Features

Life in the fast lane

Early graduates

By
Sunday, May 30, 2010

For most of the students who will walk the stage and accept diplomas this weekend, graduation comes at the giddy end of a whirlwind few weeks of final exams and projects — frenetic all-nighters giving way to the rush of Senior Week and Commencement weekend.

But for the 18 members of the class of 2010 who graduated early, this weekend represents something very different. A few may have stayed in town, even on campus (some will be here next year as students at the Alpert Medical School), but all of them share a common bond — they’ve been “graduates” for months.

The way Ben Abiri — who spent the last semester doing research in a lab and working at Kaplan in Providence — tells it, his decision to graduate in December was “a no-brainer.” He had completed his concentration, had the AP credits he needed to finish, and, as a pre-med student, wanted a chance to take a bit of a breather before diving into his first year of medical school. He toyed with the idea of going abroad, but realized that would mean paying full tuition at Brown for a semester’s worth of credits he didn’t need.

“I’m very glad,” he says. “It’s a chance to work at a lighter pace before going to medical school. Not to mention you save a semester of tuition.”

According to Stephen Lassonde, deputy dean of the College, who is tasked with handling accelerated graduation requests, the majority of people who graduate early do so for financial reasons. Though none of the students The Herald spoke to were motivated purely by finances, the possibility of saving on cash is an attractive reason to graduate early.

Jessica Dai, a student in the Program for Liberal Medical Education who, like Abiri, graduated in December, did so partly in order to start saving money for medical school, which she’ll begin in the fall. She’s been living back home in New York, interning in the regulatory affairs department of a cosmetics company by day and tutoring in the evenings.

And while Dai has had a hard time being away from her friends in their final semester together, she appreciates the opportunity to make money to put toward next year’s tuition, gain experience at a company and get off College Hill. “It’s great to see what life beyond college is like,” she says.

Jane Zhang, another PLME student who graduated in December, says she relished the opportunity to read for pleasure and spend time with her family. She even came to miss schoolwork. “I was just talking to a friend about how I actually started to miss problem sets,” she says with a laugh.

“I think Brown is a really great school, but I needed a break,” Zhang continues. Like Abiri, she has been in Providence for much of the semester, living in an apartment and working in a lab. “I think it was a good decision for me,” she continues. “It made me more hungry to go back to school.”

Though Abiri, Dai and Zhang all participated in December’s mid-year graduation ceremony, they’ll all also be on College Hill this weekend to walk out of the Van Wickle gates with their classmates. And though their paths may have meandered more than most in the intervening time, all three are happy they got the chance to take time off and still graduate with their class.

“Honestly,” Abiri says, “I’m surprised more people don’t do it.”