Should You Graduate a Semester Early?

Forget that new iPod or that gorgeous J. Crew Capella coat under the tree this year—because if you’re graduating early this December, everyone knows that earning your diploma five months ahead of schedule is the best gift of the season! Once final exams are over, you can head home for the holidays knowing that you’ll never have to open a physics book or write another English paper again. Ever.

Graduating a semester early can be a huge relief, but at the same time, it can also leave you with mixed feelings—especially once your friends are back at school hanging out after class and partying it up on the weekends, but you’re in the Real World (or at least still living in your childhood bedroom that is adorned with Backstreet Boys posters and Disney World memorabilia) where staying out ‘til 2 a.m. is no longer an option.

So why graduate a semester early in December? We talked to three different girls who made this decision, found out why they did it, how they weighed the pros and cons and most importantly, how you should go about making this decision yourself.

Making the decision

For some collegiettes, making the decision to grab their diplomas a semester early wasn’t a decision they lost sleep over. 

“Graduating early was something that I'd thought about for a while the first two years of college,” said HC contributing writer and recent Brandeis University graduate Chrissy Callahan. “It was that goal that seemed so great, but that you weren't sure you could actually achieve. I didn’t want to overdo it and cause myself undue stress, but it was during my junior year that I seriously started to look into what was involved in graduating early. I soon realized that I just had to strategically plan my schedule for the next three semesters and then I'd have enough credits to finish early!”

For Chrissy, she knew she wanted to pursue a career in beauty magazine journalism, and felt that her time was better spent in the workforce rather than continuing to be in the classroom.

Having felt stifled with the liberal arts curriculum at her school, Chrissy said that she was determined to graduate with full force given all her “passion for entering the workforce and frustration with academia.”

But for other students, committing to graduating early can simply come down to those dollar bills.

“As much as I would have loved to have the experience of living in London for a semester, saving money was more important,” said recent Syracuse University graduate Kelina Imumara, who wanted to study abroad like her friends but instead opted to skip out on studying abroad so she could graduate a semester early. “Since I’m paying for college myself, saving myself $30,000 was appealing.”

However, while money was the main factor that pulled her to graduating early in the winter, she also said that “having the ability to take a long break before jumping into the job market is nice, too. The decision to graduate early was an easy one to make.”

While making the decision to graduate a semester early may seem easy for some, for others, the answer isn’t as clear. Check out our list of pros and cons below before you submit your application to graduate early!

The Pros 

You save money. 

We all know that college is not cheap. Like Kelina, recent Syracuse University graduate Christen Brandt is paying for college herself too. “Saving a semester’s worth of tuition was a huge drawing point,” she said.

Chrissy agrees. “I'm saving a whole semester's worth of studying and academics. For someone who has such a firm grasp on what they'd like to pursue for a career as I do, it is a huge deal!”

Instead of making payments for an unnecessary semester of tuition, you can instead use that money to make payments on major investments like a new apartment or car for your new, adult life—and not on extra loans. 

You can get a head start on the job search.

“Graduating early gives you a bit of an edge as far as the job market is concerned,” said Chrissy. “For something as competitive as magazine journalism, it's great to have any edge possible—and if that means me being ready to immediately fill my dream position, and it opens up in February or March or whenever, I'm still ahead of the huge bottleneck of graduating seniors finishing up in May.”

For all of you overachievers, putting in the hard work now can definitely pay off later when you have a job lined up in the spring, while your former classmates are still in school.

“I'm ready to take on the real world!” said Christen. “I am sad to be leaving my friends behind, but I'm ready to move on from the college scene.”

Kelina, who will start training for Teach for America next year where she’ll teach in Colorado, said, “If I didn’t already know what I was doing after May, I know that entering the job market months before my peers would be a definite advantage. But knowing exactly what I’m going to be doing after May in November made the last month and a half of school so difficult to get through. It was senioritis all over again. I cannot imagine what it would have been like if I knew in November and was graduating in May.”

You’re DONE! You can relax.

What better feeling could there be? While everyone else still has another semester to go, you can wrap up your final exams knowing that you’re done forever.

“I also think a pro is finishing while you’re still motivated to do work,” said Kelina.  “As tough as it was to stay motivated during the last few weeks of classes, I know it will be a lot more difficult for my friends who are graduating on time.”
Probably one of the best perks of graduating early is that’s once it’s over, you don’t have to necessarily stay motivated if you don’t want to. If you don’t want to get the jumpstart on the job search, you totally don’t have to. You can celebrate the fact that you’ve completed your higher education in less than four years and can throw yourself a party or even just park yourself in front of the TV and catch up on all those Gossip Girl episodes you missed. You can take a nap. Go on vacation. Or just sleep. Ahhhhh.