Graduate in Three Years or Four?

cap and diploma

Welcome to your first year of college! It’s new, exciting and maybe a little stressful at times. My first year at college was all of this and more. Four years of undergraduate is such a great time, but if you don’t want to stay for four years you can always leave in three.

In my second semester of freshmen year, I decided that I would like to graduate in three years. This is not the decision for everyone to go through, because school is always stressful, but if you want to graduate earlier it can become too much. From my experience, this takes dedication and hard work because just because you graduate earlier doesn’t mean you don’t need to have good grades. Here are the thoughts I had when deciding.

  1. Figure out what you want to get out of your college experience: College can give students two different experiences, work experience or help with networking. If you are more likely to enjoy networking with other students and professors, stay for the four years because you are more likely to gain meaningful experiences. If you want to quickly enter the job force or go to graduate school, then leaving in three years is great for you.
  2. Are you going to change your major?: Changing your major is something that a lot of college students do, because they figure out what they want to study. If you want to graduate in three years, you have to know and stick with your major. If you want to change your major or don’t know what you want, you want to stay for the four years so you have time to start your major over, if you can’t decide on what you want to do.
  3. Do you think leaving early is going to make you look smart?: If you think leaving earlier is going to make you look smarter to graduate schools and employers, you are correct and wrong at the same time. If you leave earlier but your grades aren’t great you have made a big mistake, because a low-Grade Point Average will not help you in your future careers and graduate schools.
  4. Do you want internships?: Internships are a big part of your college career. Without internships, jobs won’t think that you are a good candidate for their business, or that you slacked off in college, even if you graduated earlier. I chose to do internships with professors here at Farmingdale, so I still had time to study, but also get experience in my field. If you still want to graduate in three years and don’t want your course load too full, you can skip the internships, but let me warn you, you are losing the experience that could gain you a better job.
  5. Money: Nothing in life is free and you know that college is not free. Only unless you have scholarships to go to school. But if you’re like me and have no scholarship or financial aid, you have to decide if you’re saving money. Classes no matter the semester you take will cost money. Summer and winter classes won’t cost as much as Fall and Spring classes, but it will still be a lot. You could be saving a year’s worth of money but the winter and summer classes at the end could equal a semester or more worth of tuition. If you have the money (out-of-pocket or scholarships) you should try to do the three years. If you don’t have the income, try to see if you can take the maximum amount of credits during the regular semester. Also, you should try to figure out if you have enough income for 1-2 summer or winter classes.
  6. Is this what you want?: Don’t – and I repeat don’t – do this for anyone else but yourself. Don’t let someone force you to try to leave earlier because they think it would be good for you. This is your time, your grades, your money, and your future that is being affected. For example, let’s say someone is pushing you to graduate early and your grade point average at the end isn’t so great, that person that pushed you cannot fix that.

You can take my advice or follow your own. We are all different people and all different students. Just because my struggles and thoughts I had before choosing to graduate a year earlier are described above doesn’t mean that yours will be the same. I hope you all enjoy your college career, just as I did. Don’t forget if you choose to graduate in the four years or three there are no right or wrong answers.

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