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MSU seniors graduating early reflect on experiences, 'missing out'

April 16, 2024

As the tassels turn and Michigan State University's Breslin Center is flooded with emerald green gowns, the commencement ceremony marks the end of college's four memorable years. For many graduating seniors, however, this experience is wrapped up only in three.

Nutritional sciences senior Mithra Aroul is one student who graduated early. Aroul made this decision to save money, spend time with her family and dog, travel the world and focus on applying to Physician Assistant school during a gap year. 

"We've been in school for our whole lives," Aroul said. "A good 15 to 16 years, and I just wanted to take some time off just to do some things that I'm passionate about because burnout is really real, especially in the healthcare field."

Aroul said she knew she wanted to "capitalize" on the college credits she earned during high school when her journey at MSU started. However, she still had a heavy workload throughout her three years, including summers packed with classes. 

"I felt like I was doing school all the time," Aroul said. "I haven't really gotten a proper break. I didn't realize how much time had passed, and it's just been super, 'go, go, go.'"

Biology senior Josh Berman, who applied to MSU's Osteopathic Medical Scholars 3+4, a program that exposes students to clinical skills early in their college career, during the first semester of his second year, said graduating early was the "right transition" and what he "needed" for his life.

Berman wanted to go to medical school as soon as he could, and having direct admission offered him a myriad of resources, mentorship and opportunities.

"It just feels very fast, very quick," Berman said. “"When I was 16 (during) COVID, I wasn't doing much in school. Freshman year, when I was 18, I just felt like I was getting right back into the swing of things, and then one year later, I'm all of a sudden graduating next year."

When Berman came to MSU, it was difficult for him to adjust to a new environment because he "wasn’t doing much" through the pandemic and school. While he did consider a gap year before medical school, he said he felt the extra time was something he didn't need. 

"Everyone's needs are a little bit different," Berman said. "For me, I realized that the grass is greener on the other side. Time is always going to move on."

Aroul said the experience of graduating early varies for everyone and that she gained valuable insights from the conversations that she had with several upperclassmen as a freshman and her parents about graduating early.

While Aroul is excited to graduate, she said the most difficult part is leaving the friendships and relationships she has established during her time at MSU. As the school year wrapped up, the feelings of missing out on the traditional senior year have "sunk in" and are now a "bit more bittersweet." 

"Not say we would lose touch altogether, but it's just different because college is a unique time in your life that is unlike any other part of your lifetime," Aroul said. "I know that I'm close enough to come and visit campus, so I don't necessarily feel too sad, but I definitely feel some twitches of pain sometimes."

Many of Aroul's friends are not graduating this semester, and while she doesn't feel lonely, Aroul said it feels a bit odd to be on a different timeline and path than those around her. 

"When you think of graduation and moving on to the next chapter, you know you're doing (it) all together, with your friends and people your age," she said. "But, I know they would come to support and watch, which is a nice feeling."

Human biology senior Ellen Kim said she felt behind this year because college went by so quickly. However, graduating with her friends makes her feel less isolated and alone.

"This semester has been a really nice semester, where I could focus on not just classes, but also just having fun and being with friends," Kim said. "That kind of fulfilled the part of missing out on the college experience."

Kim plans to go back to her hometown in Troy, Michigan, where she will take a gap year to build her resume with clinical experience before applying to medical school. 

Berman said he doesn't feel like he is missing anything, but has to work on maturing and developing as a person. At the same time, he said he was excited to learn as much as he could and begin a new chapter in his life.

"There's no rush," Berman said. "Everyone has different reasons for graduating early. It's good to figure out what you want. If it's just like a race of checking the boxes, then that's not going to benefit you in the long run. You’'e going to (be) potentially cornering yourself into something that you didn't know ... in the first place."

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Aroul said college is one of the best times in anyone's life and where a lot of valuable growth happens as people are exploring independence for the first time.

"I'm not the person that I am coming out of college that I was coming into college," Aroul said. "You make a lot of mistakes, but you also learn a lot of lessons."

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