On the surface, Vivek Raman ’10 is like many of his college classmates. A casual dresser, Raman can frequently be seen rushing from class to class, or grabbing a sandwich at Subway. In his spare time, he plays recreational squash, and he is interested in finance.
But Raman is not Yale’s average third-year student. With a job offer from the investment bank Morgan Stanley, Raman, who calls himself a senior, plans to graduate from Yale College this coming spring.
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Raman is a rarity at Yale, one of a small number of students who use acceleration credits to graduate from Yale College in fewer than eight terms. In the 2008-’09 academic year, only one student accelerated by two terms to graduate in three years, Registrar Jill Carlton said, and 10 students accelerated by one term. Although many qualified students choose not to accelerate, she said, Yale still offers the option for students who choose to bid an early farewell to Yale. She said she understands the appeal of early graduation in certain cases, such as when a student cannot afford to pay for four years of college.
But while graduating early can save money, for students like Raman, accelerating offers the chance to forgo time at Yale in exchange for early exposure to real-world experience.
A JUMP START TO REALITY
Raman said he has no regrets about using his acceleration credits to graduate early. Unlike most students who need an “exploration year” to discover their area of academic interest, Raman wanted to be an economics major since his freshman year, he said.
“I came to Yale at a very interesting time, when the entire world economy was collapsing,” Raman said. “So I was getting a huge interest in the financial system, the U.S. economy, the world economy.”
Many undergraduates have several acceleration credits from Advanced Placement exams when they enter Yale, Carlton said, but the vast majority of students choose not to use the credits since they can only be used for early graduation — not to graduate in eight terms with fewer than the required 36 credits.
With nine acceleration credits from Advanced Placement exams qualifying him to graduate early, now that Raman has chosen to accelerate, he is required to take 27 credits over his three years at Yale. He said he had no difficulties fulfilling his distributional requirements and added that he is taking four classes this semester and five next semester.
Deputy Dean of Yale College Joseph Gordon said the University does not require students to graduate in eight terms.
“I’d guess that most faculty feel that students generally need four years to get the fullest benefit from a Yale education,” Gordon wrote in an e-mail. “Sure, an extremely focused, very well prepared student can get most of the benefit of such an education in seven or even six semesters, but education is not a race to see who finishes first.”
Still, Raman said one of the main reasons he decided to accelerate was to gain more practical experience by working as an analyst.
“I think I have gotten everything I wanted out of Yale in three years,” he said. “And I think you can learn a lot more in the real world than in college.”
But Raman admits he will miss taking classes outside his professional interest.
“In the real world, you start focusing on a field,” he said. “For me, that’s becoming an expert in finance — that comes with the expense of not learning about literature, history or science.”
But not all Yalies who accelerate are happy with their decision.
Margaret Litvin ’95, a professor of Arabic and comparative literature at Boston University, goes to the reunions for the Yale class of 1996 — the class in which she should have graduated had she not accelerated by two terms to accept a job offer at the New Orleans Times-Tribune.
But Litvin said she has come to regret her decision, which she said was a financial one. Because her family did not qualify for financial aid at the time, Litvin decided to graduate early rather than take out a loan, she said.
Looking back, Litvin, a former staff reporter and city editor for the News, said she regrets the decision largely because of the academic opportunities she missed as a result.
“I came out feeling undercooked intellectually, especially since I was very actively involved in the Yale Daily News,” she said. “I didn’t do much schoolwork frankly my second and third year. I wasn’t really able to get engaged in them as I wished.”
To continue to pursue an education, Litvin attended graduate school at the University of Chicago, where she received a doctorate degree in political philosophy and literature. She returned to Yale to teach Directed Studies before accepting a position at Boston University.
Litvin recommended that students interested in picking up professional skills in college instead do so through extracurricular activities or summer internships.
LEAVING THE BUBBLE
Still, students may be able to gain valuable skills by graduating early and pursuing a semester-long internship or community service project, Gordon said.
One student on this route is Michael Eggleston ’10, who accelerated by one term to work for Bob McDonnell’s gubernatorial campaign in Virginia this semester.
Eggleston said he started the process in January 2009 with initial conversations with his dean, Silliman College Dean Hugh Flick. Over the course of the semester, he submitted the preliminary paperwork to Flick.
He became more certain of his decision to accelerate during his summer internship for the McDonell campaign, Eggleston said, and he finally settled on that option in late August when he was hired as a staff member for the campaign.
“I think it was the right decision for me at the time,” he said. “I reviewed the classes that were going to be available in the fall and the spring, and I made the decision without feeling any strong regret that ‘Oh, man, I’m not going to be able to take that class.’ ”
Although Eggleston said he does not regret being away for the first semester of his senior year, he said he misses his friends and fellow members of his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He added that he hopes he will make up for lost time in the spring semester before he graduates.
But Raman’s confidence hardly waivered when he started to list his biggest regrets about missing his actual senior year. He said although he will miss his Yale friends once he graduates, he will come back to visit them from New York.
Correction: November 11, 2009
An earlier version of this article overstated the number of graduate degrees Margaret Litvin ’95 received from the University of Chicago. She received one degree in political philosophy and literature.