College Admission Tip: How To Graduate In 3 Years!

How does a student finish college in 3 years, and what are the advantages of doing so?

Here’s how:

1.  Take as many Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes as possible in high school. These are college courses for which you will get college credit as long as you score a 3 or better (maximum is 5) on the AP exam. If for some reason you were shut out of these courses, go to a local community college, or better yet, a local private college with more competitive rates; Dean College in Franklin, MA is a very good example of a private college whose credits are accepted everywhere, and whose costs are the most competitive I’ve seen.  Always verify that the credits you receive will indeed be accepted at the college you will be attending.

2.  Take advantage of the free time during school breaks. The Christmas break, for example, can last as long as 5 weeks. Many colleges will offer, say, a ten-day course during this break, and a student can pick up another 3 credits. Let’s do the math: 3 credits X 3 Christmas breaks = 9 credits. Courses can also be taken nights and on weekends.

3.  The summer is an ideal time to pick up another two courses. If your student starts out with one course between the junior and senior years – to test-drive the college experience –  and then takes two courses each summer until they are juniors in college, that’s 3 credits before the high school senior year, 6 credits per summer for the next 3 summers =  21 credits.  Total so far = 30. You need 120 credits to graduate, and you knocked off one-fourth of those credits. You’re done in three years! Bam! Since summer breaks can last as long as fifteen weeks, these summer courses are only six weeks long. Hardly an inconvenience during vacation time.

4.  Take online courses at the college you already attend. By contrast, do not take an online course with another college because your own school cannot prove that you actually did the work. It’s safer to stick with your own college. If you want to do otherwise, verify with your college that they will accept credit for such online courses from another college.

5. Take CLEP tests. These are tests that allow you to test out of a college course. For roughly the cost of a study manual ($20) and the registration fee ($80), you can earn college credit at most colleges and save yourself as much as $3,000 per course. That’s a-w-e-s-o-m-e!  Top tier schools don’t give credit for these tests, but you can contact the CollegeBoard website, whose profile of each school will tell you whether or not the college allows for CLEP credit.

6.  Gut it out. Here’s my favorite anecdote to getting a degree in three years: one of my clients told me that she finished in three years because her father told her: “You’ll have to graduate in three years because I only have enough money to pay for three.” Not one to question her father at seventeen, she loaded up on courses every semester and finished in three years with honors. She took no courses during semester breaks or during the summer time. Her father didn’t know what you’re reading now.

What are the advantages? Save money! How?

1.  Here’s a real-life example of a savings for completing in three years: Stonehill College in Easton, MA is a highly ranked private college whose costs are roughly $45,000 a year. They charge $1,040 per credit, compared to Dean College’s $260; that’s a difference of $780.00. If you’re a student at Stonehill who’s going to get 30 credits at Dean that are transferrable to Stonehill, you saved – here’s the math – 30 credits X $780/per credit savings = $23,400 saved.  But wait! The student didn’t spend a 4th year at Stonehill, thereby saving the parents another $45,000. Sweet!

2.  When you finish college and create your resume, you will be sending the following signals to prospective employers: I’m ambitious,  I’m industrious, I’m not afraid to work hard, I have the ideal work ethic you’re looking for, I understand full well the meaning of the word, “sacrifice,” and I’m an expert at – no surprise – time management.

3.  Your interview advantage will be huge. Just on the surface, you will likely be a positive curiosity, that is, the only applicant for the position you seek who finished college in three years. Unheard of!

4.  You will be in the work force one year earlier. That’s probably a gain of at least $35,000 to your life-time earnings. Or, in this economy, where inexpensive inexperience trumps expensive experience, you’re likely to get hired before most college grads. Additional signal: I’m very competitive.

5.  Because college is often a family affair with younger brothers and sisters, you’ll be helping them by your sacrifice of time so they get the same chance you received. Plus, you’ll be an inspiration to your siblings. And what price do you put on inspiration?

To make this all happen, pretend the economy isn’t going to get any better. Act offensively: do what has to be done if the worse happens. And plan your strategy like crazy. And you’ll be the richer for it in more ways than one.
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3 Responses to “College Admission Tip: How To Graduate In 3 Years!”

  1. 10 Tips to Cut College Costs | Education & Careers Says:

    […] Imagine the money you can save if you graduate in three years instead of the 4-6 years required by most college students. How is that done? First, if you were wise and took those dual credit or AP classes it’s possible to chalk up 12-15 credit hours before you ever set foot on campus. For some excellent tips on why and how to graduate in three years, check out this amazing post by a guy who advises parents on how to pay less for college: How to Graduate in 3 Years! […]

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