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How to Complete Your Bachelor's Degree in Less Than Four Years

Nov 12, 2013 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Want to graduate early? It won’t be easy, but it can be done. Graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in less than four years takes planning, dedication, and a little creativity—but it isn’t impossible. Here are a few tips for getting your degree in less time than usual.

Take courses for college credit before you graduate high school

Many traditional and accredited online colleges give credits for AP scores. The rules are different depending on your school, but most of the time, you can get a certain number of classes or be allowed to waive an introductory pre-requisite requirement for a subject you scored a 4 or 5 on.

If your high school offers AP classes, take them—but prioritize. Focus on classes that are in your planned major or courses that are more likely to get you out of a Freshman pre-requisite requirement you would ordinarily be required to take. You may not have enough time to study hard enough for the high score on every subject you’d like to take—so focus on the classes that will replace college credits you will be required to take.

You may also be able to get college credits for community or online classes you take while in high school, but every college’s rules are different about this, too. Check with the college you plan to enroll in to see what their policies are. Bear in mind that this strategy may or may not pay off, depending on where you actually gain admission.

Enroll in summer classes

Summer vacation is for four-year students. Once you get into college, don’t just take it easy during the summer. Enroll in as many summer classes as you can. This may boost your costs in the short term if you have to pay for housing throughout the summer, but it can be worth it in reducing the time you need to spend in college overall. Summer classes can do a lot to reduce the time spent in college before graduating.

Take as many credits as you possibly can

If your college normally recommends taking four classes per semester, try to squeeze in a fifth—if your college will allow it, and if you can handle the workload. Be judicious with this, as failing a necessary class and having to take it over again won’t speed up your graduation date.

Don’t overcomplicate your academic life in college

This might sound obvious, but it’s still worth saying. If you want to graduate early, don’t switch majors and don’t try to do a double major. Know what you want to major in your freshman year—or ideally before you graduate from high school, so you can start preparing early by taking AP classes.

Pick a less taxing major

Any major may be more or less taxing depending on the school and the rigor of your department. However, some majors are simply more difficult and have more prerequisites—for an example, check the major requirements for subjects in the hard sciences, like physiology or biochemical engineering. Check to see which are the toughest majors at the school you’re considering—and notice which ones have the most and the least prerequisite requirements. If you’re struggling to make the choice between two possible majors and you’re sure you want to graduate early, consider picking the major with the fewer prerequisites.

Graduating with a Bachelor’s degree from a traditional or accredited online program in four years is a major achievement in itself—and many students take longer than four years to earn their degree. Earning it in less than four is possible, but it takes some planning. With these tips, you should be able to get the credits you need—in less time than usual.


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