I was told the second semester of my first year that I could graduate a semester early—maybe even earlier. I never saw myself wanting to do any more or any less than four years at the institution I’d been in love with since elementary school. However, something about my advisor telling me that in her office that spring sparked a reaction in me. I felt the need to accept this as a challenge, and with two minors I was attempting to finish as well as a degree, I knew it wouldn’t be easy.
However, telling the people around you that you’re graduating a year early can sometimes sound a lot more glamorous than it actually is. I also believe in seeing both sides to any life-changing decision one chooses to make, so I want to dedicate the first article of my third year (and senior year) to discuss what the positives and negatives of graduating early are. To anyone considering this path, I ask you to take each point into consideration, but don’t let me completely sway you on a plan you may have already had for yourself. It’s important to understand that everyone’s college plan is different, and to stay as successful as possible in our journey, we can only focus on our own path.
I’ll start with the positives of graduating early. My first point would one hundred percent be finances. If you are considering gaining a higher education than undergrad, such as a masters or PhD, spending one less year in undergrad would save you money in the long run. That includes tuition, housing, food and everything else that comes with undergrad. Another good aspect of graduating early is the extra year of life you’re given to learn more about what you want out of life. For example, I turned 20 this summer, which means I’ll have my undergraduate degree two years earlier than the average student. This may not be what many students want, but personally, it brings me peace knowing I’ll have a degree in something I’m passionate about while still having time to figure out what I truly want to do with it. If you already know what you want to do, that’s amazing! You could spend that time working your way towards what you want and have that dream job faster than many.
My last pro to graduating early sounds a little hypocritical now, but truthfully, having bragging rights doesn’t hurt. Being able to tell people I’m graduating college at the age of 20 is something I take a lot of pride in. It shows that I’m dedicated, hard-working, capable, set future goals for myself and that I accomplish those goals. It also shows future employers these same characteristics. Having these reminders in my head each semester brings me peace in my future successes.
Now let me fill you in on the reasons why, to many, graduating early isn’t the best option, because sometimes telling the people around you that you’re graduating a year early can sound a lot more glamorous than it actually is. It’s also important to point out that this isn’t always in the cards for people. For some, college takes a lot more time, money and effort than what it’s worth, and that’s completely okay. For those considering an early graduation, consider the cons just as much as the pros: a big negative is the concept of not getting that full four-year college experience. I know that’s something that a lot of people look forward to, so if that applies to you, graduating early may not be the move. Going off of that, another con would be that you’re more rushed into the outside world if you choose not to go back to school post-undergrad. As I said earlier, some people are ready to get out there; however, some want to hold on to their youth as long as possible. Again, both work! It’s all based on your preferences and life expectations.
My last negative would be that your coursework may become a little heavy in those three short years, if you choose to graduate early. I personally have maxed out on credit hours most of my semesters here. Plus, I took a couple of classes last summer to keep me on schedule. That, alongside extracurriculars or a job, may be a lot for someone. Take it from me—it’s definitely possible with discipline and time management skills, but I’d be lying if I said it was a breeze.
Long story short, I say learn and understand your priorities in college and run with those. Whether it’s experience, free time, money or whatever it may be, be sure to put it above all. While I recognize the struggles that come with graduating early, I’m confident in the choice I made and am grateful I’ve come close to making it a reality. College brings hardships and rewards to all of us in different ways, and it’s our duty to make the most of what paths we choose to go down. I also am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and if you also feel this way, perhaps the choice you make will bring you peace knowing what’s meant to happen will happen. This college experience is our real-life create-your-own-adventure. Whatever you choose to do on your adventure, be sure to make it a story worth telling!