College is stressful in itself. After picking classes, adjusting to living on your own, making friends, and navigating everything from scholarships to financial aid, one of the last things I wanted to do was worry about the next 3 years.
Graduating college in 4 years isn’t something everyone has to do, but if you are like me, I’d prefer not to spend money on another semester or year if I don’t have to. It’s an attainable goal, and it’s something worth reaching for.
So, how on earth can you make sure you’ll graduate on time?
Make sure your AP or IB credit from high school transferred over and that your university is counting it towards something.
At my school, you have to hop through a few extra hoops to make sure your credit gets counted. On top of that, you need to make an appointment with your advisor to make sure it can and will be counted towards a class you need, rather than a random one. I’ve found the easiest way to deal with all of this is to make an appointment with your academic advisor and talk it all through to make sure you aren’t missing anything. The last thing you want is for you to get to senior year and have to take a freshman writing class because your English credit didn’t transfer.
On another note, if you are a high school student reading this post to prepare for college and you are in AP or IB classes, make sure you take the tests if you can! Paying around $100 to take a test that might get you out of a $3000 class is always worth it in my book.
Try to declare your major earlier rather than later.
Not to say you can’t come in undecided, but don’t leave you major declaration until late junior year, because there is a good chance you won’t graduate on time.
If you come in undecided, just make sure you are taking classes that are catered to your interests and count for your general education credits. So, as tempting as taking guitar for a class might sound, if you have no interest in being a music major, leave that class as a filler for senior year. Your general education credits are there for a reason-to help undecided students find their interests!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a full semester or year of general credits to figure out your passions. Once you do, declare so you can start knocking out your credits to graduate.
Take summer classes.
My university doesn’t accept credit from other institutions, but if yours does, try to take a summer class. If you live by your school you could take them on campus, but many college students move home for the summer.
If your university will allow outside credits, check to see what your community or local college offers over the summer and what you could get it to transfer to. On top of getting ahead, you might even be able to save some money all while being home.
Since I can’t take classes at my community college over the summer, I can take online courses from my school. If you are in the same boat as me, that might be the way to go if you can tell you are falling behind with your number of credits.
Take 15 credit hours per semester.
It’s SO easy to try and take fewer credits in college. The temptation is so real.
The reality is, most colleges require you to have 120 credits to graduate. Divide that by 4 years, and you get 15 credits a semester. At least. That’s not counting if you have a minor or a double major. I’m going to graduate with 127 credits because I have a minor.
So while taking 12 sounds like fun, don’t do it. At least not until your senior year-and that’s only if you have enough credits already and a flexible schedule.
Make sure you maintain the GPA needed for your program.
Depending on your major and minor, you’ll have different GPA requirements to maintain in order to stay in your program.
Find out what that GPA is, and try your absolute hardest to not fall below. If you do, you’ll have to take “dead credits” in hopes that you can get your GPA back up to re-enter the program, and that is just unnecessary stress to add to your life.
Play hard, work harder.
Take college seriously. Make sure you still have fun before you get your adulthood training wheels taken away after graduation, but don’t slack off if you want to reach your goals.
As a good rule, you are supposed to study around 2-3 hours per credit hour each week of college. If you are taking a 3 credit hour class, that means you should be studying between 6-9 hours for just that class each week.
Being a student is a full time job. Put in your work now and you’ll be rewarded later. (Or you won’t have to pay for a fifth year!)
Use a 4 Year Plan.
If you’ve been through college registration already, you know that the classes you want aren’t always the ones you get. This plan makes it easy to swap with a class you had prepared for a future semester in the last minute registration battle, all while making sure all requirements are met.
Graduating on time takes some planning, creative thinking, and a few busy semesters, but you can get there if you want it. I promise. Work hard, stay focused, and most importantly, have fun!
Haley is the Academic Editor at The Young Hopeful and a junior at Loyola University Chicago, where she is a Digital Media and Visual Communications major. If she isn’t blogging, you can find her with her camera on adventures, curled up reading a good book, or cooking some type of pasta. Haley loves jamming with her ukulele, working on an art journal, cheesecake, and has a severe case of wanderlust. She loves to write about the adventures of college, self love, and living creatively. You can find Haley over on her blog, Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook.