Friday, March 2, 2018

How to Graduate College Early

Hello, beautiful! I have some exciting (read: terrifying!) news: guess who's graduating at the end of her junior year? Hint: her name starts with "Haley" and ends with "Marie."

Yes, that's me - and no, I can't believe it either! Shaving a year off my college education wasn't something I planned to do, but from an expenses perspective, it is SUCH a relief to be able to say that I'm saving $120,000+ on tuition by graduating early. Because f**k student loans, right guys?

Granted, having to enter the workforce a little earlier than expected is more than just a shock - it's freakin' terrifying! But, I would totally recommend graduating early if you're looking to save money, get a jump start on your career or even take some time off before applying to grad school. For example, I'm strongly considering taking my fourth year of "college" to freelance before applying to agency jobs post-grad!

If you want to hear how I'm doing it (and maybe glean some advice for your own college career), check out my guide below to graduating early from college. Your post-grad self will thank you!

Step One: Transfer Credits

The most important factor in my ability to graduate a year early from college was hands-down my semester of AP credit (that's 16 credits and four classes, people!) transferred from high school. Because I got good grades on most of my AP tests, I was able to spend $80 per class instead of thousands on an entire semester at school.

So, if you're still in high school, I would highly recommend packing on AP credit - as much as you feel comfortable taking, go for it! Though it's a bit of an investment now, it's well worth the money you'll save on taking extra classes in college.

If you're already in college, however, you can't go back and take more AP classes. What you can do, however, is spend your summers at your local community college. My university has a database of classes that transfer from other schools, so you can easily take summer classes at a cheaper college and transfer them over to your university. This is an especially great idea if you're a freshman or sophomore looking to shave off some of those pesky gen-ed requirements to delve deeper into your major!

Step Two: Double-Up

And speaking of all those pesky requirements, wanna know how I'm managing to graduate early with both a major in Mass Communications and a minor in Political Science? Thank my college's gen-ed requirements for that! 

My college requires both general ed classes in history and social sciences, as well as three classes in a "concentration" of your choice. I used Political Science classes to fulfill all of these, leaving me one class away from graduating with a minor on top of my already-half-finished Mass Communications major.

Step Three: Skip the Distractions

Okay, so this seems kind of harsh - but let me explain myself before you click away. By "distractions," I don't mean boys, friends or parties. The last thing you should do is sacrifice your mental health and happiness to kill yourself studying all night! 

When I say "distractions," I'm more talking about those alluring programs colleges try to tempt you with during the admissions process - things like co-op programs (unless your school requires it, of course) and semesters abroad. As great as it is to spend a couple months studying in Europe, it's an expense that often doesn't count toward your requirements for graduation. And same goes for that fancy internship in the city - unless they're paying you for it, all those new internship clothes and work lunches are bound to cost you a pretty penny and deter you from your goal of graduating early.

So, don't let your college advisors get the best of you! Pay attention to the fine print before you sign onto these programs, and think carefully about your priorities and motives before accepting an opportunity abroad.

Step Four: Count Credits Carefully

Try saying that ten times fast! But, in all seriousness, it's important to keep a careful eye on your credits to make sure you're staying on track toward early graduation.

The most obvious way to make sure you're staying on track is to meet with an advisor regularly to count your credits and make up for any discrepancies along the way. However, my school also offers a helpful online tool that shows you how close you are to meeting your requirements for graduation. If your school offers something similar, it's a great DIY alternative to sitting in an advisor's office for hours adding up credits on a calculator. (Just trust me on this one.)

Are YOU graduating early? If so, how will you make it happen? LMK in the comments below - because accountability is key!