Should I Graduate College Early?

The decision to graduate early from college can be a pivotal one in your young adult life. There are many factors to consider before you can fully understand if this plan is the right fit for you. When asking yourself if you should graduate college early, examine if your college experience will still feel complete, if you will be prepared for the next steps, and if you are doing it for the right reasons.

When deciding if you should graduate college early, it’s important to be honest with yourself on how the pros and cons will impact you. Keep reading to learn if you should graduate college early.

Graduate college early if you’re certain your college experience will still feel complete

Yes, college is primarily about academic growth and earning your degree. But it’s also about more than that. The college experience is about learning to be independent and about finding your niche. It’s important to take this time to explore any interests you may have and to learn where you may see yourself in five years or so. If you feel that you can gain this knowledge in three years—go for it. Graduate college early. This is a very personal decision; just because it takes someone else four or five years to get the full experience doesn’t mean it will take you that long. Set aside some time to reflect on what you want to get out of your college experience, and then determine what timeframe will fit you best.

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Graduate college early if you feel prepared for what’s next

A significant advantage to the time you spend in college is that it’s the perfect time to get experience in your desired field. You have resources and a network of professional connections right at your fingertips. While in college, it’s key to utilize these as best you can—complete internships, develop engaging senior projects and portfolios, and build your network of connections. There will hardly be another time in your life when you have so many opportunities in a variety of fields and interests right in front of you.

If you are planning on graduating after the fall semester as opposed to the spring, you could take advantage of the opportunity to interview for jobs in the off-season. Typically, the rush of new candidates comes in the spring; therefore, you may have a higher chance of getting the job you want if you have the ability to interview before the busy season arrives. If you feel you can take full advantage of all of these opportunities in three years—great!

On the other hand, if you are planning on going to graduate school once you finish your undergraduate degree, graduating early could be a good option as well. It’s important to examine all requirements for whatever program or school you are interested in, to make sure you can meet them in three years. In order to be admitted, some may require that:

  • Certain work requirements be met

  • A specified number of internship hours be completed

  • You maintain a particular GPA

Don’t rush through three years just to end up with a lower GPA than desired and less experience than required. If you can finish your undergraduate degree in three years and feel prepared to apply for graduate school, then graduating early may be right for you.

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Graduate college early if you transferred many credits from high school

Oftentimes, high school students are able to take dual-credit courses—high school classes that allow them to gain college credits. Some students are even able to start college with enough credits to technically make them sophomores or second-semester freshmen. What this means is that students who enter college with a substantial number of credits may be more likely to have the opportunity to graduate in three years, without the stress of fitting four years of classes into three. However, if you enter college in this situation, you may want to explore the option of double-majoring. This will depend on your interests and future career path, of course, but you may be able to double major without too much excess stress in the typical four years. Make sure to examine these options closely and to figure out what works best for you.

Don’t graduate college early if you’re afraid of missing out on experiences

As previously stated, your time in college is about more than just academics. If there are certain things you hope to experience or achieve before you walk across that stage, graduating early might not be the right fit for you. Examine what you hope to get out of college, and be honest with yourself on what you don’t want to miss out on. If there is a dream internship you have always had your sights on, make every attempt to land it. If not graduating early is what will allow you to have a fulfilled experience, there is nothing wrong with that decision.

Don’t graduate college early if it causes you to feel overwhelmed

Sometimes, fitting four years of schooling into three years can be overwhelming—especially if you didn’t transfer many credits from high school. If you are dedicated to graduating early, make a plan early on of how you can fit all your requirements into the timeframe you desire. Even then, though, things can quickly become overwhelming. You may have to take more classes per summer than you feel comfortable with, and not allowing yourself any breaks can have a negative impact elsewhere in your life. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, it’s not too late to add an extra semester and spread things out a bit. Know yourself, and be honest if your school work becomes too much.

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Don’t graduate college early due to impatience

Most importantly, don’t decide to graduate college early because you are ready to start adult life. College is a great time to try as many new experiences as possible—from studying abroad with your classmates, to playing an intramural sport you never thought you would like. You have the flexibility to pursue as many new interests as you’d like and really learn where your place in the workforce will be.

If you feel graduating college early is the right decision for you as an individual, then don’t let anything stop you. Educate yourself on the pros and cons, and be honest about what you want to get out of college. If you do these things, the right decision will be easy to make.

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