Graduate Early from College

By Graduating Early, Some Students Will Save Well Over $60,000

Many of the top private colleges and private universities in the country now have a total sticker price hovering around $60,000 a year. Even some public universities have total costs of well over $50,000 a year for out-of-state students. However, even if you don't qualify for financial aid, there's an obvious way to reduce your college costs: Graduate from college early. Finishing college in three and a half or even three years can save you tens of thousands of dollars.

How to Graduate from College Early:

So how can you graduate early? The math is pretty simple. A typical college load is four classes a semester, so in a year you're likely to take eight classes. To graduate a year early, you need to acquire eight classes worth of credit. You can do this a few ways:

  • Take as many AP courses as you can. If you score 4s or 5s on the AP exam, most colleges will give you course credit.
  • Like advanced placement courses, you dual enrollment courses and IB courses can also earn you college credit.
  • Take all available placement exams when you arrive at college. Many colleges offer placement exams in subjects like language, math, and writing. If you can place out of a few requirements, you'll be in a better position to graduate early.
  • Take community college courses for general education classes like writing, history, or introduction to psychology. Course credits will often transfer. Summer, even the summer before college, is a good time to rack up credits. Be sure to check with the college Registrar first to make sure the course credits will transfer.
  • If you plan to study abroad, pick your program carefully. You'll need to transfer credits back to your college, so you want a program where all of your course work is going to count towards graduation.
  • Take the maximum number of credits allowed when you're in college. If you have a strong work ethic, you can pack more into a semester than the average student. By doing so, you'll fulfill all of your academic requirements sooner.

    With some professional programs such as engineering and education, graduating early is rarely an option (in fact, often students end up taking more than four years).

    The Downside of Graduating Early:

    Realize there are some disadvantages to graduating early, and you'll have to weigh these factors against the financial perks:

    • You'll have less time to build relationships with your professors. As a result, you'll have less opportunity to conduct meaningful research projects with the faculty, and your professors won't know you as well when you need letters of recommendation.
    • You'll be graduating with a different class than the one you entered with. This isn't necessarily a big deal, but you may find that you end up without a solid sense of class affinity.
    • You'll simply have less time to grow and mature. As someone who has been teaching college students for over 20 years, I can attest that many students really blossom senior year as their experience and confidence grows.
    • For many students, college is a wonderful time for┬ámaking new friends, growing intellectually, and discovering one's self. Students are often in tears at graduation because they are sad to have college come to an end. Why rush this time of your life?

      These issues, of course, aren't a big deal for some students, and it's quite possible that the financial benefits outweigh all other factors.

      A Final Word:

      In truth, I'm not a fan of fast-tracking college. The undergraduate experience is about so much more than earning enough credits to get a degree. Accelerated degree programs make much more sense to me for non-traditional students than for typical 18- and 19-year-olds who will grow so much socially and intellectually during four years of college. That said, the financial factor can't be ignored. Just be sure to recognize that there are both pros and cons to rushing a four-year degree.

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      Your Citation
      Grove, Allen. "Graduate Early from College." ThoughtCo, May. 7, 2017, Grove, Allen. (2017, May 7). Graduate Early from College. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "Graduate Early from College." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 22, 2018).