OPINION | It’s OK to take a long time to finish your degree

The saying “it’s a marathon, not a race” is true, despite being overused. Take your time to finish your education, because it’s your life and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

I am in my eighth and final year of school in higher education. I graduate next week on my birthday, Dec. 16, with the rest of the fall graduates. I took my time to graduate, and I don’t regret it.

I started going to university at 18 years old like a lot of students, right after graduating high school. I went to Pikes Peak State College and took their version of an associate’s political science degree because at the time I was interested in politics. But I had no real goals in the field, and I felt confused.

During my first semester, I met a 50-year-old police officer in a first-year philosophy course at PPSC. He was going back to school to major in education because he wanted to be a teacher. He told me he hated his job, and he wanted to spend the rest of his time in the workforce doing something he was passionate about.

At the time, I didn’t understand him, because I felt bad for being confused about what I wanted to do. Looking back, the police officer (I wish I could remember his name) sticks in my memory because he is one of the best examples for why it’s OK to take your time in education. In my college career, he hasn’t been the only person I met who was in their 50s or older, going to school to jumpstart their career and pursue their passions.

If you’re around this officer’s age right now, going to UCCS, chasing your dream — you’re not alone. Your patience and dedication to chase what you want deserves support and understanding.

For me, the confusion didn’t stop for almost three years, during which I changed my major four times. I also moved states to try and find something else but found nothing. I felt so disconnected from others who were my age and were already graduating. I felt behind. It feels stupid now, of course, but at the time, I felt ashamed for being unable to figure it out.

My first course correction happened at PPSC when I joined the school’s newspaper. The next course correction was with an internship at The Gazette, where I met a reporter who had majored in digital filmmaking.

When I was 18, I liked writing and had ideas for films (documentaries and fiction alike). I convinced myself that I needed to go to college for something different instead of doing what I was passionate about.

In 2020, I transferred to UCCS after graduating with my associate’s from PPSC, and I finally allowed myself to give in and follow my passions. It took time, more time than others, but I still did it — and it’s OK that it took eight years.

Also, I got to write and direct two student films while at UCCS, so I was able to make my ideas a reality, even the ones I thought were dumb at first.

The point I’m making is that an undergraduate degree doesn’t always just take four years to complete, because human beings are flexible. We are capable of change and emotions, and sometimes our interests evolve, or we burn out and slow down to do other things.

We are not robots. We have limited time on this earth, and it’s our right to use it and work with it in whatever way we want.

Are you feeling burnt out, or don’t know what to do? Leave for a semester, work a job and think about what you want in this life. You have time. You’re OK. Fight for yourself, and graduate when you’re ready to graduate — don’t do it for anyone else.

Photo from UCCS Twitter.