How to Get Your Bachelor’s Degree in 3 Years

In an earlier post, I talked about how college tuition has been skyrocketing in recent years, and that the best way to come out of college with the least amount of fiscal damage is to mitigate the damage before you get there.  I also talked about a disturbing trend: only 37% of first-time freshmen at four-year colleges earned their bachelors degree in 4 years.  Not only that, but another 26% took up to 6 years to get a degree.  (I understand that there are some special circumstances that require some people to take a longer period to graduate, but those circumstances are generally the exception, not the rule.)

That’s CRAZY!

In this post I will tell you how to get your bachelors in 3 years.  Not only is it possible, its easy.

Let me tell you a little about my college experience first, to premise.  I got married pretty early (before going to college), and decided I probably needed to make something of myself.  So I decided to go to the local open-enrollment community college down the road.  Since I had a family, I also worked retail full-time in order to keep the bread on the table.

But I was in a hurry.

I didn’t want to take forever to graduate.  I needed to graduate as soon as possible.  So I busted my butt, went to school full-time (or more) in the Fall and Spring and Summer semesters while working full-time selling diamonds and engagement rings.  I finished in 3 years with honors, took the LSAT, and I’m currently in Law School.

Please understand, I am not trying to sound like a conceded jerk.  I am not trying to brag; I just want to express that it is possible, in almost any circumstance, to graduate early.

Let me tell you why I think graduating early is important:  (1) College will be much cheaper that way, (2) employers will be impressed, and (3) you will feel GREAT about yourself!  So let’s get started:

Bill Gates said, “life is not divided into semesters.  You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself.”  The first thing you need to do in order to graduate early is decide, now, that you will be attending Summer Semester (all of ’em).  Otherwise, graduating in 3 years is basically impossible (unless you take an obscene amount of credits in Fall and Spring, but you’ll get burned out pretty quick if you do that).  Let’s break down the numbers:

The average Bachelors Degree requires anywhere from 90 to 120 credit hours.  We’ll focus on the 120 credit hour mark (if your degree requires less, bonus!).  This is one way to plan out your 3 years:

Fall Semester 1 = 15 Credits (5, 3-credit hour classes)
Spring Semester 1 = 15 Credits
Summer Semester 1 = 12 Credits
Fall 2 = 15 Credits 
Spring 2 = 15 Credits
Summer 2 = 12 Credits
Fall 3 = 15 Credits
Spring 3 = 15 Credits
Summer 3 = 6 Credits

You can exchange that 6 credit hour summer for any other of the 2 previous summers.  Or take 2 9-credit summers, and one 12.  Whatever you want.

15 credits might sound like a lot, but it really isn’t.  It’s 5 classes per semester.  You can handle that! Just make sure you don’t  completely fill up your semester with difficult classes.  Get some electives that you would enjoy, and some easy classes mixed in there as well.  Remember, this is for a degree that requires 120 credit hours.  If your degree requires less, then it’s even easier (heck, if it’s 90, follow this same plan, you’ll only have to take 6 credits in Fall 3, and you’re done!  That’s only 2.5 years!)

A few things about Summer School – Summer Semester is normally divided up into 2 separate terms, meaning that some of the classes you will take in Summer will be “on the term.”  That means that they cram a full semester class into half the time; a term.  The good thing about that is that the class is done and over with much faster.  Most people will tell you that classes, for some reason, seem to be a little easier in the Summer (not as many assignments, less students, professors seem to be more relaxed).  I agree.  There are also full Summer Semester classes that go the length of a regular semester.  Find what works for you.  If you take 2 full semester classes in the summer, and 2 on the term (1 for each term), you’ll get 12 credit hours and be in pretty good shape.  (Also, you could take your final, 6-credit hour summer on the first term, and get done even earlier).

Special note for out-of-state students:  YOU MUST TAKE SUMMER SCHOOL!  Most schools allow out-of-staters to take summer classes for in-state tuition.  That’s huge!  Not only will you graduate way faster, but you will cut your overall college bill significantly.

College is a challenge, to be sure.  But if you’re going to do it, then DO IT!  Get in and out of there as soon as possible, and while all your friends still have a year or 2 before they graduate, you’ll be done, working, and making money, moving on to the next exciting stage of life.


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