Tips From an Irvine College Tutor: 5 Ways to Graduate in 4 Years

Somehow students manage to graduate high school in four years time. Can you imagine spending a 5th year in high school? But once in college, the four-year time frame essentially goes out the window. Although there have always been students who needed more time to finish their degree, the bachelors degree now takes five or more years for the majority of students. With higher education costs rising every year, many students simply can’t afford to spend extra time in the university setting. In addition to tuition, students lose the opportunity to earn a living at a full-time job for every year they are a student. So, how can students graduate in four years?


1. Don’t be undecided for long

Many college freshmen enter a university as ‘undecided’.  This is okay as long as they declare a major by the first day of their junior year. However, undecided students often don’t know which general education credits to take to count towards their degree. This is why it’s really important to take a look at graduation requirements for potential majors and make sure that you’re filling the underclassmen requirements. If you don’t, you’ll have to go back and take that freshman course your junior year, which can leave you in the position of being a 5th year senior. Try to choose a major by the first day of sophomore year or, at least, narrow it down to two choices (READ: “College Application Crunch Time”).

2. See an academic advisor on day one

For some reason many college students still decline to take advantage of the free and extremely helpful services of an academic advisor. They will be able to single-handedly walk you through the process of freshman year to graduation. They will tell you which classes count as filling course requirements, which courses can only be used as an elective, and which courses count towards your major. Attempting to navigate the never ending list of courses at a large university on your own will often lead to clerical errors and silly mistakes. Take the time to speak with an academic advisor once each semester and save yourself an extra year in college.

3. Change career plans wisely

When students change their career plans they may also have to change their major field of study or take additional courses. A limited number of courses in your old major may be able to count as general education classes but you will probably still have to take more required units. Think about how important it is to graduate on time versus having a career you simply won’t enjoy. One extra year in college may be entirely worth it to have 30 years in a career you like. However, students who do change their career plans are encouraged to seek the advice of an advisor ASAP. They will be able to help determine how to get the student back on track as quickly as possible (READ: “5 Signs You Need a Math Tutor in College”).

4. Summer school

Summer School is a fabulous opportunity to pick up a few extra units. Although many required and specialized courses may not be offered over the summer, it’s a great opportunity to pick up general education credit or credits through an internship. Summer school classes often have a more relaxed setting and allow students to be in class two days a week and then work on alternate days.

5. Beware of prerequisites

Many courses, either in general education or your major, may have two parts. It’s important to remember that each course isn’t always offered every term. For example, Chemistry 1A is likely only offered in the fall and Chemistry 1B is likely only offered in the spring. If you don’t sign up for the first course in the fall, you’ll have to wait until the next year to take it. This can substantially delay a number of students from graduating on time. Again, the best way to find out all of these tricky little details is to visit with an academic advisor your first semester of freshman year.

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