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Five is the magic number
Posted March 13, 2009

When I told my mom the great news about me not graduating last year, she was devastated and shocked. Or at least I think she was when I told her over the phone. After a brief pause, she started asking me questions about the future. I quickly assured her I would complete college before the end of her lifetime.

And that’s when the truth set in. I was heading into a fifth year of college. Now it was time to tell everyone else.

Telling family and friends at home was actually easy. Many thought somehow these past four years went by as quickly as lightning. “You’re graduating next year? Oh my, you just entered college.” I would reply with a laugh. Obviously they have not been paying close attention, but I am glad they thought I was younger than I am.

Here at school, I knew it was going to be different. To this day people who see me ask, “Didn’t you graduate?” Sometimes I reply with a no. Other times I think of something smart to say back.

At first I felt bad for not graduating “on time.” I think there is a stigma of completing school within four years like most students as ULV. It would have been nice to have graduated last year with my freshman year schoolmates, but I knew CORE classes were a requirement before I set foot in my first class at ULV.

It wasn’t until the end of last May that a friend told me that she was disappointed in me for not taking care of business. For a second I felt like crap.

Hold up. Disappointed? Not taking care of business? Did I do so poorly that all hope was lost? The sky was not falling. The earth was not in an apocalyptic state. I can assure people that there are no zombies or half-dead people lurking around.

The only one that should be disappointed is me. But why should I? That is when I said to myself “okay, enough.” Going into a fifth year in college may be more costly, but it is not a terrible thing that requires guilt and shame about it.

There were plenty of people who came to ULV my freshman year that have not graduated yet. Some of them I even had in my classes. It got me thinking.

It took my older sister six years to finish because she took a break. She is now a social worker for the Los Angeles County of Public Social Services.

A friend of mine took five years and now is the system administrator for the Walnut Valley School District.

While attending a job interview, I mentioned to an editor that I was a fifth year. He told me that it was cool, he was a fifth year too.

Being a fifth year is not half bad. Over this past year, I have used the time to figure out what I want to do in life.

I was not ready to graduate last year and I would have been rushing to finish last year.

I started thinking where I would have been if I had graduated last year.

Truth be told, I would probably be sitting on my mom’s couch watching “The People’s Court.” Of course I would have gone job hunting, but with the current state of the economy, many newspapers are not hiring reporters.

I will be the first male in my family to graduate from college, and according to my grandmother, that is a big feat. She even called me her favorite out of three other grandsons. Now that is awesome.

Fifth years unite.

Jonathan Smith, a senior journalism major, is copy editor of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at jonathan.smith@laverne.edu.