Most people look forward to the college experience, but some of us just want to get out of school, start earning money and pay off debt.
As your school year drags on, you wonder if you could shorten the time that you sit in the lecture hall, diligently taking notes.
The typical undergraduate degree is expected to last 4 years, with some students stretching it out to 6 years.
While most universities encourage students to stay the course with a 4 year degree, other institutions offer resources and tools to help students graduate sooner.
With the cost of a traditional college education steadily on the climb, it is not surprising that college students are trying to fast track their college education. It all sounds good on paper- get out of school faster, save money, and get a job faster.
Or if you’re in a hurry to get to grad school, you want a cost effective method to quickly complete your undergraduate education.
Can you graduate in 3 years? Yes. Many students have successfully completed college in 3 years, and the experience was worthwhile. While it’s hard enough as it is just to graduate in 4 years, with the proper planning, it can be done. Some people have even successfully graduated college in 2.5 years. But it is not for the faint of heart. Be ready for long nights, a tightly packed schedule, and less nights out.
Is this a smart move for you? Should you graduate in 3 years? Decide for yourself after reading the pros and cons below.
Advantages Of Graduating College Early
The most obvious advantage is saving time and money on that extra year of tuition and expenses associated with the academic year. Academic advisors and professors advise to prepare for all scenarios if you plan an early graduation.
Some college students are in a rush to be adults and experience the “real” world. They want to graduate sooner so that they can enter the job market, start earning money and living the life they want. Students seeking a graduate education can start their graduate program earlier and shorten the overall amount of time spent in school.
If you start working sooner and putting aside money for your savings or retirement immediately, then you have also created good habits to maximize your earning potential.
Aside from savings, you can also avoid accumulating student loan debt by starting to make payments before interest accrues. If you graduate early, you can create a plan to repay your student loan debt that works with your budget, rather than trying to pay it off too early.
Drawbacks Of Graduating Early
Finishing college sooner means less time to engage in social networking, making connections and developing skills. You want to develop a network of colleagues where you can help each other with professional opportunities, both now and in the future.
When you’re on a deadline to graduate fast, you may not be able to get all the classes or electives you want. Or even worse, you may have to take electives that are useless just to fulfill requirements, simply because the courses you want are not available when you want them.
More importantly, you might miss out on opportunities for internships and externships. Employers reveal that they want to hire people with practical work experience, which is often earned through internships and externships. In addition, your deadlines may limit your ability to study abroad.
If you are looking for a job in the insurance, banking, and entertainment industries, it is important to remember that many of these companies hire almost exclusively out of internship programs.
Regardless of how soon you plan to graduate, be sure to make time for internships and externships, especially if you are going into an industry where they primarily hire from such programs.
Once you graduate, the clock starts ticking to pay off your student loans. While you can defer your student loans, you want to avoid that as much as possible. Learn more about how to escape student loan debt and live the life you want.
Now that we have weighed the pros and cons, let’s move on to the steps to finishing college in 3 years or less!
How You Can Finish College In 3 Years Or Less
You can maximize your college credits and minimize your time spent in school if you follow these simple tips:
Now, knowing what you know, should you graduate in the next 3 years? Only you can decide. To help you make the right decision for your life, examine your priorities and requirements.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. What’s the benefit of graduating early? What is waiting for me on the other side?
It could be a job opportunity that caught your eye, or the prospect of paying off debt or starting a family sooner. Whatever the case may be, know your “why” before embarking on this ambitious journey.
2. What will I miss out on if I graduate early?
No one can answer this except for you. This is really about priorities. Do you want to enjoy the college experience, such as spring break, a summer trip to Cancun and studying abroad? Would you rather forego or limit those experiences to graduate faster?
3. What if I don’t know what I want to do?
College students are known to change their majors a few times while earning their undergraduate degree. In the face of indecision, students may benefit from waiting before they declare a major. If you’re not sure about what you want to do after college, you may need some time to figure this out.
If you’re absolutely certain about your career path, you will probably not have to wrestle with this decision. If you are faced with the dilemma of changing your major, you could also embark with a plan to graduate in 3 years or less, and readjust if you decide to change your major. Remember, it’s your life, and nothing is set in stone unless you make that decision.
4. How much am I really saving?
Be sure to factor in the cost of summer school and winter break classes, plus extra charges you may rack up during the regular semester above a certain number of credits.
Did you graduate in 3 years or less? What are some of your best tips for college students looking to fast track their college degree? Tell us in the comments below.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.
Editor: John Frainee