With an increasing number of students taking and passing AP tests during their senior, sometimes junior, years of high school, early college graduation is an option for many. At numerous schools, entering college with AP credits is the norm—and I’m not just referring to the Ivy Leagues. When students enter their freshman year with sophomore status, they may have to decide if early graduation is a good option for them. Here are some things to consider before deciding whether to leave or to hang around.
FinancingLet’s start with the practical. For some students, financing is not a problem. They can afford to stay the whole four years—or will choose to stay, regardless of financial need. For others, this is not the case. Students who are already burdened down by loans may want to seriously consider early graduation. Yes, the college experience is important, but so is the post-college experience. Travel issues may not be a big deal until you find that a college bus doesn’t circle your workplace every seven minutes. You will need a car and your may want a new place to stay. Students should also remember that additional expenses kick in after college. You may be unable to claim dependency on medical insurance and tax returns, you don’t get good-grade discount on car insurance, and your movie tickets will cost more than $8—at least in the city.
Even those who are passionate about their major are likely to have unrelated interests. Most colleges do force students to take classes outside of their major, and, whether students like it or not, they will get a taste of something else. However, many students find ways to get around these requirements. They turn the opportunity to explore interests into the chance to take classes that scream experience on a resume or ones that scream easy credit—I’m not saying that I’m not guilty.
College is a great place to take classes that are odd and interesting, even if they require additional work. I wish I would have taken that class on Middle Eastern relations. It may sound odd to you, but it sounded cool to me. It would have made my hard life harder, but when am I going to get that chance again?
If you like college and want to explore options before leaving, you should do so. Just don’t stretch your reasoning for doing so. When I spoke to my counselor about leaving early, she was adamantly opposed to it. “Think of all those things you wanted to do,” she said. “You can take those ice skating classes you have always dreamt about.” Ice skating? I don’t want to skate, especially if it costs $13,000 per year.
Those who have their minds made upIf you’re reading this article because you know what you want but need help getting there, here are my suggestions. Know that to graduate early, you need to stay organized: you need to plan ahead.
- Get a list of graduation requirements. Check your college department website or contact your counselor for a list of required classes as they relate to your major. Take note of how many total credits, not just which classes, you will need. If you plan to graduate early by taking additional classes, split them up between semesters and, if possible, take some over the summer.
- Pay attention to seasonally-changing classes. Some advanced-level classes may only be taken after the lower levels are accounted for. However, both levels may not be offered each semester. Take the lower levels as early as possible to make future scheduling easier. If this is your last semester and the required Biology 205 and Chemistry 302 are offered at the same time, you may have a problem. I know. You totally would have taken Bio 205 if it was offered last semester. Don’t worry, this scenario is very avoidable.
- Let your counselor know. Oftentimes, students need to declare their decision to graduate months ahead. Schools, especially big ones, assume that you will graduate within a certain amount of years. Let your counselor know about your plans, and ask who else, and when, needs a heads up.
- Don’t be swayed. Counselors are there to help you, and it’s always good to take outside opinions into consideration. However, counselors cannot figure you out after a few meetings, and their experience with other students does not always apply to you. If you know what you want, don’t ask if you can. Ask how you can.
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