How to Graduate College Early: The Pros and Cons

Key Takeaways

  • Graduating college early can be done by planning ahead, taking AP classes in high school, maximizing semester credit hours and taking summer courses.
  • Pros of graduating early include saving money and starting your career or graduate school earlier.
  • Those who graduate early from college should consider they will likely have a heavy workload ahead.

Typically, when one says they are graduating college early they receive mixed reactions. On one hand, people are excited for you and impressed that you were able to graduate in under four years. On the other hand, people may advise you against it, telling you to stay in school as long as you can. Both reactions likely come from these individuals’ past experiences, but at the end of the day, if you are able to graduate early then it is your decision whether or not you want to prolong your education.

If you find yourself in this situation and are unsure of whether to cut your college career short, check out these pros and cons to help you decide.

How to Graduate Early

Did you know it is possible to complete a bachelor’s degree in 3 years? It can be a lot of work, but there are plenty of benefits that can make it worth it for students. Some majors even have fast tracks for graduation in certain schools, such as business, nursing, and law.

In order to graduate college early, you need a plan on how to get started. We recommend:

  • Take AP and college credits during high school to get a head start on college requirements.
  • Talk to your college advisor as soon as possible to create a schedule.
  • Take summer courses to get ahead.
  • Take more than 15 credits a semester.
  • Opt for placement tests to place out of select courses.
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Pros of Graduating College Early

1. You Can Save Money

An obvious up-side to graduating early is the money that you will save. Leaving college with the least amount of loan debt possible is an important goal that students and families work toward. By graduating early, you will spare yourself an extra semester or years’ worth of tuition, book, room and board, and other expenses associated with your education. The less time you spend earning your degree, the less money you will have to pay in the long run.

2. You Can Enter The Workforce Faster or Start On Your Master’s Sooner

Especially if you graduate in December, the job market may be less saturated with recent college graduates clamoring for an offer from a company. By starting your search earlier than your peers, you put yourself in a position to interview with companies and take a job offer that may not be available 6 months down the road. In this sense, the phrase “the early bird gets the worm” is good advice to live by.

And if you’re planning to go for a master’s or professional degree, getting your undergraduate degree faster means you can start on this education sooner, too.

3. You Might Have More Time Off

If you have enough money saved up to afford yourself some time off from responsibilities, then right after graduation is a great time to do so! Especially if you graduate early, you may not feel as pressured to get a full-time job right away and can relax for a while.

Traveling or taking a break is also a great way to gain some perspective during a pivotal time in your life. Many students graduate college feeling lost, conflicted, or unsure of their next step. Stepping away from daily life and making some time for yourself can help you open your mind to new possibilities and discover a path that perhaps you hadn’t considered before.

Cons of Graduating College Early

1. You’ll Leave College and Friends Behind Faster

Toward the end of your college career, it is likely that you will experience feelings of nostalgia and sadness. Let’s face it, college is really hard but it is also one of the best times of your life. You meet new friends, have a ton of fun, learn new things, and grow into your own person. After a few years, your college town may feel more like home to you than where you’re originally from which can make it hard to say goodbye. It may be difficult to move on to the next chapter of your life if your friends are still back at school and you have a fear of missing out on things.

2. You Have to Start Paying Back Loans Sooner

Of course, if you took out federal student loans, which many people do, there is a limited grace period before you have to start paying them back. Depending on your financial situation, this may or may not be an issue. Regardless, the sooner you walk across the stage, the sooner you have to start paying the money back that you borrowed and that’s just not a fun time.

All the more reason to start saving your money now in case you do want to take a break from working. That way you’ll have a cushion to fall back on once you have to start paying back loans.

3. You Will Have to Cram Credits

One of the most obvious downsides of graduating college early is the fact that you will likely have to cram credits. Unless you’re on an accelerated degree program, this can be extremely difficult, especially for select majors. Students have to have a strategy for their class schedule, too, as many courses are only offered in the fall and spring or at select times. Taking 18 credits or more a semester may also require special permission from your department head or advisor.

Graduating college early can absolutely save you money in the long run, but it’s important to plan ahead or you could find yourself easily overwhelmed. Always talk to your advisor about earning your bachelor’s degree faster as you may need assistance with selecting courses and getting permission to take accelerated courses or even graduating early in your selected major. Before diving headfirst into graduating early, I highly recommend considering the pros and cons ahead of time.

If you’re thinking about jumping into a major and graduating early, it helps to know what you’re in for! By using College Raptor’s College Major search tool, you can see what the courses are about before you dive in. Use it for free here!

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