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Take 5 – What Is It and How Does it Work?

The photo above is me with my senior friends who graduated in our original class year, 2021. I’m the only one not wearing a cap or gown, as I’m the only one staying on to do a fifth year.


When I first visited the University of Rochester, one of the things that stuck in my mind for weeks after was this “Take 5” program that my tour guide had mentioned. Attend school for an additional year at no cost? Sign me up! (I can hear a cacophony of “nerd” comments that will surely follow this line – good! I’m glad we’re in this together) I, in my final semester of college, finishing up my Take 5 requirements and getting ready to graduate, wish to impart a little bit of wisdom about what it took to get me to this point, and what things look like ahead.

The Take 5 application process is a bit lengthy and requires some dedication. There’s a small bit of reading about the program you have to do, and also a comprehension quiz. The biggest part is creating your Take 5 schedule – picking which classes you want to take and when – and writing your essay. Don’t worry about if the exact classes you propose aren’t offered once you’ve been accepted – there’s a very simple process for switching them out. The purpose is just to see what you’re interested in covering. The essay can be whatever rationale you have for wanting to do your Take 5 – if you took a class or an extracurricular that sparked your interest, something from your family history or culture, or really anything at all. It’s also a good idea to include some of your personal skills you think would best help you in this endeavor (organization, time-management, etc.) Think of it similar to a cover letter, but more fun!

You also need to get two letters of recommendation for your program. One needs to be from a professor in the area (or one of the areas) you’re planning on studying, so they can check that your proposed class schedule is doable, and makes thematic sense. The other needs to be from a professor you’ve already had or worked with closely (I chose an English professor who I had already taken three classes with, and then went on to work for) who can vouch for your work ethic and dedication.

Some misconceptions about Take 5:

The biggest one – it is not to be completed solely in your fifth year. This is probably the biggest confusion that plagues people who go to the U of R. Most people are surprised when I tell them I’m still taking classes for my major and one of my clusters, and not solely focusing on my fifth-year curriculum. I actually prefer it this way – some classes are not taught every year, and the sooner you start, the more time you have to account for new classes popping up that you want to take, or ones that you thought were going to be offered no longer being available. You also can plan to do TAships or independent studies, and having that extra time can be really helpful.

The other biggest misconception, and this is the one I usually get from relatives or friends who don’t attend the U of R (although sometimes from students as well) – there is no additional degree that comes with the Take 5 Program. It is not a master’s degree or additional work towards another bachelor’s. It is not a graduate or preprofessional program, and your aim shouldn’t be used to further your career prospects (at least in that field). The point of Take 5 is to dedicate a little bit of extra time to learning without worrying about your career and life goals, and just enjoy studying something you care about without having to pay for classes.

Other, smaller misconceptions about Take 5:

1. You can’t apply until your senior year

You can! Starting your first semester of sophomore year, Take 5 applications are open up through your first semester of your senior year.

2. You can only apply once.

Nope! You can apply again either with an updated version of your original proposal or with a completely new one.

3. You can’t do something you’ve already studied.

This one is a little more confusing. You can’t do anything you’ve majored or minored in. But just because you’ve taken a Spanish, International Relations, or Environmental Humanities doesn’t mean those fields are off-limits. After all, how are you supposed to know if you like something if you have never tried it?

Something I of course couldn’t have predicted was how beneficial this program would be for me when I applied in the Fall of 2019. I didn’t know I’d be missing out on almost a year of in-person classes, extracurriculars, what I expected out of graduation, and normalcy. Take 5 has mercifully given me some extra time to get back a little bit of what I’ve lost out on through those past few semesters, and I’m super grateful for it.

Learn more about the Take 5 program

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