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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, February 22, 2024

Beyond the hill: Tufts seniors graduate a semester early

Remaining pandemic policy enables seniors to graduate in fewer semesters.

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Most Tufts students are familiar with the residency requirement, which mandates that all students complete eight semesters of full-time study in order to graduate.

However, due to the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university decided to waive the residency requirement for students who were enrolled in the fall 2020 semester.

Matriculated students who were enrolled at Tufts in the fall of 2020 will only have to complete six semesters full time instead of eight. Once these students complete their six semesters, they have the option to graduate early or enroll part time.

The Class of 2024 includes some of the last students to benefit from this policy. Some graduated last spring at the end of their third year on campus, while others will be graduating after this semester.

Tuition costs are one of the many reasons seniors may choose to graduate early.

Gwendolyn Brown, a senior studying environmental studies, said that she is saving money by graduating after this semester.

“Tufts is so expensive, so any money that can be saved is great. … knowing that I don’t have to pay for another semester is awesome,” she said.

Kush Shah, a senior studying biochemistry, felt similarly.

“Not paying a whole semester of tuition is great,” Shah said. “You can start work early or … take more time to figure it out and get a job and make more money.”

Students also felt that their time may be better spent in a non-classroom setting, instead investing time in career development, preparations for graduate school or rest.

Kayla Drazan, a senior studying psychology, said that she felt she would benefit more from being in a work environment as opposed to a classroom setting.

“I think it just depends on what you need for your own growth and development,” she said. “I felt like I had gotten all [that] I could from the psychology department, … so I didn’t really need many other classes. … I felt like the learning that I could do could be done on my own time in a work setting.”

Similarly, Emma Bittar, a senior studying environmental studies and anthropology, felt that a change in environment would be most conducive to her learning.

“I feel like I got to the point where I felt kind of stagnant during college and often when that happens, I like a change. … I don’t do well when I feel like I’m not growing anymore,” she said. “Some of my other friends decided to graduate early and once they did it that kind of pushed me over the edge.”

Eva Tyomkin, a senior studying biochemistry, worked a job over the summer and will continue to work with the same company in the spring.

“I’ve been working. I’ve had a job since the summer that I continued on this semester, and I’m just going to go back to working full time at my job,” Tyomkin said.

Tyomkin, Shah, Brown and Drazan will all be working in the Boston area after graduation.

“I’m still going to be in the area. I’m just going to be working in Boston … or doing a remote job, so I’m still gonna be able to see all my friends. I’m just not going to be taking 18 credits worth of classes,” Brown said.

Other students, like Bittar, are traveling or returning home during their time away from campus.

“From January to basically the end of March, I’m going to be going to Costa Rica to get my dive master certification,” she said. “I’m going … both for recreational and professional reasons. … After that, hopefully by April, I’ll have a job and I’ll start working.”

Graduating early wasn’t an easy decision, though. Both Brown and Tyomkin cited departing their club positions as bittersweet.

“I was the Loj director for the Tufts Mountain Club and … my friend is now taking over the role. So it’s great to see someone who I know will put the same amount of care into it be taking it over, but it was really tough because I think that was a role that I put so much time into and … it became a part of my identity,” Brown said.

Tyomkin said that she wishes she could continue in her leadership roles on campus.

“I’m … [Tufts Dance Collective] President,” she said. “I don’t think I can continue my position once I graduate early, and I’ve … worked really hard for the club. … So I think that’s the only kind of regret I have. … I wish I could continue on some of the things that I’ve been doing over the years just to see it through.”

During their senior year, students also have a prime course registration time, and many look forward to taking fun or high-demand classes they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten into.

Shah, though, said that the benefits of graduating early outweigh this.

“I think a lot of people use their last senior semester to take all those fun classes that they’ve been waiting for, … but I’m fine with that. … Not paying for tuition is definitely better,” Shah said.

Some students also feared that graduating early would exclude them from enjoying their senior spring.

“[The] only con I was worried about honestly was FOMO and being like, ‘I’m a senior. Am I gonna miss out on all these senior events?’” Bittar said. “But, once I got over that hurdle and just realized I would be so much happier graduating early, then I took the leap.”

Some seniors graduating early will also retain their off-campus housing during what would’ve been their spring semester, allowing them to remain present on campus and in the community.

“Having a job near here means that I can still live in my off-campus apartment with my friends,” Shah said.

Drazan added that while working in the area, she can remain active on campus.

“I’m still gonna be sticking around. It’s not too big of a deal. And I can still find ways to be active on campus while I’m just working in the area,” she said.

Their graduation becomes official in February 2024, but all students graduating a semester early will still participate in May graduation ceremonies.

“People who graduate in the winter don’t get to walk until the spring, so in a lot of ways we’re all … using this time to do our equivalent of studying abroad or something like that. … We have the time to kind of have a more low-key couple of months,” Brown said.

Current Tufts students that were not enrolled during the fall 2020 semester will not have the option to graduate early.

“I don’t see why [students should] keep taking classes if you don’t have to, especially if your major’s complete,” Tyomkin said. “I don’t think one semester is going to change anything.”

Brown felt similarly, noting financial constraints as an important reason to remove the eight-semester residency requirement.  

“I’m honestly disappointed in Tufts that this isn’t a universal policy,” Brown said. “It is one of the most expensive schools in the country and it’s really unfair for them to be putting a financial burden on people.”

Bittar noted that more Tufts students could benefit from having the freedom to remove an eight-semester constraint on their education.

“I think it’s really hard to fit people into the box of four full years. I think everyone is on their own trajectory and path,” she said. “I think it’s really unfortunate that it’s gonna stop with our class.”