We spend a large part of our lives studying, from an early age way up to our 20s.
Sometimes, it does not even stop in college.
Some people even pursue further studies such as postgraduate courses, master’s degrees, doctorates, and so on.
The amount of time we spend on studies is no joke.
If there is a way to fast track schooling and graduate from college early, would you do it?
If you want to pursue this option, how is this possible?
Here are some things you should know about if you are planning to graduate from college early.
10 Things You Need to Know to Graduate from College Early
1. Define Your Goal
Ask yourself why you want to graduate from college early.
Is it because most of your peers have decided to shorten their time in school?
Is it because a person you look up to told you it’s the best thing to do?
Are you hoping it will decrease your college loan debt and save you money?
If you are just doing it because it’s the “trend” among your peers or because it’s a great idea according to someone you want to impress – pause for a while.
Examine the reason why you’re doing this.
You should be doing it for yourself and not for anybody else.
You need a compelling reason why you want this to be your goal.
If you’re just going along with the crowd, there’s a high chance that you would drop the idea somewhere along the way.
That would be a shame, after all the effort you poured into it.
You would lose interest because you don’t have enough reason to graduate early.
It’s probably not your dream, it’s not really what you want.
You really have to be sure you want it because it is a commitment.
When you don’t want it, you may feel burdened along the way. You may want to quit halfway through.
From the start, it should be something that you really, really want.
Why is this important? Your goal will give you something to go back to when you are feeling discouraged.
Your goal will remind you why you are doing this.
It will remind you that it will be worth it in the end.
Your goal should be yours, and that will keep you going on in this journey.
2. Start As Soon As Possible
It’s great if you have established your goal as early as high school.
When you are off to an early start, you increase your chances of getting your degree early.
There are several ways to get ahead in high school.
If you have access to an International Baccalaureate program, try to get in.
If you get into this program and you do well in your exams, you would be able to get college credits ahead.
If you have access to advanced placement exams, make sure you prepare for it.
Getting a high score in these exams would earn you credits even before entering college.
There are placement exams in subjects like language and math, so try to do well in these areas.
Doing well in the advanced placement exams shortens your time in college.
When you have earned the credits in advance, go back to your course curriculum.
See what other classes you can take in advance during your first semester in college.
Another way to get ahead of the game is through advanced courses to help you with your college subjects later on.
Preparing for the subjects as early as in high school will give you a definite head start.
You can breeze through your college subjects if you are already familiar with some of the topics.
Another advantage of taking advanced courses in high school?
These classes will help you prepare for the placement exams.
Don’t worry, though, if you started a bit late.
You may have realized only after high school that you want to graduate from college early.
Don’t fret, there are still ways to get ahead, which brings us to the next point.
3. Check Out Your Prospective Curriculum
Get the curriculum of your college path.
You can check this out on your prospective school’s website or their information office.
Study the available course mapping.
You need to check this out as it will determine how you can shorten your stay in college.
You would be able to identify which course credits you can earn earlier.
You would also be able to pick out the critical courses, which you can’t afford to fail.
These might delay your plans to graduate from college early.
If you can talk to current students of your chosen course, ask what’s challenging them.
Try to get some pointers so you would know how to manage the “difficult” subjects and activities in advance.
At least you can prepare yourself for what’s coming ahead.
4. Take Summer Classes
If you can enroll in the summer before your first semester in college, do that.
Make sure though that high school classes are credited toward your college degree.
If you’re going to study abroad, check out your options thoroughly as well.
Your advance credits may not apply in a different country.
Make sure that all your efforts are credited toward your college requirements and elective courses.
So, always doublecheck the options available to you.
It’s better to know these things in advance.
Otherwise, your time, effort, and money will just go to waste.
During your stay in college, take summer classes.
Maximize the time available to you.
Summer classes are a good tip for those who have realized a little bit too late that they want to fast track their schooling.
They can effectively shorten your time in school.
You are passing through the course map faster when you enroll during the summer.
5. Maximize Your Load
Schools set a limit to the number of units you can take within the semester.
If you can manage the maximum allowable load, take that.
Take as many units as you can within the semester, if your schedule permits you to do so.
As long as there’s no overlapping in your classes, go for it.
Keep it realistic, though.
It may look possible on paper, but remember that you still need time for your personal activities and after-class reviewing.
When you take summer classes and maximize your study load – you would surely be earning credits faster.
For those who have just realized that they want to graduate early (and weren’t able to take advance credits before starting college), this is a feasible option for you.
However, know your limits as well.
You’re not going to be happy or productive if you are forcing yourself through impossible workloads even before getting to college.
A helpful way of getting more done faster is to pick up learning strategies that boost your recall and speed up your reading.
Find ways to make learning more efficient and productive for you.
6. Check Out Your Options for Your Classes
One great thing about technology – it has also reshaped how classes work.
No longer is it limited to in-classroom learning.
A traditional class is where you go to a physical location – the classroom, to learn.
Some schools nowadays offer hybrid or blended classes.
A student no longer needs to go to a physical classroom and listen to the lecture in person.
In hybrid or blended classes, the lessons online.
It could possibly be a live stream conducted by the instructor, or it could be a pre-produced lecture – which you can pace yourself.
In some cases, the student might have to go to a physical class.
Still, more often, the classes are held online.
Check if your school offers blended classes.
This could benefit you as you can take the classes right from the comfort of your own room or wherever you prefer that has internet connectivity.
Taking blended classes will give you more time in your schedule.
You just have to tune in to your class when it is time.
When it’s done, you log-off, and you didn’t even have to leave your location.
You are left with more precious time, a resource that is essential when you are in a fast-paced schedule.
7. Get into the Habit
You got credits in advance, you are taking the maximum load, you plan to take summer classes.
Is this enough?
You probably earned all these due to good study habits, but it’s not the time to be complacent.
You can only maintain your good academic standing if you study well.
College is a lot different from high school, and you need to find a routine that works for you if you want to graduate from college early.
It may be the first time you’re away from home and the temptations to slack off a bit, and maybe even party are many.
For you to achieve your goal, you have to stick to your study schedule.
Remember that you are under the heavy course load, and you’re maximizing your time in college.
You must organize your activities.
A schedule will make you manage your time better.
8. Pay Attention to Your Well-Being
Getting your degree earlier than the rest will not be a walk in the park.
Perhaps you already know that right from the start. You are fast-tracking your schooling, so things will be incredibly sped up.
Your schedule will be jam-packed as you will be working under a full load schedule, and you’re going to take summer classes on top of that.
It could get tough, so you must pay attention to your well-being.
You would want to finish school early, but the hectic schedule might take its toll if you don’t find that balance.
Remind yourself regularly that you also need to relax.
It’s okay to take a break as well.
Studying nonstop will eventually affect your mind and body if you don’t take good care of yourself.
You will burn out in due course.
It’s okay to take breaks.
You need it so you could recover.
Properly-timed study sessions and breaks can actually improve your learning by allowing your brain to subconsciously cement information you have been studying.
It’s not just the mind working out during school.
Sitting on your chair for hours at a time would also tire out the body.
Do some exercises when you can also.
Exercise has been proven to lift your mood as well – this is important when you are feeling the pressure.
You don’t even have to spend so much time on exercise, a quick walk or run is also a form of physical activity.
9. Eat Well
It also goes without saying that you should eat well.
The thing with busy people like students, they want fast and easy options.
They want fewer interruptions, so they want convenience.
What are the common food choices among busy students? They go for fast food, instant food – not the best food choices out there.
Why? It’s readily available, the preparation is quick and easy. You can even order via an app these days. Junk food is cheap, and it does fill up the stomach.
The problem with junk food, though, is that it is not nourishing.
It is not healthy in the long run.
When you operate on a busy schedule, the more you should eat well.
Late nights and stress can make you more prone to getting sick.
Nutritious food is excellent protection against illness.
Preparing good food requires time and effort, but they are better for you in the long run.
This also goes for caffeine addiction.
Coffee is good, but consume it in moderation.
10. Get Enough Sleep
Another vital thing to do is to get enough sleep!
It might seem impossible for students, more so for a person who is fast-tracking their college degree.
You must, however, get proper sleep as much as you can.
When you lack sleep, you feel lethargic the next day.
You won’t be able to do much.
So, there’s no sense in continuously forgoing sleep.
No sluggish person is 100% productive.
School can be tough, especially if you’re planning to graduate from college early.
This is the reason why you need to take good care of your health more.
Not giving yourself a break, not eating well, not sleeping enough – they will not do you good.
Live as healthily as you can.
When you want to graduate from college early, it is definitely a commitment.
It’s not the easiest thing to do, but if you really want it, it is possible.
You would surely spend a lot of time studying but find time to take breaks, eat good food, and catch up on sleep.
If you want to graduate from college early, savor the fun times too, and look after your well-being.
Your rate of success, if you want to graduate from college early, is higher if you strike a balance between study and relaxation.
Now we’d love to hear from you.
Which of these tips did you find helpful?
Have they helped you decide whether you’re ready to graduate from college early?
Let us know!
Nicole E. Keller is a blogger who enjoys writing and is inspired to help students learn how to graduate from college early. She writes for several sites including this one and others such as Onebed blog, makers of the mattress in a box and adjustable bed frame.
Janet Lee is an expert on HowtoLearn.com and shares with students how CLEP exams help them graduate from college early. She teaches students how to receive all the credits they are entitled to, by showing what they know on an exam, instead of taking the full class. This can save students thousands of dollars on their tutition as well as truly help them graduate early from college.
[ Updated – October 22, 2020 ]