Graduate College in Four Years or Less

The longer you take to obtain your degree, the more expensive that degree becomes. Here are three tips that can increase the chances you graduate college in four years or less.

Tip #1: Plan Ahead

If you are in high school, your guidance counselor can administer a career interest inventory to help you decide which careers match your skills and interests.

You should also consider doing an internship during your senior year or taking on a summer job since it may awaken a new passion and lead you to pursue a particular career or major.

Once you enter college, talk to your academic advisor about your interests early in your freshman year. She can steer you in the right direction and help you make wise choices that will lead to completing your degree on time or even early.

Tip #2: Take Advantage of Advanced Courses

Advanced Placement (AP) courses provide high school students with the opportunity to take college-level courses and receive college credit. According to the College Board in 2011, 53.8 percent of public high schools in the United States offered AP courses in each of the four core subject areas: English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Those who successfully complete the program and receive a qualifying score on the AP exam may be able to earn a full year of college credit and sophomore status.

High school students can also earn college credit through the International Baccalaureate Program (IB), a program designed to help students think critically and synthesize knowledge.

As an alternative to AP classes and IB programs, some high schools provide opportunities for dual enrollment. While in high school, students can take courses at a local or partnering college. Some believe the rigor of an actual college course provides better preparation than an advanced high school course.

Some believe an IB program offers the best preparation for college and beyond. Whichever program you choose — AP, IB or dual enrollment — make sure the colleges you are interested in accept credit for these courses.

Tip #3: Put Thought into your Major

Making wise course selections in college can ensure that you graduate within four years. If you are receiving financial aid, you also need to make sure you are moving toward graduation in a satisfactory manner.

Federal regulations require schools to review the academic progress of full-time students who receive financial assistance. These guidelines include a maximum timeframe in which the degree must be completed, credits per semester and minimum GPA requirements. You must meet these guidelines to remain eligible for grants and other types of aid.

If you change your major, fail a class, have incomplete or repeated classes on your transcript or withdraw from a class, you may become ineligible to continue receiving financial assistance. Inquire with your school’s financial aid office and the scholarship funding source for specific information.

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