To graduate from college in less than four years, students need to plan early. With rising tuition costs and limited resources, students and parents are now looking to speed up time spent in college to save money. Less time students take to get through college means less tuition to pay. This is usually an option that families consider when there are multiple kids sent to college. There are options in place to help students graduate from college early.

Graduate from College(45713)Credit: Sara Haj-Hassan

Dual Enrollment

Some community colleges and high schools have entered an agreement in which a student completes certain classes that gives them high school credit towards their diploma and at the same time earns them college credit. Dual enrollment allows students to take as many credit hours to earn an Associate’s degree while graduating from high school—this means a student would only have to spend 2 years in college to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree!

Advanced Placement (AP)

Some high schools allow students to take AP courses where the curriculum is faster and more challenging. Students complete their high school coursework as usual while in these courses and by the end of the semester they sit for a specific exam that will award them college credit if they get a minimum score. The grade earned for their high school course does not impact the college GPA. Students only earn college credit for a class with an AP test score met.

College Level Examination Program (CLEP)

Since some high schools do not offer have Dual Enrollment or AP credit, CLEP tests are an option for students once they enter the college level. Students are able to sit for only specific subject tests made available to them by the university. The material tested is at the college level and awards them an amount of credit hours that have already been predetermined.

Summer School and Overloads

Instead of relaxing or working, some students choose to attend summer school to speed up their degree completion. Most summer sessions allow students to earn 12-14 credit hours for the entire summer. This is equal to completing one regular full semester.

Students can opt to overload their Fall and Spring semesters by taking more than the typical 15-16 credit hours. Some students will opt to take 18-21 hours to fast track their graduation plan and graduate from college earlier than usual.

Online Courses

With online course technology, students are now able to complete their coursework without stepping a foot on an actual college campus. Some online universities offer a shortened semester version where students can take a normal 16 week class and finish it in 6-8 weeks and then move forward with their next classes. Getting through the coursework faster allows them to take more classes in a year than a student who takes the traditional route. The best scenario to speed through college is to combine the traditional courses and take them with the accelerated online classes. This option may help students graduate from college in half the time.

Whichever path a student takes to graduate from college, planning is a good idea so that classes or tests won’t be wasted. Any one of these options will guarantee that a student can graduate from college in less than the traditional four years which will definitely same money on tuition.

Graduate from college(45714)Credit: Ian Kahn

A thing to note is the tradeoff the student gets with a degree completed earlier than normal. The student may not have enough time to get an internship which is critical for some careers.  The student may not mature enough to take on the life of a college graduate so soon. And, the most important tradeoff is that students who plan an early graduation may not have time to explore majors and interests that might better suit them.

Students should plan properly with their parents and their academic counselors to select the best option to graduate from college.