What It Means to Be a 'Super Senior' in College

College doesn't always end after 4 years

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The term "super senior" refers to a student who attends a four-year institution (either high school or college) for more than four years. Such students are sometimes called fifth-year seniors, as well. 

The name stems from the fact that high school and college students typically take four years to get their diplomas. Each year of school has its own name: Your first year is your "freshman" year, your second year is your "sophomore" year, your third year is your "junior" year and your fourth year is your "senior" year.

But there's another category of student that doesn't fit those labels: People who aren't done with college after their senior year. 

Enter the term "super senior." Perhaps because it's becoming increasingly common for students to take 5 (or more) years to finish college, the term "super senior" is becoming increasingly common as well.

Who Qualifies as a 'Super Senior?'

The connotations of "super senior" vary a bit and depend on an individual student's situation. Calling someone who is double majoring in chemistry and biology and then planning on going to medical school a "super senior" merely acknowledges they are in their fifth year. In contrast, calling someone a "super senior" because they've failed multiple classes and perhaps enjoy the party scene rather than work to finish in four years is, indeed, a bit of a put down.

There can be legitimate reasons why people take more than four years to finish college.

Classes, particularly at bigger schools, can be difficult to get into, making it a challenge to complete your degree requirements by the end of senior year. That becomes even more difficult if you've changed your major a few times, effectively cutting down the amount of time you have to get everything done.

And from time to time, people encounter personal challenges or medical situations that delay their ability to graduate.

Sometimes being a super senior is part of the plan. There are a variety of schools and programs that offer things like dual degrees, a fifth-year master's degree, or a fellowship that requires extra enrollment beyond four years. Or maybe you'll come across a great semester-long internship program that requires you to take a reduced number of credits: Taking the job may mean you graduate later than planned, but you'll do so with experiences and a resume that will make you more competitive in the job market. Super seniors are simply another part of a college community.

Is It Bad to Be a Super Senior?

Taking more than four years to graduate college isn't inherently bad — employers generally care whether or not you got the degree, not how long it took you to earn it. That being said, one of the greatest consequences of taking longer to complete college is the financial burden. Scholarships are sometimes limited to the first four years of study, and there are limits on federal student loans to undergraduates. No matter how you figure out how to pay for it, an extra year or more of tuition payments won't come cheap.

On the other hand, doing a fifth-year master's program could actually help you save money. In the end, the most important thing is that you reach whatever goals brought you to college in the first place.

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Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "What It Means to Be a 'Super Senior' in College." ThoughtCo, Aug. 17, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-is-a-super-senior-793477. Lucier, Kelci Lynn. (2017, August 17). What It Means to Be a 'Super Senior' in College. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-super-senior-793477 Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "What It Means to Be a 'Super Senior' in College." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-super-senior-793477 (accessed March 23, 2018).