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How to Graduate in Four Years

How to Graduate in Four Years

Many students expect to graduate from a college or university in four years, but, for a majority of students, that’s not the case. Did you know that less than 40% of students who enrolled in 2009 graduated in four years?

This is according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education. Only 60% of students who enrolled in 2009 received their degree in six years.

Although some students think that spending extra time in school will be a positive thing, delaying a career while continuing to pay for tuition, books and a place to live has a negative impact on your finances. In fact, the net loss of staying in school for two extra years can be as high as $300,000, according to a study from NerdWallet. 

"Many students don’t intend to spend more than four years to earn their degree. But one of the top reasons why students take longer to graduate is a financial roadblock," said David Hawkins, executive director for educational content and policy with National Association for College Admission Counseling. Students can also delay their graduation date if they change majors or switch schools.

"It’s important for students to understand what classes they need to graduate and map out a potential path for graduation at the start of their freshman year," Hawkins said. But he warns against trying to pack in too many classes, especially in the first year. That can lower grades, which can lead to additional semesters.

“Students can take a larger number of course credits during their freshman year to get ahead,” Hawkins said. “But many who work with first-year students advise against this to ensure that the student can adapt to campus life.”

Students should aim for about 15 credits or five classes per semester, enough to complete an undergraduate degree in four years. But also not so many that students overwhelm themselves and burn out. Hawkins also suggests for students to take summer classes, either online or through community colleges closer to home.

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