One Size Doesn't Fit All

While being aware of the financial implications of taking longer than the standard 4 years, it’s important to remember it’s not a magic formula. There are also reasons why you may not be able to, or choose not to have a 4-year plan. Let’s look at students who fall into the opposite ends of the “Graduation Bell Curve.”
 
 
Graduating in MORE than four years:
 
Who does it, and why?
 
There are valid reasons for taking longer than four years. Maybe you’re a part-time student trying to work on the side to pay as you go. Or maybe you’re in a major or degree where on time graduation is longer than four years. Transfer students, students who need to re-take or take classes to prepare for applying to grad school, and students who didn’t have the opportunity to take college-level courses in high school may also find it more challenging to graduate in four years.
 
Then there are reasons for staying longer that aren’t really solid:
 
  • Not wanting to enter the “real world.” You may enjoy the comfort and familiarity of your college identity, and want to extend your time here just a little longer.
  • Tacking on an extra major or certificate with the mistaken belief that “two is better than one.”
  • Poor planning by taking too many electives, missing out on classes that aren’t offered every semester, or only taking 12 credits a semester.
  • Not considering other routes to get to your field of interests. This can affect students who don’t get into the competitive enrollment program they were aiming for, or who decide to change their major during their junior or senior year.
  • Buying into the myth that “no one graduates in four years anymore,” and allowing it to make you feel like you have all the time in the world. 
 
CheckExamine your reasons for a 4+ year timeline
 
Has the myth of a five or six year graduation affected your decision about your own timeline? While it’s true that five and six year graduation rates have increased, four years is the most common timeline for undergraduate students.
 
 
Your Path to Graduation, Conclusion:
 
Be wary of sweeping statements like “no one graduates in four years anymore” or “the faster you get out the better.” Take a hard look at your finances, your academic and career goals, and what you want to gain from this experience. Consider the factors that can affect your personal timeline, weigh your options, and talk to your advisor about what the best course is for you and how to outline your path to graduation.
 
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