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How to finish a four year college degree in less than 3 years. A student guide
Bachelor’s degree programs traditionally take four years to complete. This is just fine for many students. If you are attending the college of your dreams with expectations of experiencing college life, a four-year experience is just fine.
If you are looking to complete your degree as a way to begin your life and career, completion of your studies in three years instead of four is an attractive option. With proper planning and hard work, it is possible to finish your degree faster.
Take Advantage of Opportunities in High School
This may not be an option for you if you have already graduated high school. If there is still time, take advanced courses that allow you to earn college credits. Many high schools have options for upperclassmen to earn dual credit for the advanced courses they take.
Advanced Placement (AP) courses and international baccalaureate (IB) classes are available at most public high schools. Before you sign up, make sure to check with a guidance counselor so that you understand how the credits will transfer to whatever college track you pursue.
Before you sign up for classes at the closest university, check out online options that may allow you to complete courses more quickly than in-person classes. Some schools offer a hybrid of both online and in-person courses. Many online colleges offer more start dates per year than traditional colleges. Many of these schools offer accelerated eight-week terms.
Get Credit for Military or Work Experience
Several colleges and universities offer credit for certain life experiences. If you have spent time living overseas, for example, you may receive credit for time spent learning a foreign language. Inquire about credit given for military or work experience.
Another option is the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) which allows you to take tests for several entry-level courses. You will have to pay to take each exam, but a passing grade can mean earning credits toward your degree and shaving considerable time off of your studies.
If you are enrolled in a traditional university, check with the admissions office for information about course offerings during the summer session. It might be tempting to hit the beach instead of hitting the books, but capitalizing on the otherwise stagnant summer months can help you earn credits more quickly.
There are a few other benefits of tackling the summer session. If you finish your degree in three years instead of the traditional four years, you will save money on living expenses. Rather than spending idle weeks sunbathing or working, you will stay focused on your coursework. You will also benefit from a laidback campus and smaller class sizes.
Competency-based degree programs are fairly new, but they allow students to study independently and complete courses on their timetable. The benefit of competency-based programs is evident for students who may need longer to complete difficult projects. If you can work at an accelerated pace, a competency-based curriculum may help you finish your degree faster.
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