Julia Sklar, Presentation Editor

Buy four, get one free. This classic supermarket mantra is usually applied to things like fruit or chips, but here at UR, that free item can be a little more valuable.

The uniquely-UR Take Five Scholars Program lets interested students spend an extra year taking classes at the college ­— absolutely tuition free.

While the Take Five Program is frequently touted by admissions counselors and well-known on campus, the complexity of the program, its necessary intensive planning process and its many requirements and restrictions are not. Everyone knows about Take Five, but no one really knows about Take Five — unless you’re in it.

After speaking with both current and future Take Five Scholars, it’s clear that the program is much more than just a free year at UR.

According to the University website, “The Take Five Scholars Program provides students with opportunities to explore additional disciplines and courses that might not otherwise be available to them.” The program attracts students of all majors and subjects.

“I chose to apply for Take Five because I love to learn,” Take Five Scholar Andrea Stewart said. “I sound like I’m making it up, but that’s really it. Even with a double major and a cluster, I felt there was so much more to learn here.”

Stemming from UR’s already flexible curriculum, the Take Five  program reflects the intense curiosity of the student body and it’s a testament to this curiosity that this program is so popular.

“I absolutely love my [Take Five] classes and the way that I am getting to learn something I didn’t have a chance to look at during earlier years while focusing on my cell and developmental biology and religion majors,” Take Five Scholar Birx Allen said.

Students like Allen seize the full potential of the flexible academic program at UR. This freedom lets students discover their own interests and usually results in an even more diverse course of study than would be possible at other institutions with a core curriculum. At UR, a double major in biology and religion is not uncommon.
The curriculum at UR doesn’t necessarily directly make students well-rounded, but instead allows them to “well-round” themselves through their own decisions and interests. The Take Five program goes above and beyond, enabling even more exploration.

“After two years of being a [brain and cognitive sciences] major and realizing all the classes were the same and that science classes crush your soul, I took a political public health class for my cluster,” senior Travis Amengual, who will become a Take Five Scholar in September, said. “I realized that I have this really intense interest in politics.”

That interest turned into the basis of his Take Five plan, which is entitled “The Role of Religion in American Government.”

Take Five may sound great, but it isn’t for everyone.  The UR Undergraduate Bulletin says that the program is “designed for students who can demonstrate that an additional period of study will broaden and enhance their undergraduate education.” This process takes considerable planning and the program itself has specific constraints.

In short, this means that Take Five courses cannot be used to fulfill major requirements or to obtain an additional major or degree.  The courses must also be related to each other and enhance a student’s general education.

Once a proposal has been accepted, the Take Five scholar is expected to start taking those proposed courses. This often delays the completion of degree requirements, but the student’s degree isn’t granted until after the Take Five study has been completed anyway.

“Once you are accepted, usually around the middle of the semester you apply, you are obligated to start taking [Take Five] classes,” Amengual said.  “You mix them in with your major.  So far, I have loved my Take Five classes.”

This immediacy of coursework is sometimes necessary depending on the nature of the program.  Stewart is completing a Take Five in “The Artistry and Culture of American Sign Language [ASL],” which involves ASL language classes.

“The language classes make up half of my course of study for Take Five so I had to start right away because they must be taken one after another and before some electives,” Stewart said.

Some Take Five programs are a little more flexible. Take Five Scholar Nikita Bourque is studying in a program entitled “Human Emotion, Motivation and Personality.”  Her previous work as a resident adviser  (RA) and workshop leader sparked an interest in human emotion and motivation.

“My Take Five year has allowed me the great opportunity to delve deeper into the world of psychology at the collegiate level,” she said. “I really enjoyed psychology 101 and felt like I was missing out since I couldn’t include more psychology courses in my four undergraduate years.”

That’s the beauty of the Take Five program: when something moves you, the University gives you a year to follow it.

“I am drawn specifically to ASL for a few reasons,” Stewart explained. “I am a kinetic learner and a dancer and since ASL is a movement-based language, I was drawn in. There are also few places better than Rochester to learn ASL since the Deaf community is so strong and vibrant here. The faculty in the ASL department here are amazing educators.”

Besides learning, the Take Five program gives students the unique opportunity to experience the campus community for a whole extra year.

“I know some other Take Five [Scholars] have ended up not liking their experience so much,” Amengual noted. “As far as I know, that’s mostly been a case of them not having all their friends here anymore. You should make sure you are part of an organization where you can meet members of the younger classes.”

Other Take Five Scholars have similar feelings.

“There are more students, new dorms and a totally different weekend social life on campus,” Allen reflected. “The hard part has been redefining myself in this new campus culture, especially when the overwhelming majority of friends I met during that great bonding experience of freshman year and orientation are gone.”

Although a lot changed during her fifth year at UR, Allen still remains an active part of campus life.

“I am very lucky to still be extremely involved on campus with Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) and UReading which have allowed me to create great relationships on campus, but I also constantly feel the pull of the graduate world off campus,”

Allen said. “Take Five has honestly left me socially torn: not yet ready to completely give up undergraduate [life] but at the same time searching to find myself as a young adult.”

Bourque feels similarly, but the general consensus is positive.

“I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s a little strange walking around campus as a fifth year, but all in all, I am enjoying this unique opportunity to extend my undergraduate experience,” she said.

Take Five Scholar Alykhan Alani is already integrating his studies into the real world by working with two community organizations in the Rochester area.

“Both theory and practicum play a role in my program,” Alani explained.

While some Take Five Scholars hope to use this new knowledge in their careers, others merely take away life experience.

“This doesn’t really fit into my career plans at all,” Amengual said. “[Religion and politics are] just something I’m really interested in and would love to be able to have  an educated conversation about, even though religion and politics are the two ‘forbidden’ topics of polite dinner conversation.”

Take Five Scholars receive an education in more ways than one.  They take classes outside  of their major, observe undergraduate life from a new perspective and take away some meaningful life experiences to be used in or out of their careers.

“Overall, despite the challenges, I am whole-heartedly thankful for the experience,” Allen concluded. “It pushed me out of my comfort zone, making me learn and grow.”

Esce is a member of
the class of 2015.

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