Graduating college in four years has become less of a priority for college students. It’s like leaving a great party early – you want to have as much fun possible before you enter the sobering real world. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, just 36 percent of students who entered college during the 2000-01 school year graduated from college in four years. If you’re just starting your college career, be sure to keep your eyes on the prize and remember the real reason you’re in college: to get your degree. The benefits of graduating in four years can outweigh the sacrifice.
Perhaps the most practical reason for graduating college “on time” is the money you and your parents will save by not paying for an extra year of school. The average cost of tuition for the 2009-10 school year was $7,020 at public colleges and $26,273 at private colleges, according to the College Board. And prices are always on the rise. Tuition rates at public colleges increased by 6.5 percent from the previous year. Plus you have to pay for room and board – which is expected to increase by $377 to $420 in 2011 – textbooks, and other costs of living. If you’re using student loans to finance your education, you’ll only go deeper into debt. It’s simply more cost effective to graduate in four years. Many colleges charge the same for 12 hours of courses as they do for 15 or 18 hours. By the time you’re starting your career and making a steady salary, many of your peers will still be in school. The quick start will enable you to get a better footing in the work world; thus allowing you to advance quicker. The money will give you the chance to experience the finer things in life – like beer that costs more than $3 for a six-pack.
In order to graduate on time, you must have a plan. Know the classes you need to take early on so there won’t be any surprises along the way. Consult your degree program’s four-year plan and an advisor regularly. They’ll keep you up-to-date on the prerequisites and requirements you’ll need to stay on track. Balance your schedule with a mix of easy and difficult classes, and take more than 12 hours per semester. Take the opportunity to get ahead by enrolling in summer school and intersession classes. Of course, it’s important that you stay in good academic standing. Failed classes will have to be retaken and a low GPA could hinder your ability to enroll in certain classes. If you maintain the habits of a good student, you won’t have trouble achieving your goal.