When Is Graduating Early from College Actually a Good Idea?

It’s graduation season. A sea of billowing graduation hats. It's a classic memory, one that most tend to never forget. But the time to graduate can be different for every person. Whether it's to graduate early or not, every person can have a different journey and still make the most of their college experience!

For some, graduating a semester (or even a year) early may seem like an isolating experience since it means less time with friends, but it also has serious perks, especially if you’re looking to save money or get a head start on your career.

Here are some things you’ll want to consider in the context of your own life to decide if graduating early is a good idea for your plan.

Graduating early is a good idea if…

You’re trying to save money

College is expensive, and if you’re trying to graduate with minimal debt or just can’t afford to spend extra time in classes, that’s totally okay! Access to scholarships or if having to pay off more loans for your education often times determines if you can fulfill a normal four-year college experience. Graduating early is a way to ensure you’re not graduating with huge loan payments, which is honestly going to make life post-college sooo much easier.

Laura Davison, a Marketing and Content Specialist, told College Raptor that by graduating early, you might have to spend more money on tuition, books and other educational expenses. “The less time you spend earning your degree, the less money you will have to pay in the long run,” says Davison. The flipside is that if you have enough financial support, and you feel that receiving a full four-year education will have a greater academic impact on you, then money definitely doesn’t need to be a deciding factor in early graduation.

You’re ready to dive into your career

If you graduate in December instead of May or June, there may be a less saturated job market waiting for you, making your initial employment search a little easier. Gone are the days of classes and homework, traded for networking, building your resume, and spending outside-of-work hours doing things you actually enjoy. Honestly, that sounds like a win.

Sadhvi Mathur, a senior blogger at CollegeVine says, “you will have more time to find a job than your classmates who are still in school.” In turn, this might make your job search run a bit more smoothly and efficiently!

If you are someone that wants to get a head start professionally, graduating early is a super-efficient way to dive right into your industry and the real world.

Related: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out if You’ve Never Had an Internship Before 

You need time off or want to take a gap year

Craving a year of peace or discovery after all those semesters of studying and dashing from class to class?

If you’re finally ready to take that backpacking trip in Europe or just want to delve deeper into your love for snorkeling, graduating early is an amazing option for some more “me time,” and a much-deserved physical and mental break.  

Cassie, a college graduate in California who graduated a semester early, and found it super enriching for her personal life. “Even though I didn’t get to graduate with my friends, I was able to do a lot of things I didn’t get to throughout college, such as volunteer abroad in South America and take up a new hobby like zip-lining!” she explains. “I really felt like it was a great way to relieve a lot of pent-up stress before my new job, and getting these new experiences really helped me become more open-minded and eager to try new things!”

You have the rest of your life to get work, so take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments and do something nurturing for yourself.

Graduating early might not be the best idea if…

Friends and social life are your main priority

If you’re a person that really values time spent with your friends above all, graduating early can be a tough decision to make. You’ll lose out on anywhere from a semester to a year of casual movie nights, and trying that new painting class together, and potentially miss out on new friends you would have made during your time as a senior.

If you first graduate, even though you may stay in the area and still see your friends, it might not feel the same due to differences in work schedules and school. In turn, you may find yourself losing out on those small moments together and everyday memories that felt really fulfilling to you.

Likewise, college time is also about having the time to develop soft skills https://www.hercampus.com/money-career/4-ways-market-soft-skills-your-co... such as communication, network development, teamwork, and critical thinking skills. "You don't get those skills because you pushed the right buttons on a Scantron to pass a test," David Laude, the University of Texas—Austin's senior vice provost of enrollment and curriculum services, told USNews. [link to the article instead of UT Austin]

So if you feel that you’re someone that strongly relies on the support of close friends, or may continue to benefit from the social experience college offers, graduating early might not be the best route.

Related: 5 Real AF Things You Learn About Money After You Graduate

You aren’t ready for the responsibility

Although some graduates easily adapt to working a 9-to-5 job and cooking their own dinner every night, others may need a bit more time to prep for the real world. It’s going to feel different for everyone, depending on a person’s level of independence. But when you start a full-time job, move to a new city, or live in your first grown-up apartment, things like being financially independent and having to take better care of yourself often come with the territory.

Annie, a college academic advisor at a California university, says that while it’s great for students to take on the responsibilities of graduating early, the stress of suddenly shifting from a more academic setting to work may be harrowing, or even scary for some students. For some, taking some more time to prepare for a career, even while in school, may be more advisable in the long run.

Katy Rushlau, who graduated a semester early from Emerson University, told USA Today that she made a list of“typical college experiences” early this year,” and realized she only could accomplish a few of them. She said, there were a lot of classic things to try out, and she believes if she gave herself some time to try different things, she could have gotten a chance to develop differently as a person.

Remember, you don’t have to push yourself to graduate early. Before you take that leap and make the decision, keep in mind that everybody is different. Whether it’s your financial situation, career goal, reliance on strong friendships, or valuing time to grow, there is a multitude of reasons one may want to graduate at different times!

All the same, you’ll still be getting that shiny diploma, and with your friends or without, we’re sure that you’ll have a great future to look forward to.

Deciding whether or not to graduate early is a huge decision that takes a lot of careful thought. Make sure you consider all your options, and whatever you decide, remember to be proud of this huge accomplishment. You did it!