Graduating from a 4-year school in 4 years sounds like the norm but according to the New York Times, only 41 percent of students are able to do it. Finishing college in any number of years is an accomplishment to be proud of, but there are perks to finishing on schedule. Here are a few reasons why you should strive to graduate on time.
REASON No. 1: Save money. Lots of it.
Even if an extension to your college career didn’t mean paying for more credits, you’ll save on interest accruing on any student loans while you’re in school. You also won’t be racking up another year of living expenses. Rent, meals and personal expenses add up and can be overwhelming without a full-time job to pay for it. It might not surprise you that graduating on time can save you money, but did you know how much? Download the college cost calculator at the bottom of this article to see what you actually spend in college each year.
REASON No. 2: Consider the opportunity costs.
Graduating late causes you to incur opportunity costs in the form of forgone earnings. For example, rather than spending extra time in college, you could be earning an income as a college graduate. Additionally, entering the job market a year or two later can damage your lifetime earnings potential. This is because you miss out on a year or two of experience as well as the extra benefit it can have on your wages over your working life.
REASON No. 3: Consider how it looks on your resume.
The biggest incentive for getting a degree is to someday land your dream job. So when you graduate, it’s important you can show potential employers you are motivated, organized and willing to work. A simple way to do that is by graduating on time. Potential employers do notice how many years a candidate was in school and perceive students who graduate on time as having more ability and ambition to get things done. Also, you get bonus points for finishing early. Obviously, college is an impressive achievement that many employers value. But getting it done at max speed? That is something to really be proud of.
REASON No. 4: It’s possible.
Most majors can be completed on time with credits to spare. So why pay for 5 or more years of college when you only have to pay for 4? Here are some tips on getting it done.
TIP: Have a plan.
Many students want college to be 13th grade, but it’s not. College is different than high school and students need to be more involved in planning their academic journey. Many classes have pre-requisite classes that must be taken in advance. So if there isn’t a solid plan in place, you may not get into the classes needed to graduate on time. We recommend formulating a plan and mapping out all 4 years at once. To formulate a plan, enlist the help of your academic advisor who can be a great resource in not only planning but suggestions on the best professors to take as well. Too many students only meet with their advisor once a semester to figure out their class load for the next semester. It’s also important to remember many academic advisors have more than 300 students to assist so at the end of the day, you are responsible for your own education. Lastly, register early for classes! Students who wait until the last minute often have trouble enrolling in the classes they need to take, which can set their graduation date back.
TIP: Don’t pick a major prematurely.
If you’re undecided on a major as a freshman, that’s okay. If you take generals your first year, you will still graduate on time so there’s no need to feel pressured to choose right away. However, changing your major multiple times can set you back. It can also eat up the fun elective courses that you could have taken otherwise. (Remember opportunity costs??) This is why it is so important to do your research before you decide on a major. Take the time to job shadow and complete a summer internship in your field of interest. If that sounds boring, you should imagine all of the credit hours you’ll spend in a major you don’t enjoy if you skip this. By doing your homework early on, you can avoid extra hours of (literal) homework later. You probably won’t “get tired” of a major, but you might realize it was never for you. If it’s too late and you’ve already realized that you need to make a switch, be sure the next choice you make is the right one.
TIP: Take full-time credits.
Colleges consider 12-credits per semester as full time. Most degrees require 120 credit hours, so that actually means you need to put in 15-credits per semester to finish in four years. Minimum. If you’re interested in completing a minor, be sure to weigh the costs and benefits. If you can do it in 4 years and don’t mind paying for extra classes, it could be a great choice. Employers say that if your minor is related to their business, it can help set you apart from other candidates. However, experience is always more valuable. If it’s possible to intern or have a part-time job in that field instead, it may be more beneficial to have real-world experience instead. If you have a minor in online marketing, great. But if you’ve run a real social media campaign, that’s even better.
TIP: Test out of classes.
The College Level Examination Program, offers exams which can count for course credit which are known as “CLEP Tests.” These and similar credit-by-exam options can save college students a lot of time and money. Tests can cost under $100, compared to a few thousand dollars to take the class. Additionally, high school students should consider taking AP classes. These are also cheaper than traditional college courses and can help students graduate college on time or even early. Smaller high schools may not offer a large selection of them, however, and students students shouldn’t jeopardize their GPA if they’re busy with extracurricular activities.
While graduating on time is the preferred option, remember that the main goal is earning the degree. Don’t be discouraged if it takes you a little longer. Graduating college at all is a daunting feat and one you should be proud of.