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On Campus: Super seniors

Why some students just can't seem to graduate

 by Kate Kliner
 published on Thursday, April 21, 2005

Theater senior Brandon Chase Goldsmith is 30 years old and still going to school.  /issues/arts/693010
Danielle Peterson / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Theater senior Brandon Chase Goldsmith is 30 years old and still going to school.
 

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Van Wilder may have officially glamorized being a seventh-year senior in "National Lampoon's Van Wilder," in which he speeds around in a customized golf cart and scouts campus for hot girls at the expense of his father's paycheck.

But the reality of the title is that being a super senior is not always such a glamorous life. Whether they simply enjoy learning or just can't seem to finish a major, partying is often the last thing on their agendas.

ASU theatre super senior Brandon Chase-Goldsmith, 30, began taking college courses at Palo Alto College in San Antonio when he was 15 and has been in and out of school since.

Goldsmith got a lot of prerequisites out of the way, and by the time he graduated from high school, he was already a sophomore in college. He kept the title for about seven years.

He ended up getting a job at 19 in graphic design for an oil company, and soon after switched to a job in marketing for a dance club in Texas, where he hung out with artists including Snoop Dogg and DJ Keoki.

"Basically, my job was to make sure the bands that played there were happy, and I threw them parties," he says.

But he realized early on that this lifestyle was not satisfying his thirst for knowledge.

"I had what some people might consider to be a dream job, but it wasn't what I wanted," he says. "I didn't want my life to be about money, and it was starting to be that way. It's great to have all the freedom that comes with making money, but it stagnates you as a person."

Currently, Chase-Goldsmith is only enrolled in one course that will apply credit toward his graduation. He needs six more credits to graduate, and estimates this will take about two more semesters. After that, he plans on going to graduate school.

"I might stretch that out for 10 years," he says.

In a sense, Chase-Goldsmith says he considers himself to be in retirement. He has savings from his years in the corporate world, which he uses to pay his rent and school expenses. Overall, he now lives a fairly minimalist lifestyle.

"College really isn't about getting an actual degree. It's what you learn from it," he says.

Even so, Chase-Goldsmith has maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.96 during his years at ASU.

"I enjoy taking classes that I think I will learn from," he says.

He has taken some classes over again to get more out of them, and he also audits classes he finds interesting.

"If you audit a class, you learn the information but don't add to your workload," he says.

However, Chase-Goldsmith admits it can be isolating to take classes with so many younger students.

"It's weird being older, and it can be hard to relate to younger people sometimes," he says. "I was talking to a couple of girls the other day and they had no idea who the Beach Boys are."

When he is not in class, Chase-Goldsmith volunteers as the marketing director and associate producer for a local theater group.

"College produces students and degrees, but in order to turn it to your advantage you need to follow your own plan and stay one step ahead of it all," he says.

At ASU, it is more common than some people may think for students to take their time graduating.

According to the ASU Office of Institutional Analysis, 48.4 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen who began taking classes in 1998 graduated in five years. Out of those who didn't graduate in five years, about half graduated in the sixth year.

Mesa Community College super senior Jamal Green is also taking an alternative route to graduation. He began taking classes at ASU in 2000, but transferred to MCC the next year.

"I have been on my own financially since I was 19, and I switched to MCC because ASU's out-of-state tuition is so expensive," he says.

He also works part time as a nutritionist for a local after-school program.

"I have to work to be able to pay my rent and bills, but since I spend so much time working, I can't always take a full load during the semester or devote as much time as I should to do homework."

Green spent three years as a business major before realizing he was more interested in psychology. Unfortunately, this meant he did not have many of the prerequisites he needed for his new major, and had to start over with limited funds.

"It was hard because the two majors are so different that there were so many classes I needed to take for psychology," he says. "It was almost like being a freshman again."

Green says he recently met with his adviser, who told him that it may take up to two more years to get all of the necessary credits for his degree.

"I'm hoping to graduate sometime next year, but it may take as long as two years depending on how many credits I take each semester," he says.

However, he says it's worth the wait to be doing exactly what he wants to do.

"If I was still in business, I could have graduated by now, but I know I wouldn't be happy in that line of work," he says.

Green plans on accumulating credits at MCC and then transferring them to ASU to obtain a degree in sports psychology.

Reach the reporter at kate.kliner@asu.edu.



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