How and Why You Should Graduate Early

No matter if you’re a freshman, or even a college senior, it’s never too late to consider graduating early. Graduating early--or at least the act of planning for it, sets you up on an organized and efficient timeline for maximizing the classes you take in college. Most people consider graduating early to cut down on tuition and inevitably, student loans, but it can also provide more structure to the rest of your years in college.

For example, consider the AP classes and exams you’ve taken in high school. Yes, you know you got credit for them, but have you factored in how that might significantly bring down the number of classes you have to take? As a freshman, I had a tendency to pick classes my friends were in or told me were easy. I would glance over the requirement it fulfilled, but never planned out how that affected my quarter. I enjoyed writing and easily fulfilled my Writing General Education (GE) requirement, but never thought of taking history classes to fulfill my American History & Institution GE. As a result, I scrambled to find a class to fulfill my History GE late into my sophomore year, when I could’ve been focusing on taking major courses and upper divisions. In addition, a lot of Writing GE classes were fulfilled by AP exams I took in high school. If I had sat down and researched which classes I liked and which requirement they fulfilled, my first two years would’ve been much more organized.

After I realized I was essentially taking random courses, I ran a progress check for my university's requirements to find out what I was still missing. It was helpful knowing exactly how many units and classes I needed when the time came to choose my schedule for next quarter.

Image via UCSB Gold

After getting a general feel of how many more classes I had to take for GEs, I sat down with a peer advisor for my department to plan out classes for my major. This was when I found out that I was able to graduate early! It made the most sense because I would still be taking a normal amount of classes each quarter (three to four), but would fulfill all GE, unit, and major requirements by the end of my junior year at UC Santa Barbara. Because I had planned out the classes I was interested in taking, there was really no need for me to stay an extra year taking additional courses. In addition, I would be saving a whole year’s worth of tuition and could begin to look for internships and jobs to gain more hands on experience.

Coming into college, I never expected to be done in only three years. I only considered graduating early and its benefits once I sat down and planned out my academic journey. I did this towards the end of my sophomore year, but it’ll be so much more useful to do so even earlier. Whether you have your heart set on graduating early or plan on staying for the full four years, it’s always a smart idea to utilize your school’s resources to draft a plan for your next few years. It’ll force you to carefully consider what material you’re actually interested in, and provides a solid foundation for maximizing how many years, quarters, or semesters you have left!