4 versus 5 years at Northeastern

Written by Kennedy Thompson

Major: Health Science

Minor: Nutrition/Global Health

Northeastern students have the option to complete their undergraduate degree in either four or five years. Northeastern is unique in that it offers the opportunity for its students to undergo a co-op, which consists of 6 months of experimental learning; working full-time while not taking classes. Many students who complete their degree in four years opt to do either one or two coops, likely having to take summer classes at some point during their college career. Students who are on the five-year track, have enough room to complete three coops if they wish or complete two without ever having to take summer classes.  

Students selecting to complete their undergraduate degree in four years may have entered college knowing exactly what they want to study and never change their plan of study. Additionally, they may have entered Northeastern with a number of credits from high school, they may wish to complete one or two coops, or they might have financial concerns that fuel their desire to finish their degree within 4 years. 

There are many reasons that students may choose to do five years at Northeastern which may include but are not limited to building their own major, pursuing more than one minor, completing two or three coops, or they simply may want more time to figure out their career path. Reasons are unique to the student and their situation and interests!

With that, I would like to share a bit about my journey. I came to Northeastern in the fall of 2020 as a health science major with intentions to pursue a global health minor on the pre-med track. I was going to do 2 coops and was fine with taking summer classes. Plans changed when I had a particularly rough semester during the fall of my sophomore year in which I was struggling mentally in addition to struggling in a particularly difficult pre-med class. I was feeling burnt out which prompted me to reconsider my undergraduate plan. When my advisor first proposed the idea of switching my plan from four years to five, I remember being strongly opposed to doing five years because I thought I would be graduating behind my peers. I thought that not graduating on time or taking longer to graduate meant that I wasn’t smart enough. I quickly learned that these preconceptions were false. I realized that there is no such thing as being behind or graduating late as long as you graduate. There is no such thing as “on time” as everyone goes at their own pace and my taking longer to receive my degree did not correlate to my academic capabilities.  

I ended up choosing to do the five-year plan with two coops for the following reasons: I would have space in my schedule to retake the class I was struggling with (I ended up withdrawing), I would not have to take any more summer classes (I needed the breaks from school and wanted to spend time with my family who lives across the country), I wanted to add on an additional minor (I fell in love with nutrition after taking a nutrition class as an elective), I would have extended time to study for the MCAT (a very important medical school entrance exam) and I would have an extra year before applying to medical school (a year that I could use to strengthen my application). I didn’t know it then, but now as a student in her fourth year out of five, I can confidently say it’s one of the best decisions I made regarding my academic career.  

In summation, Northeastern is a unique institution that enables its students to graduate with up to a year and a half of work experience before entering the workforce. Ultimately if you choose to do so in four or five years, you still possess strengths on your resume that many college students graduating from other institutions will not have. The most crucial thing you can do for yourself is make the decision that makes the most sense to you and will allow you to achieve all your academic and personal goals.