Graduating College Early: What You Should Consider Before Committing

By Stephanie Miceli
StudentAdvisor.com Staff

graduating college earlyI’ve heard the term “senioritis,” but I’m still not quite sure what it means. Senior year of high school is synonymous with “taking it easy,” ditching class for the beach, and organized pranks, for many. My senior year of high school didn’t consist of any of the aforementioned, because I decided to take six Advanced Placement classes that year-a steep increase compared with one as a sophomore and three as a junior.

Most of the small to medium-sized colleges I was applying to required a score of ‘4’ or ‘5’ on Advanced Placement exams in order to receive credits and waive course equivalents. I was pleased to receive a ‘4’ and higher on every exam I’ve taken, but believe me, I put in my work!

After deciding to attend Emerson College, and receiving a course selection guide in the mail the summer before my freshman year, I knew I’d be able to skip over most of the general classes and delve right into my major classes. What I didn’t know was that technically, I wouldn’t be entering as a freshman. One month into school, I met with my academic advisor, who told me that I came in with 28 credits. Sophomores have 32 credits, so I learned that by my second semester, I would have a total of 44 credits (28 from AP classes, 16 from my first semester classes).

Besides leaving for winter break a freshman, and returning a “sophomore,” this also meant my surplus of credits would enable me to graduate early. I decided this would be a good option for me, as I’ve been eager to enter the workforce for as long as I can remember.

However, it’s not for everyone. If you’re in a situation similar to mine, here are a few factors to consider if you’re thinking about graduating from college in under 4 years:

Finances 

This is pretty obvious, but by graduating early, you’ll be saving yourself or your parents a substantial amount of money, depending on tuition costs at your school (no pressure or anything!). Also, if you’re on a scholarship, make sure you know how many semesters or credits it applies. If you’re about to reach the credit limit, you might not have another choice.

Academics

If you plan on double majoring or picking up multiple minors, early graduation may no longer be possible.

Studying abroad

No study abroad program is created equal. Some offer the same courses as the college or university’s domestic campus, while others, such as Emerson’s Netherlands program, only offer general education courses. This sometimes means students are behind in their major coursework when they return. On the flipside, if you’ve always wanted to study abroad, committing to early graduation may unfortunately prevent you from doing so. However, your college may have summer programs abroad, which could be a good compromise.

Workload 

Organization is a must in order to graduate early. Check-ins with your faculty advisor more frequently to make sure you’re staying on track, and be prepared for important deadlines- like submitting your application to graduate! Also, since you’ll be applying for jobs and other post-grad programs a year earlier than expected, you’ll need to plan accordingly. However, this is something you should play up in your job interviews, because it shows effective time management!

Social Life

I’ll admit, I’ve put more focus on cramming four years’ worth of experiences into my three years than actually enjoying my time in college. And because the majority of my friends are my age (juniors), I haven’t really gotten to know many seniors up until this point. With that said, I’m not sure if I’d be comfortable going to all those senior year social events.

Photos: B Rosen

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