Senior kinesiology major Nicole Gillespie’s journey towards graduation has been a long one. She is now a sixth-year senior.
Since enrolling at Temple in Fall 2001, she has undergone surgeries for chronic pelvic pain, forcing her to take time off for recovery.
“I’m always worried that they’re going to kick me out,” Gillespie said. “If everything goes OK, [I’ll graduate] at the end of this summer, but I don’t know.”
Gillespie’s medical conditions aside, she shares one common trait with many Temple students: she is a senior who has failed to graduate within four years.
According to the Office of Planning and Analysis Research, 1,642 of the 34,218 students enrolled at Temple worldwide were high seniors in 2006. A high senior is formally defined as a student with more than 120 credits. However, some Temple colleges consider a high senior any student who has taken more than four years to complete their major.
“One-hundred twenty credits are the minimum that you need for any kind of degree,” Vice Provost Peter R. Jones said. “Once you’re over 120, in theory, you could have graduated.”
Many students fail to understand what put them on a longer track toward graduation.
“I went part-time for two semesters and I took a semester off,” said Jon DeCenzi, a senior chemistry major.
DeCenzi also said he experienced advising problems along the way that may have contributed to his extra time at Temple.
“When you first get here, they give you the peer advisers and the peer advisors aren’t always the same major as you,” he said. “So it was a geology major who scheduled my classes as chemistry major.”
Michael Mahan, a senior engineering technology major, knows the fate of a few extra semesters is inevitable for him.
“I’m supposed to graduate spring of ’08, and it’s looking more like spring of 2010,” Mahan said. “In my third year, I decided to change my major from mechanical engineering to engineering. I realized that I didn’t like math so much. My advising could have been a little more helpful. They keep certain things in the dark until you ask about them.”
Julia Wilkinson, a junior journalism major, has already been in school for more than five years. She lamented over the indecisiveness that contributed to her extra semesters.
“Not knowing what I want to do, that was the worst,” Wilkinson said. “I was a social worker major and then I started freaking out . . . I knew I liked cameras, so I changed to journalism. It was really stressful and people in the journalism department would make fun of me because I would switch between them and social work about 10 times a semester.”
Changing majors and having double majors are common reasons for graduation delays.
“A student might do a double major and a minor,” said Ruby Singh Siddiqui, advising director in the College of Science and Technology. “So sometimes the graduation rate won’t be within a four year mark because they actually have more requirements to fulfill by choice.”
“Temple students are very ambitious and sometimes bite off more than they can chew,” Associate Vice Provost Christopher M. Dennis said. “A lot are dealing with tough academic curricular challenges. At the same time, a lot of our students work, sometimes even working full-time while taking full-time course loads.”
College of Health Professions advising director Monica Reid had advice for students looking to avoid an extra year at Temple.
“See your adviser early,” she said. “Make better decisions early about your programs of study. And students need to know that earlier rather than later to avoid adding time to a degree.”
Angela Moseley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.