What If: You were a fifth-year senior

Alexandra Finkel

Communication senior Bentley Ferraina will have to wait until August to receive his diploma. For many students this may seem like cause for concern, but Ferraina is more worried about what he’s doing Friday night.

When reviewing his transcript last year with his academic advisor, Ferraina, a former Daily staffer, realized he would not be part of the 86 percent of Northwestern students who graduate within four years. He has developed a knack for skipping and failing classes, in addition to dealing with a family situation that caused him to fail all his classes one quarter. “My academic career has been kind of a long-running joke from freshman year until now,” he says. “Finishing NU on time was not one of my ambitions from the get-go.”

And his family supports him, he says. “It’s not so much of a taboo to them,” he says. “My entire family took five years or so to finish college. I think I’d be more disappointed if it bothered them.”

Ferraina says he is actually looking forward to staying in Chicago this summer to complete his degree in interdisciplinary studies. “I really enjoy the summer classes because they’re smaller and more interesting,” he says. “And a lot of my friends are current juniors anyway.”

While Ferraina admits he’s “no model NU student,” other students chose to spend five years at NU to pursue academic interests.

When Syd Cohen enrolled in the Weinberg and Music dual-degree program, she decided the specialized diploma was worth the five years required for graduation.

But it hasn’t been easy, says the former A & O chairwoman. “It was difficult when my roommates were graduating and I wasn’t even doing Senior Week.”

She even questioned walking at graduation. “I was worried that I wasn’t going to feel part of the 2009 class,” she says, though she ultimately decided to go ahead with it.

Cohen says she often credits the student group for her sanity. “I think I knew I had to make friends with people that were younger so I wasn’t totally alone my final fifth year,” she says. “A&O has always been a core social group for me.”

For McCormick senior David Sano, his Class of ’08 t-shirt is an uncomfortable reminder of what could have been.

Sano participated in McCormick’s Co-op program, which allows students to alternate taking classes with completing up to 18 months of internship experience in the engineering industry. He finished classes in March and currently hangs around his home in Michigan, anxiously waiting for June to come. “It’s tough, but I knew exactly what I was getting into when I signed up,” he says. “I made my bed so now I have to sleep in it.”

Despite the drawbacks, Sano says his co-op has given his resume an unparalleled boost. “I get a lot more work experience in the industry than I usually would,” he says. “It’s made me much more competitive to prospective employers.”

Cohen agrees, having already completed four different internships in the music industry. “I still won’t get my dream job right after graduation,” she says. “But my goals would be far more broad if I didn’t have that extra year.”

Surrounded by good friends in a city he loves, Ferraina says there just aren’t enough incentives to graduate in four years, especially when it comes to this year’s discouraging economic climate. “So many of my friends are delighted to go out into the world and not find a job,” he says. “I’m in no rush to be unemployed.”