Four-year college careers have become a thing of the past. According to the US Department of Education, just 36 percent of freshman who entered college during the 2000-01 school year graduated in four years. It has become so uncommon that colleges these days report their graduation rates based on a six-year periods. But taking the route most traveled may not be the best for you. In many cases, the practical benefits of graduating in four years make it well-worth the extra time and effort.
Perhaps the greatest reward is the money you – or your parents – would save. Common sense tells you that an extra year in school means an extra year of tuition, fees and textbook expenses. And keep in mind that the cost of tuition at schools around the country is constantly increasing. There’s a very good chance you’ll be paying a significant percentage more during your fifth year than you paid during your freshman year. If you’ve taken out student loans, your debt won’t be as insurmountable as it would be with an additional $10,000 piled on. Graduating on time also gives you the opportunity to start your career before most of your peers. By the time they graduate, you might be close to a promotion. The additional years of work experience will also allow you to become more marketable for desirable jobs. Plus you’ll no longer have to experience the grind of finals week, rude professors, boring Ramen Noodle dinners and the tastelessness of cheap beer.
If you want to graduate in four years, you have to commit from the start. Attempt to accumulate basic college credits while in high school by completing AP courses. Prepare for the shock of college by enrolling in summer school at your local community college before your first semester. You’ll become familiar with the expectations of professors and the necessary workload. Don’t hesitate to continue taking classes during your future summers. Be sure to plan your schedules carefully as your college career moves forward. It’s important that you’re familiar with your major’s degree plan established by the department; by following it, you’ll stay on track to graduate on time. Know prerequisites and minimum GPA requirements for specific classes. Meet with your advisor regularly so that you stay abreast of your progress. If you remain focused, you’ll find that graduating in four years isn’t nearly as difficult as advertised.