” she said.

Completing all class requirements early was a factor for political science major Adam Russell, as well.

“I actually had planned on graduating a year early since I’ve been done with my major classes since last year, but I had to drop a class and needed to stay to take my second theology as a result,” he said.

Christy Dietz, a psychology major and religious studies minor at Saint Mary’s, decided to graduate early before she even arrived at college her freshman year.

“Freshman year when I realized I was going to start off with 18 credits from [Advanced Placement courses] and post-secondary classes in high school, I just thought it sounded like a cool thing to do,” she said. “I also realized it would save a semester’s tuition if I could graduate early. At that point I started planning on it.”

Saving money on tuition was also a factor in Locetta’s decision to graduate early.

“Money-wise, if I didn’t have to take another semester, why would I?” Locetta said. “I’d rather save the money.”

The perception is that early graduation gives students an advantage in the competitive job market students face after school, but this might not always be the case. Locetta’s search was not influenced by her decision to graduate early because she already had a job.

“Graduating early hasn’t really affected my job search because I already have a job, and since it’s in the private sector, it wasn’t much of a factor,” Locetta said.

Searching for a career wasn’t an issue for Russell or Dietz either, as they both plan on attending graduate school. Early graduation won’t affect their application process, but will provide them with some time off before starting graduate classes.

“I’ve been planning on going to law school so graduating early hasn’t really had an affect on that except I’m going to have eight months of dead time in between,” Russell said. “I am going to go back home and get some kind of job in the meantime, but it’s kind of awkward because it’s not long enough to get any type of respectable job.”

Dietz is also looking forward to the opportunity to gain work experience.

“As the years passed I started to become more and more scared of the idea of leaving Saint Mary’s any sooner than I had to, but I knew there was no turning back so I began comforting myself with the idea that graduating early would give me seven to eight months of full-time work experience before starting graduate school in the fall,” she said.

In January, Dietz said she will move into an apartment and work as a full-time counselor at a women’s care center in South Bend.

“I volunteered there over the summer and when they found out I would be looking for work they offered me a full-time position,” she said, “It’s a job I love and I’m really excited about it.”

Students said there are many benefits to early graduation, but leaving behind an endeared place and college friends can still be difficult to do.

Russell didn’t expect to have any regrets about graduating a semester early, but has begun to think about his decision now that his time on-campus is dwindling.

“I have been planning on graduating early, but now that senior year is here, I think I will regret missing second semester because people are busy with interviewing and applying to graduate school first semester,” he said. “Second semester is more of a time to unwind, and I am sad that I won’t be able to hang out with my friends. [But] I just couldn’t justify paying to take four useless electives to stay here.”

Locetta won’t be leaving a lot of friends behind, but she also laments not being able to spend more time with her classmates in the second semester.

“I have a lot of friends in grades ahead of me, so that was another reason I wanted to graduate early,” Locetta said. “I don’t feel like I will be missing out on a lot, but I have noticed that people are much more relaxed about who they hang out with as seniors and I have met more people this year than I have any other year as a result.”

Dietz faces a different situation once she leaves campus because her job will keep her in South Bend, though she too will miss her friends and being on campus everyday.

“I think I really am going to miss just being here on campus day in and day out,” she said. “I love Saint Mary’s and it’s really sad to know that in a few short weeks they’ll be kicking me out of LeMans and giving me a degree. On the other hand, I have decided to live and work in South Bend rather than moving away second semester so I won’t have to leave my friends or miss out on any events.”

Despite the few regrets she has about leaving her undergraduate years behind, Dietz said the positive outweighed the negative and recommends early graduation to anyone who might be giving it thought.

“My best advice for anyone thinking about trying to graduate early is this – go for it,” she said.