• Flux Magazine

"Should I Graduate Early from College?" by Noelle S. Dahl

Graduating early is a big decision. While most of us look forward to finishing in four years, some of us wonder if there’s a way we could successfully shorten our time in college. But what are the pros and cons of doing so? As I’m close to graduation and about to commence on my journey in “the real world”, this is my experience and advice for those who also have considered or are still considering graduating in three years. Take note, graduating early is not for the nervous nellies out there. It is hard work, but highly rewarding. Here’s how I decided it was for me. 

I first entered Sonoma State University with the notion that I would graduate within four years. I came into college with zero credits and never took a summer class while in high school. Ever since my first semester, I have been taking more units than the average student, eighteen to be exact, and didn’t feel as if I was struggling to maintain my grades. During my sophomore year, I began to consider graduating early, and if that was even possible. I had two jobs and was now averaging around twenty-one units, still continuing to maintain my grades. By the end of my fourth semester, I was confronted with a major crossroad: should I graduate one year early or travel abroad my senior year and graduate in four years. This was a tough decision for me, but ultimately I settled on graduating in three years and taking a well-deserved trip after graduation. Looking back, this now appears to have been the right decision seeing that COVID-19 has scotched most travel abroad programs this semester and next. Even though my decision was right for me, it doesn’t mean it would be for another. So if you’re considering if graduating within three years is for you, here are some pros and cons for you to ultimately decide. 

What are the pros? Money. Time. Career. You will be saving a lot of money and if you’re paying your way through college, this is a very big deal. That means you’ll be saving on tuition. You’ll be saving on the paying inflated rent payments that are close to college campuses. And unless you find leisure in reading textbooks on your own clock, you’ll be saving on those too. In addition to money, you’ll be saving some time as well. You can use this time to take a break, prepare for grad school, or jumpstart your career. Companies will recognize that you have graduated early. This shows initiative and the ability to take risks, both attractive qualities for employers. And the cherry on top of graduating early is that you can avoid senioritis. Whether you are prone to contracting senioritis or you are happy just to be here, graduating in three years doesn’t give you the time to pine for graduation because you’ll be there before you can even think about it. 

Cons? Graduating in three years is difficult, to say the least. You must endure a heavy workload. To be candid, I was taking thirty units at Sonoma State and at a community college at the same time to make this work. You heard that right. And yes, that is double the average units. This means you’ll be sacrificing some of your social life for studying. This also means that you will be eliminating one year of your precious “college experience” for good. And if you do not want to torment yourself with a hefty workload during the academic semester, you’ll have to take classes during summer and potentially lose a chunk of your vacation time. If you’ve come into college with credits, this doesn’t apply as much to you but saying goodbye earlier surely does. 

I’d also like to make one thing clear. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with finishing undergrad in over four years. Every person is different. Every major is different. One of my best friends was just accepted into UCLA after going to community college for a couple of years and although she may be graduating a little later, she’s probably graduating from a better school than most.  

Here’s my advice—do what feels right for you. If the pros outweigh the cons, then graduate in three years instead of four. You’d not only get a head start in your career, but you’d be saving a massive amount of money. And if you do not feel as if you are ready to part within the three years, then do your best to enjoy the time you have. College is short as it is and the timeline is entirely up to you.

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