By understanding the stories of super seniors, we can move away from the negative connotations of who super seniors are. In reflecting on the stories of Alexandra Kogler, Rosalie Grubb, Bisera Alchevska, and Hugo Wang, we can look toward ways to improve the experiences of students who take longer to complete their degrees past eight consecutive terms.

The trend of students extending their studies at NYU Shanghai will continue well into the future, as Dean Pe said. “One thing that Covid highlighted more is that fact that there’s not really a traditional four-year experience anymore, just because there’s so many more different opportunities and obstacles for students as a whole.” These factors indicate that there is a need for support systems specific to students who extend their studies not just at NYU Shanghai, but across all college campuses.

Need for Tailored Support Systems

Currently, NYU Shanghai does not have tailored programming for students who have extended their studies. In Part 1, “Understanding what it means to be a “Super Senior,” the negative connotations of the term “super senior” were explored.

Alexandra Kogler believes there’s a lack of programming to support the students but believes people are hesitant to call for super senior events to support them.  Rosalie Grubb is focused specifically on the experiences of the class of ‘23. “I definitely think our grade is a special case. We were the ones to go through Covid first as freshmen,” she said.

“The school doesn’t want to have this whole club dedicated to these people that are still here because of the academics, how the school works, and how they responded to the country’s restrictions.” Expanding on Alexandra’s point, Rosalie said, “They [NYU Shanghai] don’t want to have programming that’s celebrating the fact that we’re still in college.”

Hugo Wang broadens his previous comparison to study away students. While the school caters to providing a special experience for study-away students, Hugo noted that super seniors are not afforded the same community environment.

“If you’re not doing four years of regular college, they [NYU Shanghai] kind of blame it on you, like it’s all your fault. Whatever you want, you have to ask for,” he said. “You don’t know what to do, you always have to consult someone else [another super senior] and see if they’re willing to share information.”

Like many super seniors, Hugo felt a lack of support from NYU Shanghai. He said several challenges came with being off the regular 4-year track, particularly having to repeatedly ask for resources from academic advising. “I’m at the point where I have to email different stakeholders to understand what I need to do to graduate,” he explains.

What Can Programming Look Like?

Responses from super seniors can guide ways to resolve the lack of resources to support the. Survey respondents indicated the following as events/programming they would want from NYU Shanghai:

  • Language and culture reintegration
  • Events catered to community building
  • More academic and post-graduation support
  • Job fair and counseling for students returning from long breaks in studies
  • Meet-and-greets with other seniors

Several respondents said they’re interested in group gatherings on campus to meet the ‘24 seniors because the super seniors and ‘24 seniors have been “grouped together” on official records like email newsletters.

Alexandra highly regarded separate programming for super seniors. “I think it’d be really nice if we did have super senior events,” she said. “I would love it if we did trips, like the study-away students. Or once a month, some kind of get-together with the other super seniors.”

Bisera said none of the super seniors she’d talked to feel a sense of belonging to the school. “I think [events] would definitely be beneficial in contributing to a sense of community.”

Hugo is more interested in academic-related events, “like seminars in understanding how taking additional semesters will affect you and your schedule. And definitely more group events. Not necessarily field trips, but just a space for people who share similar experiences to gather and talk with each other.”

A Path to Improvement

Dean Pe provided many insights on the question of programming for super seniors. “In an ideal world, we would, at the beginning of the fall semester, reach out to all the students who may have not started with the class that’s about to graduate,” he said, “We would want to reach out to the group and invite them to come together and talk.”

He explained this model was used in creating the First Generation Student Program with the Center for Student Belonging. The programwas initiated by a group of first-generation students who felt a lack of support from the school. “They came together and started getting feedback from others,” Dean Pe said, “largely driven by students and student leaders to help us understand what the issues and needs were.” He said that programming for super seniors, and for future students choosing to extend their studies, would start under the Center for Student Belonging.

It’s crucial for the NYU Shanghai community to reimagine who super seniors are, or any student who extends their studies past the traditional 4-years of college. Like many other “super” groups – superhero, superman, superwoman – super seniors have found resiliency despite facing substantial hardships. By understanding their stories and needs, the “ghosts” and “zombies” of NYU Shanghai can slowly gain shape, allowing the campus community to better prepare for unexpected circumstances and to build long-lasting support systems.

Haven’t read the previous parts?

Part 1 – “Understanding What It Means To Be A ‘Super Senior'”

Part 2 – “The Ghosts and Zombies of NYU Shanghai: Super Seniors’ Experiences with Changing Friendships and Campus Culture”