How long does it take to graduate from college?

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Samer Hamadeh, Former Vault.com CEO. NYC Volunteer, Stanford Alumni Interview Program.

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Typically, it takes 4 years to graduate from college, and if you take the required number of courses and the prerequisites each quarter or semester, you will indeed graduate "on time." However, many factors play into whether it will take you more or less time to graduate -- 1. whether you come into college with AP credits (45 units, or an entire year's worth, is usually the max); 2. whether you take summer school at the same or a different college and take courses that transfer to your college (make sure in advance); 3. whether you take an extra class (or two) each quarter or semester, although your load and your homework requirements will be taxing; and 4. whether you get into all of your required classes or a pre-requisite class (to a later class) when you apply each quarter or semester (some classes, especially at big schools, are "sold out," which means you have to try again the next quarter or semester and may miss out on taking a later class that requires that pre-requisite, putting you further behind).

Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author

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By design, most colleges set you up to graduate from college in four years. It's like high school in that you have a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior year. Many students use the summer between their junior and senior year to a land a job or summer internship that will advantage them in their full-time job search during their senior year. And most college career services ramp up during that 4th year. Likewise, employers expect to recruit college seniors in that last year of study. So the 4 year timeline is fairly universal and accepted in both the college and corporate world.

For those studying in an accredited engineering program, it can take five years to complete the undergraduate degree (Dartmouth and Yale come to mind). At other schools, engineering students take up to five classes a semester to finish within four years (UPenn, UMich and George Washington are examples). If you intend to major in engineering, be sure to research this beforehand. Even if it's a mandatory part of your undergraduate education, an extra year of college is an extra year of tuition.

Different life events in college can throw you off course: an illness, death of a family member, a parent's divorce, finances, even burnout and academic probation. These events often come up around college. Unlike high school, college is a place where you'll feel no stigma if you need an extra semester or two to get back on track or finish your degree. In fact, prolonging college (and the good times) is something some students go out of their way to do; we all know students like this. Just know that any delay or interruption can be costly. You will need to cover the costs of those college credits and room and board.

Earning a college degree is a straightforward calculation based on meeting the school's requirements in your major. Coming in with AP credits can help you get there, so can going to summer school at either your current college or a more local one at home. Importantly, if you need to leave school, there are many creative ways to fill in the blanks - online programs, community college, study abroad, even an accredited semester at sea.

Many students never anticipate how difficult it can be to get into some of their required classes for either their major or graduation. College seems like this bright shiny star awaiting their shimmery dreams. It can be a brutal awakening to deal with all the red tape and bureaucracy many colleges impose on students just trying to schedule the correct line-up of courses. At some schools the academic wheels run like finely tuned gears. At others, you will find yourself knee deep in sludge.

Sometime in the middle of your freshman year, take stock of how easy or hard it will be to fulfill all of your academic requirements by year four. And then, before it's too late, start to develop a plan of action. Depending on the school, that might involve meeting with an advisor or just staying vigilant.

Marguerite Dennis, Higher Education Consultant

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When you’re applying to college, not only do you want to know the percentage of freshmen who become sophomores, but also the percentage of students, by major, who graduate in four, five, and six years. You want to ask what “guarantees,” if any, the school offers to students who do not graduate in four years. Is the fifth year free?

Ask your academic advisor to give you an “academic roadmap” of the courses that will put you on track to graduate in four years. Don’t wait until after the first semester to get this information. Your “academic roadmap” is critical if you want to graduate on time. Graduating on time means graduating in four years, not five or six.

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Liz Lopez, but i love this app

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but i want to know how much years do you take in college????? love this app

Matthew Clemens, Physics and Math Teacher, Parent, and Tutor

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I decided to do an extra degree (a full degree in math, six credits beyond a teaching certification) so I was there a semester longer. I know that investment has paid off for me, but that is a personal decision. Studies have shown that if students take a break, they lower their chances of finishing. But that doesn't mean you won't finish. Remember, college is a big time and financial investment, so be sure you are at a good point in your life to take it on, even part time.

Pamela Petrease Felder, College Degree Completion

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The traditional time frame to complete a baccalaureate degree is typically four years. However, time-to-degree completion depends on the student's commitment to degree attainment and the amount of courses he/she completes in concert with the course requirements for the college/university in which he/she is enrolled. For specifics on college completion, review the college/university website(s) of interest for general information for degree requirements, typical time-to-completion timelines, and programmatic features supporting degree completion.

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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If you are asking this question from a personal perspective, I encourage you to meet with your advisor early in your first semester so you can find out what courses you need and how to make a plan for the next four years. It is challenging to graduate in four years with only twelve credits (a full-time load) a semester, so if graduating in four years is your objective, you will need to have a solid plan, considering pre-requisites for upper-level classes. Your advisor is there to help you make a plan, but you need to be proactive and make appointments with her. Also, the four-year objective doesn't leave much room for taking a minor or exploring service and internships. Many resources argue that graduating in four years is a marker off success, but that doesn't need to be the case. Life happens: people get sick, have babies, need to work. If those things do happen, the student should be in touch with the professors and her academic advisor immediately for advice on how to manage the semester or taking a leave. And remember, finishing in more than four years isn't always an impediment.

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