How to Graduate in 4 Years or Less
How to Graduate in 4 Years or Less

Attending college is one of the most important things people can do for themselves, their future, and future generations to come. College is more than just about getting an education; these institutions of higher learning help people establish their future earnings potential. Statistics have shown for years that college graduates receive more money than their counterparts. However, there is a qualifier to the statistics: this can be offset by additional expenses when students do not graduate in the four-year timeframe traditionally designed, and used in all statistics, for college completion.

Why such a specific number? Studies have shown that the longer someone's in school, the more debt they tend to incur. On top of that, there is an economic opportunity cost involved based on the number of years a student is in college and out of the workforce. Every moment that people are in class is a moment where they aren't earning money. The sooner students graduate (with good credentials, of course) the better their earning potential will be. Here are three ways to help get through college in four years or less.

1: Cash in on AP, Dual-Enrollment, and Life Experience:

The largest cost that's incurred on most college campuses (other than residence) is tuition. Every credit hour taken is, on average, just over a hundred dollars. If you take 30 credit hours a year that's over $3,000. And 30 hours is about what you'll spend in terms of time since most schools require 120 credits before graduation. However, there is good news. There might be ways to already acquire credits before taking a college class. If you're still in high school, consider taking either AP classes or Dual-Enrollment. AP, or Advanced Placement, classes often teach college level material. At the end of the year, those enrolled will take a standardized test to see how much of the information they've truly learned. Scores above a 3 out of 5 will often be good enough for schools to give out comparable credit.

Dual-Enrollment is when people attend a local college while attending high school. Many school districts have programs where seniors can opt to take all of their classes at school. When they finish the year, they've earned loads of college credit. What happens, however, if you're a non-traditional student well beyond high school? That's fine. Some schools will take your years of experience as credits too. If you worked in accounting for ten years, you might be exempt from taking many of the lower prerequisites. All in all, be sure to cash in on your experience!

2: Decide your Major Before Going

Many students enroll in school as "undecided majors." Many students declare themselves as “undecided,” or pick a major they truly don't enjoy or find interesting. As a result, you'll see students switching majors often. In fact, the average student switches their major nearly 5 times throughout their college career.

While this may seem great that these people are finally finding what they will love to do, it comes at a cost. Each major has separate prerequisites that need to be fulfilled. Each time someone switches a major, they work towards completing those classes. Eventually, once they've settled on the major they'll stay with, they'll need to seriously hustle to make up their required credits for that specific major. Most students will not be able to do this in just four years. Some basic college planning would have solved this issue. Companies such as give their subscribers access to college planning tools to help ensure that issues like this won't arise.

3: Summer Classes

The traditional student schedule is three to five classes in the fall, with this same course-load repeated in the spring. These students will complete their thirty or so hours per year and all will be well. However, there are ways to expedite the process. Summer terms are becoming increasingly popular with students who are in a rush to graduate. Instead of taking the summer off as most students prefer to do, they decide to stay in school for the summer term and take another set of classes. Some schools offer two summer terms so it is now feasible for students to obtain 20 credits during the summer. Although demanding, this would push their graduation time up to about two to three years. Even if students don't want to push college out of the way so quickly, summer courses are great ways to ease the burden of courses every fall and spring, thereby enabling them to have more time to enjoy their college years during the short four-year timeframe.

In summation, preplanning early for college in a multitude of ways, not just financially, can greatly offset college expenses as well as time spent in college.