Most of us work to graduate college on time, but the average student pushes graduation off for up to a full extra year. Why wait? Whether you’re a go-getter or a money-saver, it’s in your best interest to finish earlier than the 4 or 5-year plan of the current generation.

Here’s how to graduate college early so you can job hunt before the market is saturated with recent grads.

RelatedStart Planning Your College Job Search Early

Get Internship Credit

If you score an internship over the summer or you’ve got a summer job related to your chosen major, find a way to get credit for it. You might have to write a 500-word paper at the end of the summer detailing your experience, but what’s 500 words for a few extra credits you didn’t even have to pay for?

Contact your advisor to see if you can set up internship credit for your summer gig as soon as possible.

Take Summer Classes

Summer classes seem like a drag, but taking them is one of the smartest decisions you can make during your undergraduate career. You can take just six weeks of classes for the same price and credit as a full course during the Fall or Spring semester. The classes are normally smaller, which makes it easier to get to know your professor, and they’re also a little easier since they’re so much shorter.

I’d save the incredibly difficult courses like Inorganic Chemistry for the full 15 weeks, but otherwise, a summer class is your best friend.

Register Early

Depending on your major, it can be extremely difficult getting into classes you need to graduate in a timely manner. Registration favors older students, but if you are friendly with your advisor, you might be able to gain access to early registration.

Just let your dean or advisor know that your graduation date is earlier than originally anticipated and that you need to get into this class in order to reach your goal. If that doesn’t work, get on the waitlist, and then go straight to the teacher. There are ALWAYS a few students who drop classes, so if you’re the last man standing after the first three weeks, you’re in!

Fill Your Semester

You normally only need 12 credits to be a full-time student, but since you might pay the same price for 12 credits as you do for 18 credits, why not pack those classes in there when you get the chance?

Spread out your more difficult courses and fill in your time with light-workload classes and empty credits that you need to graduate.There’s nothing wrong with taking Modern Dance Interpretation for 3 credits in order to offset your time-consuming Independent Study Thesis course.

RelatedTips for Freshman Class Registration

Get Credit in High School

If you’re already in college, this won’t help you, but it’s a huge help to those still attending K-12. Many high schools offer dual-enrollment programs with nearby community colleges, allowing you to accrue a number of college credits before graduating high school.

You normally have the option of either taking these classes at your high school, or attending the college for day or night classes. Most in-state colleges will accept these credits as is, while out-of-state colleges normally accept at least one semester’s worth of credits — without accepting the GPA associated with those courses. If you’re still in high school, you should definitely look into it.


Image: Ralph Daily