The perks of running a victory lap

Extra time at university can be a period of growth and self discovery

As someone who graduated high school in 2012, it feels like I’ve been in university forever. It’s not pleasant to watch old classmates delve into real life things – nursing jobs, pharmacy school, starting their own engineering businesses, getting accepted into Harvard Law and so on – while I continue to plug away at a comparably lame bachelor’s degree.

Starting out so hopeful, with a full tuition scholarship and a year’s worth of International Baccalaureate credits, I should have been able, in theory, to complete my degree within three years with no debt (rather than in six with student loans). But two drop outs, five program changes and two universities later … and I might actually graduate this spring!

While it has been a journey to get here, I know I’m not alone in this alternative undergraduate path. The term “victory lap” refers to taking an extra year (or years) to complete one’s degree, rather than following the traditional four-year route. Taking a victory lap often has a negative connotation, as it may imply that the student is less studious than their peers. However, many fifth- and upper-year students are completing honours degrees, working jobs while studying to pay for their degree, or wisely acknowledging their limits with heavy course loads.

Although money and time are limiting factors in the pursuit of education, remember that there are perks to running a victory lap if you find yourself in a position to need one.

First of all, how many high school graduates actually have a sweet clue of what they’d like to do with their lives? It takes time to figure this out. High school doesn’t expose us to all of the possibilities, and often students feel pressure to go straight to university afterward. Extra time provides you with an opportunity to learn what field truly interests you, and to gauge if this field offers the type of learning that you’re seeking.

Second, university is not an easy game to play. It takes time to figure out taking responsibility for yourself, living away from what you’ve been used to and adapting to such a fast-paced academic culture. Allowing yourself more time to immerse yourself into university is ideal.

Third, victory laps allow for life to happen. Most university students are at a delicate age of self-discovery, learning how to manage their mental health in a new environment and embracing an incredible stage of change in their lives. Sometimes a break from education may offer much more meaningful life experiences than university can.

University is a powerful journey that is worth extending. Each year builds onto the creation of your own personal empire, which includes the residence you live in, the clubs you are part of, the sports you engage in and the peers and professors you connect with. An extra year may bring about opportunities to take on leadership roles that you are passionate about, or even to take courses that actually interest you! Indeed, there is a reason we call them victory laps.

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