You may think you'll be graduating from college in four years, but the reality is that most students do not.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 59% of full-time, college students in a four-year program actually graduate in six years.
A report in the New York Times is a little more daunting. According to the report, nationwide about 50% of full-time college students at four-year institutions don't graduate in four years.
It may not seem like that big of a deal to add an extra semester or two to your total time in school, but extra time in school can have significant financial consequences. Not only do you have to pay for extra classes, but you lose valuable time spent in the workforce or searching for your first job. Not to mention that your financial aid could change, and some scholarships are only available for four years.
Why Aren't College Students Graduating On Time?
The extra time students are taking isn't necessary because they are spending too much time playing sports or partying (although that could be a factor). You should still be able to complete all your necessary courses while engaging in extra-curriculars and having a social life. The bigger reasons include:
- Inability to register for required courses. Colleges and universities may only offer particular course once a year. A student may need a 300-level class in spring, but it’s only offered in the fall. The student must wait an additional academic year to take the class.
- Needing to take remedial courses. Students who have to take remedial courses may have difficulty if the college or university doesn’t set the sequence correctly.
- Taking too few credits in a semester. Too many students aren't taking the full amount of credits needed each semester. This could be due to being overwhelmed with too much work, or just being confused about the system.
- Transferring schools. On average, students lose about 13 credits when they transfer institutions.
Improve Your Odds of Graduating in Four Years
Most of the reasons for taking longer than four years in college are preventable by planning ahead. Here are the two most important things you can do to graduate on time:
- Choose the right college. You want a college or university which fits your graduation timetable. This helps avoid transferring to another college later. If transferring is part of the plan, make sure all of your credits will count towards your degree.
- Choose the right major. Declare your major early in order to make sure you are able to take all the right courses in the right sequence. Start by using Majors Matcher to discover a pool of majors perfect for you.
Bonus Tip! Once you're in college, make sure you meet with your academic advisor. Most college and universities will assign you an academic advisor when you begin college. Take advantage of this valuable resource! An academic advisor can help you choose the right courses, and give you some insight into what major is right for you. You can also request a different academic advisor if they are not helpful to you or you have bonded with a different faculty member or professor.
Get helping choosing your best-fit college and major!