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Flex seniors achieve more by spending less

The pandemic caused college first year enrollment to plummet and senior students’ graduation to delay. Staying in college in an economic downturn and uncertain time might be a “no brainer” for some Cobbers and other students enrolled in college during the pandemic. 

Kenneth David and Zachary Strickland, two current “super” senior students majoring in neuroscience have decided to take the Cobber Flex year option and to stay one extra year in Concordia instead of graduating in spring of 2021. David and Strickland expressed that having this one extra year in undergrad has allowed them to perform better in their studies, be more prepared and add more degrees to their studies, tuition-free. This made a lot of students who are going to college during COVID-19 to consider spending more than four years in undergrad to cope with the disruption. 

The Cobber Flex year was originally announced on Nov. 5, 2020. During this time, most senior students are already in the process of applying for jobs and thinking ahead about the end of their undergraduate studies. At the time, both David and Strickland were completing graduate school applications.

“I asked myself what it means to start graduate school a year later,  and if that’s even a viable option. It was kind of a go-no go situation,” David said. 

This time-sensitive decision was intense for David and Strickland, as they needed to decide immediately what to do because graduate school applications were due in the first week of December. After taking the time to measure the pros and cons of the decision, both students decided it was the best decision they made in the past one year for their future. 

The flex year gave David the opportunity to pursue other research internships in the summer following his senior year, where he interned in New York City, an opportunity that would not have arisen if not for the flex year option. Similarly to David, Strickland’s 2021 summer internship was also an opportunity that could only be pursued as an undergrad student and he could not have done so without being a flex year senior.

Kenneth David by the New York City skyline | Kenneth David

“Our culture placed a lot of emphasis on getting a lot of impressive stuff done in very little time. I did feel the pressure of getting done with college and getting a real job. But what other time in my life am I going to have the chance to add another full degree and study at a really cool institution and be with my best friends?” Strickland said. 

Furthering academic endeavour is also a primary reason most students choose to take an extra year in undergraduate studies. Theodore Yumba, a senior student — triple majoring in computer science, finance and business management as well as minoring in entrepreneurship, Chinese and web design and development — was thinking of spending extra years in undergrad regardless of whether the flex year option was available or not. Yumba’s decision to stay was inspired by a word of wisdom by his mother: “In order to jump further, you need to go back.”

“I have interest in all of my fields. My mother is an engineer and my father is in business,” said Yumba. “I always wanted to pursue a combination of these degrees and the flex year option came at the right time as I would not have to pay extra tuition to complete my studies.”

At Concordia, most students have the four-year guarantee to graduate on time. It is also attributed to the college’s advising system that ensures students finish their degree credits on time to be able to get their bachelor’s degree. Strickland further explained how being a super senior usually gets a negative connotation for most of the people. He was on schedule to graduate with two majors: neuroscience and biology and one minor: religion that turned into a major in flex year. 

Strickland also decided to stay because restrictions have been eased on music ensembles, specifically the Concordia Orchestra where he is a cellist. This year, he will be able to practice with the orchestra almost as if it were a normal year, and he will have the opportunity to travel to Italy on the orchestra’s tour in the summer.

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