How to Graduate University Faster

Following the steps here will save you thousands of dollars in University.

How to Graduate University Fasterthumbnail

You can graduate from university early and save a lot of time and money if you create a detailed plan and employ some key strategies to success. This article will walk you through creating that detailed plan for early University graduation.  Following the steps here will save you thousands of dollars in University.

Difficulty:  Moderately Challenging


Things You'll Need

  • Acceptance to University
  • Desire to save time and save money
  • excel spreadsheet
  • University Calendar

Decide What School and What Degree

Decide on a degree - and do not change your mind. Switching majors or degrees is a leading cause of wasted time and money in University so think hard and choose wisely.

Similarly, decide on the school you will graduate from. It might be fun to try another school for a bit so long as you can transfer the credit over, but you need to identify and stick to fulfilling one set of graduation requirements only. Don't lose college credit by moving around with no plan.

Determine Which Degree Requirements

Various Years:  Most schools allow students to graduate under any set of published degree requirements from the year of enrollment to the year of graduation. Look at the published requirements for each year and, if there are differences, pick the most favorable set of degree requirements for your situation.

Various Programs:  In some cases, universities offer alternate versions of some degrees. It might be a distance education program, adult evening program, or extension program on some other school's campus. Research what kind of alternative degree requirements you could fall under and if that program would be easier/faster/cheaper/more flexible for you.

You will want to pick the combination of the best requirements between the years of your enrollment and the best university program for your chosen university degree.


Build a Spreadsheet

College and Universities love to make graduation requirements complex. It can seem like half your job is to complete the classes and the other half is to be sure you meet all the degree requirements correctly to graduate.

Take the graduation requirements and build a spreadsheet that shows every required course name and course id, the credit hours required, alternate classes you can use to meet the requirement, prerequisites and corequisites and any other pertinent information such as what semesters the course is offered.

You will want to put the course names in one column, number of credits in a column, and so on.  

Group the courses into Core or General Education, Major, Minor, and Specialty areas. If you have Electives list "General Elective" "Science Elective" and so on rather then actual course names. Color coding the courses might help make things clearer, as will having a column that identifies the type of credits each course goes against.  

Also list any non-course requirements such as placement testing, community service hours, special exams in a department, minimum upper division hours, and any non-credit but required classes like coop terms.

Track your Progress

 Add in extra columns in the credits area for "Earned", "In Progress", and "Future". Now you can add "sum totals" for each type of credit. With this design you can easily keep track of requirements and plan each session in advance. If you can't measure it you can't control or manage it.

Consider Alternative Ways to Earn Credit

 Research all the ways you can get University credit without going to class.  Add in comments on your spreadsheet for any courses you might be able to CLEP, challenge, submit a portfolio for credit, use Advanced Placement or otherwise earn university credit without going to university classes.

Plot your Course to Graduation

Now use your spreadsheet to plot your fastest path to the degree. Watch out especially for these pitfalls and opportunities:

  • Pay close attention to prerequisites where you must take a level 100 course before taking a level 200 class in that topic and so on.  Sometimes these prerequisites run 3 or 4 course deep, especially in math and science but also in accounting and some other areas where one course builds on the next.  Go clear the prerequisites away early on so your early graduation is not held up by them.  
  • You may also need to get prerequisite waivers signed to eliminate time hurdles that will slow down your graduation plan.  Presenting a well thought out plan that turns prerequisites into corequisites may work to streamline your course load.
  • Sometimes specialized upper division classes are not offered every semester. Note this and plan accordingly.
  • Are there opportunities to test out of some classes? (math courses can commonly be tested out of, allowing you to start at a higher level for example)
  • Does your plan meet all the non-course requirements such as having enough upper division hours in it and completing all non-credit requirements toward graduation?

GPA Tracking

Your detailed plan can be used to track GPA very easily. You will want two extra columns for GPA Tracking.

- Actual GPA (say a 3 or 4) on each course

- A GPA Value calculated by multiplying the actual GPA by the number of credits (from the course credit column made earlier).  The GPA Value of a 3 out of 4 in a 3 credit course is 3x3=9 out of a possible 12 points of GPA Value.

This weights the GPA correctly so that an A on a 1 credit class gets correctly weighted against a B on a 4 credit class.

Create a box that sums up all the GPA Values and divides by the total of the credits completed column. If you earn credit on a pass/fail basis on a course you will want to exclude the credits earned on the pass fail (no GPA stated) credits from the calculation to get an accurate weighted GPA.

Review Your College Graduation Plan and Update It Regularly

Finally, check back and update your detailed graduation plan every time you complete a class or need to register for more classes. This will keep you on track and modivated as you watch the completed credit column total grow.

Don't waste time in the wrong classes, focus on the ones you actually need to graduate and on how you can quickly accumulate all the graduation requirements.

Tips & Warnings
    • If you follow this plan, academic advising will become pointless to you. You can balance course load and graduation requirements yourself. Just flash your color coded spreadsheet at the advisor and talk about the excitement of graduating early rather then trying to get advise from people who followed a traditional path to their degree.

    • Carefully track ALL requirements to graduate. Don't get caught having to stay in school another year due to poor planning.