Today’s post is by campus correspondent Karyn H., a student at SUNY-Old Westbury. Find out how you can become a campus correspondent, too!
It can be done! You can graduate college in four years.
According to a New York Times article, nationwide only about 5o of more than 580 public four-year institutions in the US graduate a majority of their full-time students within four years.
Here are some tips to help ensure that you are one of those students who graduate on time.
1. Try taking AP or IB courses in high school.
There are a number of benefits to taking AP or IB courses. If you perform well on your AP test (at most schools this means scoring a 3 or higher) you can earn college credit at most universities. This means that when you step onto campus in the fall, you’ll already have a leg up and may be able to take less courses or start focusing on your interests instead of required courses.
AP and IB courses also help prepare you for the sort of work and reading load you can expect at college. Some students have a hard time making the adjustment their freshman year, but if you already have experience with college level work, you’ll find it easier to keep on top of assignments.
2. Enter college with a plan.
If you feel confident about the major you have chosen, you should take requirements for your major as early as your first semester. If you are unsure about your major, you could take liberal arts courses that go toward your “general education” or “required core” classes.
Though you may not have to declare a major until the end of your sophomore year, if you even remotely think that you may pursue a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math) major, take classes in that area as soon as possible. Those majors may have more requirements.
3. Make a map for yourself.
Advisors are very helpful in college. They give you advice and recommendations based on their experience. They also are generally knowledgeable about the rigor of a particular course or manageable course loads.
My experience, however, has been that an advisor deals with many students during the course of a semester. No one knows you or your capabilities as a student better than yourself. With this frame of mind, if you have declared a major or even a general area that you are interested in that may become your major, you can create a “map.”
Write out the classes you intend to take each semester for the next four years, considering the sequences of courses and required prerequisites (some colleges have already done this for their students). If you are confident in your major/general area, do everything you can to stick to your plan. By doing this you also become familiar with the classes you need. Do the classes you need follow a certain sequence? Are they “in-demand” classes which close quickly?
4. Register as early as possible.
This is one of the major causes of students not being able to graduate on time. Some students struggle to get classes that they need. There may be limited sections of courses, or a class may be closed before you are even able to register for it. Or even worse, a course you need may not be offered every semester.
Don’t procrastinate — register for your classes as soon as possible!
5. Expect the unexpected.
Events often happen that we have no control over. We may not have performed as well as we planned or we may have to retake a class. Maybe you had to drop a class. Maybe you decided to change your major.
Don’t be discouraged! You can still graduate in four years. Simply redo your “map” and if it’s necessary and you’re able to, take winter or summer classes so you are able to graduate on time.
6. Do the math.
Say your college or university requires 120 credits for an undergraduate degree. Mathematically, in order to graduate in four years, that turns out to an average of 15 credits per semester. Try to take that many credits per semester while not overdoing your course load. Remember, you don’t want to drop any classes and you need to perform well in your classes in order to obtain credit.
7. Look for a guarantee.
According to Fastweb, some colleges have “four-year guarantee programs” where students state in their freshman year that they are committed to graduate in four years. Some of these programs have requirements such as declaring your major early and not being able to change your major. If you are a high school student, consider applying to those colleges.
8. Don’t be discouraged!
Remember, college is a unique time in your life. Though there are many potential stressors, you are surrounded by a network of students that are going through the same things as you. Stay motivated and do everything you can to deviate from the statistics that say that more than half of students do not graduate within four years.
Karyn H. is a biological sciences and Spanish double major at SUNY-Old Westbury. When she is not studying she enjoys reading, writing and completing community service.