What It Means to Be a ‘Super Senior’ In College

“Super seniors” are students who have attended a four-year institution (either high school or college) for more than four years. Fifth-year seniors are also sometimes called such students. 

Typically, high school and college students take four years to earn their diplomas. Your first year of school 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. There’s another category of student who doesn’t fit those labels: seniors who aren’t done with college. 

There is also the term “super senior.” Perhaps due to the fact that it’s becoming more common for students to take five (or more) years to finish college, the term “super senior” is becoming more common.

Who Qualifies as a ‘Super Senior’?

A student’s situation determines what “super senior” means to them. Using the term “super senior” to describe someone who is double majoring in chemistry and biology and then planning to attend medical school simply acknowledges that they are in their fifth year. As opposed to that, calling someone a “super senior” because they have failed multiple classes and prefer the party scene over working to finish in four years is quite insulting.

It is possible for people to take more than four years to finish college for legitimate reasons. At larger schools, classes can be hard to get into, making it difficult to complete your degree requirements by senior year. It becomes even more difficult if you’ve changed your major several times, shortening the time you have to finish everything. Sometimes people encounter personal challenges or medical problems that prevent them from graduating.

Being a super senior is sometimes part of the plan. Schools and programs offer dual degrees, fifth-year master’s degrees, or fellowships that require extra enrollment beyond four years. You might find a great semester-long internship program that requires you to take fewer credits. Taking the job may mean you graduate later than you planned, but you’ll have experience and a resume that will give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs. The super seniors are just another part of the college community.

Is It Bad to Be a Super Senior?

Taking more than four years to graduate college isn’t necessarily a bad thing, many studies have shown that it doesn’t have any significant impact on interviews – employers care more about whether you earned your degree than how long it took. However, the financial burden of taking longer to complete college is one of the greatest consequences.

Federal student loans to undergraduates are limited, and scholarships are sometimes limited to the first four years of study. It won’t be easy to pay for an extra year or more of tuition payments, no matter how you figure it out. In contrast, earning a master’s degree in a fifth year could actually save you money. At the end of the day, what matters most is that you achieve whatever it was that brought you to college.

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