Growing numbers of college students end up staying — and paying — beyond the traditional four years in college. While college can be one of the best times of your life, the cost of extra semesters means you should do your best to stay on track.
Here is what you can do, beginning with your freshman year, to increase your chances of graduating within four years.
Know your graduation requirements.
- Colleges usually have a minimum number of credit hours required for a degree; some majors may require additional hours.
- Know which classes count toward the degree requirements.
- Maintain good grades to ensure you meet academic progress standards. If you fall below the minimum, you may be required to take classes that don't count toward your degree.
- Understand which electives outside your major you need to complete.
Plan out academic courses now through graduation.
- Your college may offer an online program or paper planner to help you track progress.
- Some required courses may entail prerequisites you need to ensure you take first.
- Follow the recommended course plan or curriculum path for your major as a guide.
- Know which classes are offered every term and which ones are only offered in the fall or the spring.
Ask for assistance early and often.
- Meet with your academic adviser before signing up for classes and any time you need to evaluate progress.
- Go to your professors' office hours with questions or discussion ideas.
- Attend tutoring sessions and meet with classmates to go over work.
- Visit the campus career center to discuss career paths for your major and plan for resumes and interviews.
Focus on your goals.
- Identify your major as early as possible.
- Avoid taking classes that provide credit but don't count for graduation requirements.
- Attend every class.
- Stay ahead of your assignments and projects.
- Check your school email and online portal several times a week.
- If you plan to get a more advanced degree, research the requirements for admission and consider classes that provide both undergraduate and graduate credit.
Know how special circumstances affect you.
- If you are planning to study abroad or take on an internship or co-op, understand how that affects your course plan and timeline.
- Summer, intersession and online courses can help you gain required credits, but be sure to know how the credits you take outside your college system transfer.
- You may be able to test out of certain classes. Investigate these opportunities and how those credits are applied.
- Credits are often "lost" when students transfer to different schools or change majors. Before taking these steps, work with your school to determine how they affect your graduation plan.