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Ashley Ha
Life > Academics

How I Graduated From UCLA In 2 Years (As An Incoming Freshman)

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

I grew up in a cozy midwestern town, with slow lakeside weekends and road trips across the prairie. UCLA was far beyond where I imagined I’d be for college, though it was always my dream school. When I got my acceptance letter I knew I wanted to make it happen.

Cue: the cost.

UCLA’s out-of-state tuition is no joke, not to mention the cost of living in LA and the distance from home. The bad news: four years wasn’t possible. The good news: I could easily graduate in three. The crazy news: with lots of research, Reddit deep-dives and hacking course requirements, I could graduate in two. But completing a major and a minor in such a short timeline seemed impossible, or impossibly overwhelming at the very least. I’m here to tell you now—it’s not! Here’s how I did it:

Disclaimer: I Had A Flexible Major

I majored in English and minored in Film, Television and Digital Media. My major was fairly short and highly flexible with its requirements. My minor was less flexible but offered dozens of online summer courses to enroll in. 

If you’re in a longer major, it’s certainly still possible to graduate early, even if by just a quarter or two. Additionally, there were many things I could have done to shorten my schedule further, but only realized were options after it was too late. This guide is meant to help you readers catch those errors early and beat the clock. 

Spreadsheets Are Your Best Friend

My dad and I began a UCLA progress spreadsheet back in April of 2021; I hadn’t even committed yet! It contained links to relevant courses and sources, a rough outline of my college timeline, the requirements I needed to satisfy and more. I later shared this spreadsheet with my departmental advisor too. Organization is crucial when it comes to graduating early. Trust me on this one. 

Summer Classes–Start Early and Branch Out!

It sounds painful, cooped up behind a computer screen during the warmest months, but I’ve found summer classes to be easier than the typical quarter-long ones. UCLA hosts summer classes predominantly during two six-week-long sessions. The summer immediately after I graduated high school, I enrolled in one class per session. Getting ahead on GEs and major requirements helped a TON! If you’re an incoming first-year, I HIGHLY recommend enrolling in a course or two. Plus, summer classes charge in-state tuition, a nice bonus for us out-of-staters. I took classes last summer too, and plan to take a few more this summer. (Okay okay, I’m technically graduating in 2 years + a summer, but who’s counting? Oh, it would seem I am.)

Secondly, you don’t need to take all of your summer classes at UCLA. UC Online lets you take classes from any UC you want, and they are guaranteed to transfer. UCLA didn’t offer any online English courses last summer, so I ended up taking one at UC Santa Cruz! UCLA also accepts certain community college credits (which are often much cheaper), though they can be finicky with these, so be sure to petition CAC as early as possible. I took two community college courses last summer, though only one of them ended up transferring. 

UCLA Loves AP Credits

Were those twelve AP tests from high school worth it? Honestly, yes. If you received a 3 or higher on an AP Exam, UCLA will offer some sort of credit for it, if only a couple of units towards your minimum needed to graduate. If I had just done a bit better on my AP Spanish Language exam, I could have gotten out of all my foreign language requirements! Alas, I must take JAPAN 75 (AKA Anime) this summer. Oh noooo… 

Hacking the GE Classes

The GE requirements tend to be strict, especially when it comes to taking courses outside of UCLA, but even these can be hacked. Although one class cannot satisfy two GEs, it can satisfy a GE and a major requirement, so find those courses that double up! The class I mentioned above, JAPAN 75, satisfies both the social analysis GE and the foreign language requirement for my major. There are numerous others like this out there, as long as you’re willing to spend a few minutes googling.  

UCLA’s Freshman Cluster Program was another clutch opportunity. I took Cluster M1, and it was fascinating, relevant, and not too difficult! The best part was that it knocked out ¾ of my science GEs plus a society and culture GE. One of the many benefits of clusters is that they satisfy four GE requirements with only three classes. If you’re an incoming freshman, I highly suggest taking one! 

Hacking the Major Classes

Another aspect of UCLA that excited me was its fantastic research opportunities and resources. I saw research as a college essential, and though my project required additional work each quarter, the SRP 99 and 199 courses I took satisfied my elective requirements. In addition (though this might not be as relevant to other majors), I was able to join student organizations that offered elective credit.

Four Classes a Quarter is Not as Scary as it Seems

Well, sometimes it is, but that depends on how you balance your schedule. As an English major, a lot of my classes were heavy with readings and essays. To avoid overwhelming myself, I tried to take at least one GE or film class a quarter. I was much more stressed by the prospect of four-class quarters than I was actually during them. I had plenty of free time to join extracurriculars, work a job, and hang out with friends!

Meet With Your Advisor

My departmental advisor was BEYOND helpful with tracking my progress, suggesting courses, connecting me to faculty mentors and more. I initially met with her once a month, and after I was more comfortable with my plan, once every two months. You’ll build a great relationship with your advisor this way, which can help you out a lot down the line!  

You Can Study Abroad

In fact, I’d encourage it. I’m studying abroad in less than a month and my three-week program gives me the final two major courses I need. That’s 8 units! In three weeks! It’s a shockingly stellar deal. Studying abroad can be expensive, but UCLA offers numerous scholarships and financial aid to make it affordable. It’s both cheaper and less time-consuming for me to hang around London for three weeks than it would be for me to stay at UCLA, if you can believe that. 

Was It Worth It?

I’m still figuring out the answer to this question myself. On the one hand, I saved two years’ worth of money and time. On the other, I only got to experience two years of college, and have a shorter resume and list of experiences because of it. If you can afford to attend your dream school for four years, save yourself the stress and potential regrets and do so. But with colleges running increasingly like corporations and attracting more and more applicants each year, I don’t think it’s surprising students want to jump into the workforce as soon as they can.  

And honestly? I’m terrified. There are nights I lay awake thinking I didn’t do enough, or my research wasn’t enough, or I didn’t learn about myself enough… the list is endless. Despite what this article might lead you to believe, creating and managing a two-year timeline was incredibly difficult and there were several times I cried over bad enrollment times or an embarrassingly sparse LinkedIn profile. But I’m also graduating from the world’s number-one public university in two years!  And I believe that fact offsets most of the drawbacks.

I owe a lot to my parents, for spending hours digging through the internet archives to help me find the means to attend my dream university. They placed a lot of faith in me, oldest child syndrome or whatever, and I feel a little more confident thinking about how proud I’ve made them. Gah, I’m getting emotional, so it might be time to wrap this article up.

UCLA hill sunset sky
Ashley Ha

If any readers have further questions for me and my two-year college journey, feel free to reach out via Instagram DM (@ameliaboeh). A humble self-plug, if I may. I also lurk in the r/ucla subreddit, helping out fellow Bruins and asking the occasional question. Perhaps I should give Reddit its own shoutout; I learned so much from the UCLA students there. 

Thank you, UCLA, for the best two years this midwestern girl could ask for. I love this school, I really do (I even wrote a love letter to UCLA a few months ago), and I’d take two years here over four anywhere else. With love and luck to all, I bid my Bruin friends farewell. 

Amelia is a Chicago-native English major. Other than writing articles for Her Campus at UCLA, she enjoys speculative fiction, binging A24 films, and dissecting characters on the Personality Database.