How To Finish College In 4 Years Or Less

black sidewalk with "you got this" written in white chalk.

Knowing how to stay motivated to finish college in 4 years can be a big challenge. Trying to balance school, work, relationships, and family can cultivate enough discouragement to derail your academic career. Earning a college degree requires a lot of time, effort, and commitment. If you feel like stress and anxiety have reached a point that you can no longer go on—don’t give up there’s hope.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.” Sun Tzu, The Art Of War. Here, at Your College Sensei, we don’t like slow routes, we like efficiency—no wasted movements. Therefore, let’s implement some tactics and individual actions, which will quickly help you regain your focus, move forward, and reach your goal. Below are 7 important tactics to help you find the motivation to stay in college.

1. Thinking Of The Big Picture Will Keep You Motivated

When you feel like you are getting off track, step back and remember why you want a degree, why the degree is important to you and how it will affect your life. Do you want to get a good job and earn a great income? Do you want a better life for yourself and your family? Do you want to break into a specific career? Whatever your reasons are, remind yourself. When our goals are clear it keeps up motivated and helps us stay focused.

Motivation is crucial for students, especially when they want to finish college in 4 years. Studies have shown that motivation in education dramatically impacts a student’s academic performance. Here is How Students Can Create The Motivation For Success.

2. Surround Yourself With Supportive People

Never underestimate the value of the supportive people in your life. They want what is best for you and they will encourage you to grow and become the best version of yourself. They will push you to accomplish your goals and can be a valuable lifeline when you are struggling. Reach out to the positive people in your life when you need your spirits lifted.

3. To Keep Motivated Set Goals – Both Big and Small

It’s important to measure your progress as you work your way toward your degree. Also, seeing progress creates motivation. Setting goals, both big and small are a great way to gauge progress.

Big goals are getting through a semester or taking summer classes. Small goals can be completing a project or getting a good grade on a test. If you didn’t reach a goal reflect on why and make any necessary changes.

old black and white typewriter with a white piece of paper that has goals typed on it. The goal is to finish college in 4 years

I found motivation in printing a physical copy of my academic plan and keeping it at the front of my planner where I viewed it almost daily. Having a visual of what I’ve done and what was left to do kept me on track to finish college in 4 years. I checked classes off every time I completed one. It was very rewarding at the end of the semester to check off 5 classes at a time.

Plan Your Schedule And Manage Your Time

By now you know Your College Sensei is all about efficiency. It’s vital to manage your time wisely. Nothing is worse and creates more stress than realizing an assignment or project is due the night before you have to turn it in. The best way to keep this from happening is to manage your schedule and use your time wisely.

Here are two simple time management tips:

Create A Schedule:

Figure out which assignments you need to complete first, and which tasks can wait. Schedule a time when you will study, work on assignments, and prepare for exams. Try and stick to your schedule and adapt it if necessary. Not everything can be set in stone, life does happen.

Get Organized:

Create a calendar. It can be a physical or a digital calendar like Google, iPhone, or Microsoft Outlook. Once you’ve chosen your calendar start filling it in. Note when you have classes, and when assignments, projects, and tests are due. Include midterms, finals, holidays, and breaks. Add other scheduled commitments like work, internships, meetings, and other extra-curricular activities. Be sure to look at your calendar daily, it’s what will keep you on track and motivated.

Give Yourself Downtime

Self-care is very important. When a student is working, taking a full semester load, has extracurricular activities, and has a family it can all be very stressful and lead to burnout. Make sure you have time off to do something relaxing, fun, or unwinding. Giving yourself time off lets your brain reset and keeps you from experiencing student burnout.

It’s worth repeating, that taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally is crucial. I don’t want to skim over this topic. I ask a lot from you; choose the right college, pick a major which has great income potential, take a full semester load, take classes during summer and winter sessions, get a job, finish college in 4 years, and don’t take out student loans. The reason I expect you to give a lot is that I know you have a lot in you, and you can do it. My goal is to teach you what you need to do to meet your academic goals and that isn’t always what you are going to want to do. I know you may hit a wall from time to time and I want you to take that break, I just don’t want you to quit.

Take Summer School To Stay Motivated

Taking summer school courses might not sound like a good way to stay motivated, but I assure you it is. Over summer break many students lose the motivation to return to college. Summer is when most students drop out of college, never returning in the fall. When you take a summer class you keep the momentum going, you create consistency which leads to success. Also, you don’t break the habit of studying. Additionally, summer courses lighten your credit load for subsequent semesters which can give you a little breathing room and minimize stress.

When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I considered taking a year off to travel before going to Graduate School. Ultimately, I decided against taking a break. My academic momentum was strong, I knew how to be a good and efficient student. I was motivated and I didn’t want to do anything to disrupt that.

Show Gratitude

Going to college isn’t something everyone gets to do. Be appreciative of the fact that you have the opportunity that many don’t. When you show gratitude for what you have it will show in your actions. Be proud that you are working toward your academic goals, but never take the opportunity for granted.