When I first started college, I had no idea what to expect. Neither of my parents had gotten a higher education, and almost every friend I had at the time was either my own age or a few years younger. So basically, I was on my own. What I didn't know was that I'd actually be able to finish my bachelor's degree in only three years, instead of the traditional four. It seems pretty crazy considering I had absolutely no idea how college worked when I started!
I've obviously come a long way since I began school almost two years ago, so I thought that I'd share a bit of that knowledge and wisdom on the blog today for any of you who may be experiencing a similar situation. If graduating early is something that you're considering, or even if you're totally unsure about the whole thing, check out the pros and cons below and get your free guide to completing your bachelor's in under four years at the end of this post. I truly wish that I had had someone to help me figure all of this out when I was designing my educational career path, so I hope that this can help steer you in the right direction!
The Pros of Graduating Early
Money is a huge factor to consider when you're planning your educational path, especially if you're taking out loans. Graduating even a semester early can really lighten the financial burden that you may wrack up while pursuing your degree.
Graduating early means that you have the opportunity to jumpstart your career. One great option is to take the extra time and money you've saved to pursue a serious internship with potential future employment opportunities. You can also apply for entry level jobs in your field and ultimately move up the ranks sooner in your career than if you had graduated a year later.
The Gap Year
In Europe, it's common for students to take a gap year between their undergraduate education and their entry into graduate school or full-time employment. This isn't as common in America, but since you're graduating early, meaning you've saved yourself both time and money, this could be the perfect time to travel and explore the world. Too many people put this off until later in their lives, and end up struggling to find time to take off of work, manage their growing families, etc. You're only 20 once, so get out there and live it up before you acquire the many responsibilities of real adulthood!
Graduating early means that you're gaining your independence early too. This could be a pro or a con depending on your personality type, but I see this as overwhelmingly positive. I can't wait to escape the mundane classroom setting and constant homework assignments and get out into the real world, solving real problems (and making real money). There's a lot of exciting factors to adult life that I'm really looking forward to including getting my first apartment/house, my own dog, moving in with my boyfriend, etc.
The Cons of Graduating Early
Less Time for Internships
This was the biggest downside that my academic advisor reminded me of when we discussed my plan to graduate early. It's essential to be proactive and get involved both on campus and with internship opportunities early on to ensure you get the kind of experience that will be essential when you're applying for jobs.
Less Time to Complete a Minor
Depending on how many credits you have when you come into college, graduating with a minor can be more difficult when you choose to complete your degree ahead of schedule. You have less time to get all of your credits in, so you may have to choose between completing a minor or graduating early depending on the number of credits you have/need.
You Won't Graduate with the Class you Came into College With
The majority of my closest friends are actually a year older than me, meaning that I will graduate with my best friends regardless of my decision to finish my degree early. However, most people make their closest friends within their class year, and graduating early means that you won't get to graduate with these friends that you've shared your college experience with.
You May Not be Able to Study Abroad
Depending on when you take your general education requirements, studying abroad may or may not be possible if you're graduating early. For me, I finished my liberal arts courses my freshman year, meaning there were no classes that I needed to take (only liberal arts courses are offered abroad at my college) that were available abroad. If you want to study abroad, make sure you save some of these requirements for the time that you're planning on traveling instead of trying to finish them up ASAP, like I did.
Would you/did you ever consider graduating early? Do you think the pros outweigh the cons, or vice versa?
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