Not Graduating on Time? Here’s How to Deal with That Fact


Back to the blog

After several semesters spent studying, test-taking, and – admittedly – indulging in a few well-deserved parties, you find yourself near the finish line of your college experience. You can almost smell the freedom from academic obligations now… but, unfortunately, you’re not quite ready to graduate alongside your peers. No, this isn’t a sequence taken straight from a Stephen King tale, but instead, a firm reality for the 59 percent of college students who don’t graduate within the typically prescribed four-year time frame.

Yep, you read that right. According to the New York Times, only two-fifths of students graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in four years. These days, people are stretching out the path of their educational experiences, taking breaks in between to handle personal and family matters, pursue internship and career opportunities, and transfer to other institutions. And, sometimes, it can be difficult to conquer every major requirement in such a short amount of time. Statistically speaking, you could even say that it’s more odd to graduate in four years than it is to graduate in six or eight!

But, even still, this fact probably doesn’t ease the burn of seeing your buddies accept their diplomas before moving on to phenomenal post-graduation plans, whether it’d be travel opportunities, internships in their field of choice, or their first full-time job. Despite all this, you’re already prepared. You’ve already broken the news to your closest family members, renewed your apartment’s lease for another year, and enrolled in classes for the fall semester. Now that all the external business is handled, it’s time to turn your focus inward for a bit of personal re-centering.

Here are a few helpful tips to remember if you’re a college student facing delayed graduation, courtesy of your cheerleading squad here at uCribs!

Remember that you aren’t alone.

Everywhere you turn, it seems that students are celebrating their successes while you’re avoiding the whole event of graduation altogether, choosing instead to spend some downtime with your best friends, Ben and Jerry, while you catch up on your latest Netflix obsession. Sure, right now, you might feel a bit isolated and a whole-lot-of overwhelmed. But, that’s okay. As much as it might seem like no one else can understand your pain, the opposite is true. In reality, there are tons of students – thousands, even! – who have been in your shoes and lived to tell the tale.

Ever notice how unfortunate situations can make us feel utterly alone? Yep, us, too. But, even in our most desperate times, it’s important to remember that we have plenty of friends to help us through, even though it might not feel like it. Plus, to put things into perspective, there are far worse things in the world than delaying your graduation by a few semesters. It may sound a little Hallmark-esque, but isn’t life all about taking the losses with the wins?

late graduation, graduation day, graduating late, help, tips, advice, college life,

Resist the temptation to quit altogether.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to stay the course when it seems like things aren’t working in your favor. This is especially true during your college years because you’re working harder than ever before without any instant gratification. It’s enough to drive you crazy and possibly convince distressed students to shrug off their studies altogether. But, if you’re hoping to pull yourself out of this graduation-related slump, you’ll never quite get there if you don’t push through those contradictory feelings and finally get your hands on that degree.

Even though you may not be graduating this year, it doesn’t mean that your previous years of work don’t amount to anything! Try to be grateful for the experiences that you’ve had thus far. The fact is, pursuing higher education is considered a privilege by millions of people around the world, who would love the opportunity to attend college. Don’t squander the work you’ve already put in toward the accomplishment of a lifetime. That’s right – we’re talking about earning your college degree!

Take a time-out for your well-being.

You know how major events always get magnified on social media? Graduation day will be no different. Assuming that you have a pulse and a social media presence, you’re sure to see tons of photos and real-time social media stories, documenting cap and gown selfies and celebratory dinners and parties. These posts will likely drain your energy, reminding you that you’re not included in the festivities and leading to all-around bad vibes during what’s supposed to be a happy time for all.

In order to combat these negative emotions, we highly recommend that you schedule a personal time-out during or immediately after graduation season. You can take a short trip to your favorite place, play tourist in your college town for the day, or schedule a DIY spa night with your best pals. No matter what your idea of self-care looks like, find an enjoyable way to step back from social media and your academics for a day or two, and you’ll probably find that your mental vacay is just what the doctor prescribed for a bit of peace-of-mind.

late graduation, graduation day, graduating late, help, tips, advice, college life,

Reach out to your on-campus resources.

Now that you’re in a better emotional state, you might be wondering what your next steps are. After all, you’re more determined than ever to get that Bachelor’s and continue along your path of success – graduation day be darned! But, you might also be feeling a little embarrassed about reaching out for advice given your newly minted status as a fifth-year senior. Hey, that’s completely understandable – but certainly no reason to forego getting the help you deserve to ensure the rest of your college career stays on track.

If you’re facing a delayed graduation, the first person you’ll want to speak to is a financial advisor. Money matters can get a little tricky once you’ve passed the four-year mark. In fact, financial stress is the leading reason why frustrated students drop out for good. Avoid the same fate by meeting with someone who can help you navigate money matters, whether it’d be student loans, grants, or scholarships you’d still be eligible for. After your finances are in order, you’ll want to hop over to your academic advisor who can work to best accommodate your schedule, as you snag those remaining core credits. No one wants to be surprised by any further delays of your future graduation date.

When it comes to mapping out the ideal college experience, most of us automatically assume that we’ll be graduating within four years. Sometimes, though, this simply isn’t the case. Whether you decided to mix up your major, embark on a once-in-a-lifetime internship in Prague, transfer to a new university, or take a break for personal matters, there are a ton of factors that may contribute to a delayed graduation date – and, consequently, a mixed bag of mostly negative emotions. But, as you’ll soon find out, graduating late isn’t the end of the world. With the right mindset and a continual commitment to your studies, you’ll soon be joining the ranks of college grads around the country. And, we mean soon. Better yet, you will have done it at the pace that’s best for you.

Share this article:


Amelia Woolard is a graduate of Millsaps College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications Studies and an Art History minor. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Amelia moved to New Orleans in 2014 to begin her career in marketing and design. She is particularly interested in the intersection of art and language, and enjoys projects that merge the two fields. Amelia is an avid yet critical pop culture consumer and a loving mother to her cat Faulkner.

Find Your College Crib