College terminology that one Bethel official would scrap

I feel like a junior, but … (Claremont Colleges Digital Library)

In researching my story on pitfalls in Minnesota’s Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program, I was struck by how some students need to change how they view class standing.

Many students and their parents figure a credit is a credit — and the more the merrier.

“There are so many students who come in and say, ‘Well, I’m a junior, because I brought in X number of credits,” said Deborah Sullivan-Trainor, acting dean of college of arts and sciences at Bethel University. “And they think they only have two years to go.”

But she said:

“Those class standings come from an era when everybody planned to come to college and be here for four years. They came in with no credits, and they put together their plan for their four years. They went smoothly from, ‘I’ve completed one academic year — I’ve finished my freshman year’ [to] ‘I’m moving to the next one.’ And all the credits kind of went along accordingly.”

But these days, as I reported previously, a credit is not a credit when students have taken classes elsewhere. Not all credits transfer smoothly. Some degree programs require students to take a strict sequence of classes. And a change of majors can bring on a whole new set of credit requirements.

At that point, she said, traditional class standings such as “junior” have little value.

She added:

“If I could do away with those expressions – freshman, sophomore, junior, senior – I would.”