Why I Didn’t Graduate Early

About this time last semester, I logged into my student link and saw something that shocked me: I had enough credits to graduate early. As it happens, it was the time of year for advising to start, and I was looking at my credits to see what other classes I needed to take. I saw that I only had to take four more classes (one semester’s worth) to graduate with both my major and my minor. This was not a decision I had anticipated having to make.

People talk about graduating early often because the benefits are obvious. You can get a head start on your career. You don’t have to pay extra tuition. If you are planning to get a second degree, you can start on it sooner. Maybe you can retire early. And of course, if you are tired of college and what it has to offer, you can leave it behind sooner. Overall, it sounds like a pretty good deal.

On the other hand, there are some less-spoken-of benefits of taking your time. You can take elective classes that you’ll never have the chance to take again. You have a little extra time to plan your future career or educational path. You can take some time to study abroad. You can build your resume with a part-time job, volunteering, or extracurricular activities. Most importantly, taking your own time allows you to build relationships and grow in a way that hurrying to finish never will.

In making my own personal decision, finances were a huge consideration. Paying for college has been expensive to say the very least, and I felt like asking my parents to help me through another semester was selfish and irresponsible. However, after asking them, they said that given my financial aid, it wouldn’t save as much as I had anticipated. In fact, it could have cost a similar amount to paying rent and living expenses in Boston. I realize this may not be the case for everyone, so looking at this decision could be extremely different for someone else.

While I was still considering the idea of graduating early, I was actually pretty stressed about it. I hadn’t planned on it, so I had not started applying for jobs or even thinking very much about the process. Suddenly, I felt enormous pressure to find a job because otherwise I would be broke on my own and graduating early would have been for nothing. I also started worrying about finding living arrangements a few months early and wondering if I would have a place to stay in the first place, let alone pay rent. Ultimately, while these are questions every graduating student has to ask, having to find answers months earlier than anticipated is far from ideal.

After I decided to stay, I soon felt relieved and a sense of reassurance that I did the right thing. I’ve never regretted it and felt the benefits right away. Since I’m not cramming all of my requirements into one last semester, I can have a less intense schedule that allows me more time to study, do well, and improve my GPA in my last year. I also have some electives to use to explore more interests. This semester I’m taking a theater class, something I’ve always wanted to do but never have. Outside of college it would have been much more difficult to find this opportunity. Next semester I hope to take some courses my advisor recommended to build my resume. Lowering the stakes gave me the opportunity to breathe and focus on the present rather than the future.

While I know this is a deeply personal decision and what is right for me may not be right for everyone, I would recommend that everyone wondering whether they should graduate early at least think about the option of staying a little longer.

I tend to be the kind of person who plans ahead and looks to the future to the point that I forget the present. For me, deciding not to graduate early helped me to get out of that habit and enjoy my college experience for what it is now.

Want to keep up with HCBU? Make sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, check out our Pinterest board, and read our latest Tweets!