So you’re part of the way through college, planning out (or fixing the list of) the classes you have to take in order to graduate. However, you soon realize something.
For some reason – whether you came into college with a lot of AP credits, took college classes while in high school or over breaks, was able to make one class work for multiple requirements, or just planned really well – you’re able to graduate early.
*Side note: Graduating early – at least for the purpose of this article – doesn’t mean forcibly cramming four years of work into less by overloading your semesters and taking tons of classes during the winter and summer breaks. You can if you want to (and feel that you can handle it), but this article addresses the type of graduating early that happens more naturally, just by virtue of the aforementioned (and more) things.*
Graduating early appears in different lengths – it may mean that you can finish a year (or years) early, or just a semester early. But, in any case, it means that you’ll be done with the graduation requirements of your major(s) and college in under the traditional four years. However, should you?
There are a lot of positives and negatives to graduating early – it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. On one hand, you can finish all your classes early and be done with college, or you can spread out your classes over a couple/few semesters and enjoy a less packed schedule.
So, the question remains – should you graduate early? Below are some pros and cons to help you make your decision.
1. Save money
This is probably one of the main pros of graduating early – and it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s well-known that college isn’t cheap – there’s so much money that’s spent on tuition alone, not to mention room and board, textbooks and more.
So, by graduating a semester or more early, you can save a significant amount of money – and obviously, the earlier you graduate, the more money you can save. Then, instead, this money can be put towards graduate school, relocating for a job, renting an apartment, or any other future plans.
2. No more college assignments
Unless you’re planning on going to graduate school, graduating from college means no more class assignments to complete or tests to study for. So, if you graduate early, a big pro is that you’re finished – for good – with the burdens of homework and exams earlier.
Often times in college, those two things come with late nights staying up and studying, or even pulling all-nighters to finish your work. Therefore, the earlier you graduate, the earlier those days of cramming late at night (and possibly into the early morning) are gone.
3. Start the job search early
The sooner you graduate, the earlier you can start intensively job searching. Sure, you can do that while still in school, but after you graduate, you can devote all (or most) of your energy to looking for and applying to jobs.
Plus, if you graduate after a fall (or winter) semester, you’ll be applying for jobs during the off-season. Most students (such as those that are applying while still at college) aren’t looking for full-time jobs starting in the spring semester, so you might have less competition – this can be especially helpful to students getting a degree in a competitive field.
And, of course, the sooner you get a job, the earlier you can start making money.
1. College experience cut short
This is possibly one of the primary cons of graduating early. There are a lot of college events and activities that are specifically geared towards seniors that you might miss out on, as well as just the fact that a traditional college experience lasts for four years.
Additionally (and this depends on your college), but if you graduate after the fall/winter semester, you could miss out on the classic spring commencement. This isn’t true for all colleges, but some have a smaller winter commencement ceremony for those graduating during that time – so you could miss out on the main graduation, as well as graduating with most of your friends.
2. Face the “real world” sooner
There are a lot of benefits of being in the bubble of college – one of which is that you don’t have to deal with the difficulties of being a “real” adult. Once you get into the real world, there are bills to pay, student loans to pay back, and other mundane and annoying things to deal with.
Another thing is that it’s harder to get together with friends after college. In school, it’s so easy to pop next door or down the hall (or even over to the next building) to hang out with your friends – but once you’ve graduated, that may not be the case. Whether your friends are still in college or have also graduated early, you all might be spread across the nation (or even globe), which makes it a lot harder to get together.
3. Looking for/having a job
Looking for a full-time job is not easy – you might’ve even heard that it’s a full-time job to find a full-time job (which is so true). You have to constantly be searching for and applying to jobs, scheduling and going on interviews with companies, completing mock assignments, and waiting to hear back (and oftentimes, companies will just never contact you, as opposed to letting you know you’ve been rejected).
However, if you’re fortunate enough to have a job before you even finish college (or you get one not too long after), after you graduate you have to deal with the daily grind of having a job. Even if you like what you’re doing, you still have to face the daily responsibilities of being a working adult in the real world.
Regardless of what you decide, it’s important that you think it’s the right decision. You know what works best for you, whether that’s graduating early or taking the full four (or more, if you need) years.
Additionally, don’t take one reason and make it the only explanation for why you’re graduating early or not – there are a lot of good reasons on both sides. Make sure that you have multiple points for whatever choice you make, so you know that it’s the right one.