For many of UB's 660 fifth-year undergraduates, the nickname "super senior" is earned by more than too much partying and too little interest in academics. Often, students find themselves spending extra semesters at UB as the result of pursuing an ill-fitting major or engulfed in extracurricular activities while the friends they made as freshmen receive their diplomas.
Shaun Breen, a second-year senior, said that both sports and early indecisiveness have put him among that number.
"I think [club] hockey was one of the biggest things," said Breen. "It's very time demanding because with practices and games, you're on the ice five times a week." Breen entered UB as a mechanical engineer, but found the program uninteresting and changed to computer engineering at the end of his sophomore year. Again he found himself in need of a new direction, and after talking with some of his roommates in the field, decided finally on computer science.
Breen said his shift between similar fields may not have required a fifth year had he not played hockey, but, "Every rookie I played with on the team is in their fifth year now."
Lisa Wohlrab is currently a junior mathematics major, but after she changes to geology next year, Wohlrab will be 28 credits short of a degree.
Why would she change her major so late in the game? "I get that all the time," said Wohlrab, who made her decision after attending a summer geology class at home. Wohlrab had previously chosen mathematics after devoting two years to aerospace studies. "I wanted to do aerospace studies, but I really wanted to do research on the findings of the probes, not build the actual things."
"I wish I had come in undecided," said Wohlrab. "People sometimes come down on kids who don't have a major, but I think they're actually better off sometimes."
Senior Academic Advisor for Academic Undergraduate Services Tommie Babbs recommends any student without a definite idea of what he wants to major in enter the university officially undecided.
"When you're a freshman, it's easy to fill out your general requirements your first semester or two," said Babbs. He recommends students take courses in many subjects they are interested in. "You may find something in one of those courses that turns you on academically, and you can still get into it at that time."
Babbs said the primary reason many students have become "super seniors" in the past was a major change after following another course of study. "In the past, students have had to meet a whole new set of requirements if they moved from one end of the spectrum to another, say from English to economics or history to engineering.
Until recently, students entering majors with new requirements had to petition for wavier of requirements that would put them beyond four years. Following implementation of the SUNY Board of Trustees' general education curriculum, however, Babbs believes the university will see "a positive change in the completion rate" of undergraduate degrees at UB. The guidelines set a 27 credit-hour standard for general education requirements of all SUNY students, which will eliminate many credit losses when changing majors.
Babbs added that students in their fifth years are generally accepting of the reasons for their extended stay, and that academic performance often increases rather than drops off. Fifth-year history major Joe Giordano regrets little about his chosen path, and believes his degree will be well worth the wait.
"I've enjoyed my time here," said Giordano, who changed from business to history his freshman year. "There's some things I've done here that I never would have done if I hadn't taken the time, and people I wouldn't know if I hadn't gotten involved."
Giordano has 22 credits left until graduation, a result of re-taking classes to improve his GPA and getting "a little sidetracked" with his campus activities, including the sports club taskforce and the anti-rape taskforce.
Although he felt academic advising was helpful initially, Giordano said he "stopped going after sophomore year," and added that although he had expressed his desire to take alternate courses so as not to need a language proficiency, he feels his advisor didn't inform him of all his options, and so had to re-take some courses.
He cautioned against choosing a major based on financial motivation. "I've seen it with a lot of my friends who go into something thinking they're gonna make a ton of money. ... They end up having to change out and try to catch up."
"In the end, you have do what you like," said Giordano, "Not what's going to fill your wallet.