Graduating College With A Bachelor’s Degree In 4 Years Or Less

College campus with brow arches down a long sidewalk on a sunny day

Attending college takes up two of your most valuable resources, time and money. The longer you are in college the more money you spend. Student debt is at an all-time high. College students today are the most indebted student in history. It takes approximately 21 years to pay off a student loan. One of the most effective ways to reduce student debt is knowing how to graduate college with a bachelor’s degree in 4 years or less.

I was able to earn 3 degrees, AS Degree in Business Administration, BS in Business Entrepreneurship, and an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Global Business, in 4 years. The key to my success was to start in high school through concurrent enrollment and discipline. If you are a high school student, I encourage you to look at concurrent enrollment.

With careful planning and persistence, you can finish a bachelor’s degree in 4 years. Below are 5 key steps to graduating quickly and efficiently.  

Know Your College’s Requirements And Credits

Without a doubt, this is one of the most important elements of graduating in 4 years. You need to know every class that you need to take. This entails knowing the different requirements to graduate. There are major requirements, general education requirements, core requirements, capstone classes, and many universities have ethnic study requirements. It can be confusing, but you must sort it all out and know exactly what you need.

It’s equally important to know your credits. The minimum number of credits needed for a bachelor’s degree is 120. You can’t just have 120 random credits and expect to walk away with a degree. It is much more complicated than that. You have to make sure the credits fit into a structured degree program and are meeting all your universities requirements.

Create an academic plan. Knowing your courses and credit requirements will enable you to create a balanced and complete academic plan. Your academic plan should plan out the courses that you need to take each semester to graduate. It’s important to structure your schedule by taking into account which courses might be more time-consuming or difficult. Be sure to note if there are any prerequisites needed. If you fail a class, you will need to update your academic plan.

Declare Your Major A Soon As You Can

There are many advantages to declaring your major as early as possible. First, and most important, it can save you time and money. When you know what your major is you can create an academic plan for all the courses you need because your requirements to graduate will be clearly defined.

Additionally, it ensures that you complete any prerequisites promptly. Some majors like nursing, engineering, and computer science are riddled with them. Even if you don’t have a lot of required prerequisites, they still may force you to take classes when you don’t want to take them and during times that are inconvenient for your schedule. Knowing your major will help you navigate them without too much trouble.

Take A Full Semester Load

When you become a college student, credits will rule your every move. You will calculate them. Recalculate them. Plan them. Add them, drop them, withdraw from them, and try to find areas they will fit in. You will curse them and ultimately love them when they earn you your degree. Just because you have a lot of credits does not mean you will have a degree. Credits are finicky. They need to have a purpose. They need to be in specific areas. And sometimes at specific times (prerequisite classes). Some credits will be applied toward general education requirements. While others will be applied toward major requirements, core classes, and electives. They are the building blocks of your degree and the pathway to your graduation. It is important to understand them.

15 Credits A Semester

To be considered a full-time enrolled student, a full semester load is 12 credits. Anything under 12 credits is considered part-time. Let’s do a little basic math. To earn a bachelor’s degree, it is a minimum of 120 credits. Some degrees are a little more, but I will use that number for simplicity’s sake. 12 x 8 semesters = 96 credits. You are 24 credits shy of your 120.

Gray wall with the number 15 on it so show that a student needs fifteen credits a semester to graduate college on time

15 credits are the magic number. 15 x 8 = 120. It is vital that you build your class schedule to take at least 15 credits a semester to graduate in a timely manner. If 15 credits are too much, you must take a few courses during the summer or winter sessions to lighten your load. Every semester you will be recalculating. Ensuring that you are still on track to graduate.

If you somehow get off your academic path, don’t panic. Find a way to squeeze in the necessary courses via summer school, winter intersession, a night class, or a class online. Also, if your college doesn’t offer the course you need, check around to see if other colleges do. Especially community colleges as they typically have a good selection. You can take the class there and then transfer it to your university. Taking the right about of credits will help you graduate college in 4 years or less.

Summer Classes Can Help You Graduate College In 4 Years Or Less

I highly recommend that all students take summer school. Summer school was how I was able to graduate college a semester early with my bachelor’s degree. Graduating early saved me time and money and I was able to enter the workforce quickly. I was able to get a jumpstart on my career and my financial independence.

If you have a particularly challenging semester coming up. Summer classes are the key to reducing your load during the fall and spring semesters. If you have difficulty keeping up with your coursework during the regular year. Removing a single class from your schedule can create the breathing room that is needed to not stress out, keep your GPA up and stay on track to graduate.

Completing even one or two courses during the summer session will give you the extra credits you may need to graduate on time or even early. Throughout earning my bachelor’s degree, I took two summer sessions. One at my community college and one at my university for a total of 12 credits. That’s how I graduated early.

Winter Session

Winter sessions can also keep you on track to graduate college in 4 years or less. While winter sessions are short, they can be flexible and can fit into almost everyone’s schedule. The flexibility, as well as the swift pace, may be the perfect convenience for a busy student. I took 1 winter session class, it was a required general education class.

Meet With An Academic Advisor To Graduate College On Time

Always check in with your advisor. Meeting regularly, usually once a semester, with an academic advisor will ensure you are on track. An advisor might tell you about any requirements you may have missed or give you a suggestion on a better class to take.

I want you to use your advisor’s knowledge, expertise, and experience to achieve your success. They know all the tips and tricks, what classes double-count, when specific courses are offered, and the simplest and most effective ways to get through your major. They will help you build an efficient academic plan that will have you on the path to graduating in 4 years.

Beware that some academic advisors are students and just don’t have the experience. They may not know the best option for you or your degree. The advisor I had at community college when I was earning my AS knew her stuff. She helped me out substantially with transferring. The advisor I had for my bachelor’s degree was a student and I helped her out more than she did me. My master’s degree advisor was excellent and supported me and my desire to graduate college a semester early.


Sensei Side Note:

Don’t get a minor. Not only does a minor take more time and money, but it also pulls you away from your major classes. The additional classes can cause a lot of stress and can even delay your graduation. It’s simply not worth it. I am a manager at a Fortune 500 Company, and I see a lot of resumes. I would rather see work experience and a good recommendation than a minor.