Throughout high school and my first year of college, I always intended to spend four years getting my bachelor’s degree. I had no intention of graduating early; I hadn’t even given it any thought. A couple years later, I find myself approaching my final semester in college, before I graduate a year early with my bachelor’s degree in environmental studies with Honors. I stumbled upon the possibility of graduating in three years rather accidentally, as I was sifting through my degree requirements and preparing to register for classes for sophomore spring semester. As I planned out which courses I would be taking during which semesters, I found myself stuck. I didn’t have any classes left to take by the time I got around to my fourth year. The moment I realized this was right about the moment I started talking to my parents and advisors about graduating early. And then it just kind of happened. And now I’m graduating early.
There are a few major factors contributing to my early graduation:
First, I came into college with a decent number of AP credits. It was nothing crazy or excessive, but I definitely couldn’t graduate early without them.
Second, I took two classes during winter session both freshman and sophomore year, mostly because I didn’t have anything better to do during those mini semesters and wanted to be at school with my friends. I gained 12 credits between these two winter sessions.
Third, I was lucky enough to be able to take a 5-week summer class that satisfied both my field experience and discovery learning requirements. This was vital and I was extremely fortunate for that class to become available right when I needed it.
Fourth, I have never taken fewer than 15 credits per semester. If you want to graduate early, taking four classes per semester won’t cut it. My first semester ever, I was taking 17 credits, and this semester I am taking 18. With persistence and hard work, it is manageable, but I would be lying if I said I never considered how relieving it would feel to take a 12-credit semester.
Finally, I take my academics seriously. I am still involved on campus and have a social life, but I prioritize my classes. I know that to maintain my Honors status and graduate early, I cannot afford to fail any classes. I do extra credit when it is available, and I never forget about homework or fail to turn in assignments, knowing that one failed class is enough to prevent me from graduating according to schedule.
Graduating early isn’t the right decision for everyone, but it is for me. Some people have told me they are envious of my early graduation date, but many others have told me that they wouldn’t want to graduate early, either because of the stress associated with it or because they simply enjoy being here and want to savor every moment of it, and I completely empathize. I think everyone should make the best decision for their life.
For me, it just happened accidentally, and once I saw that it was a possibility, I decided to go for it. I will save money and enter the workforce a year earlier. I joke that I get to avoid an entire year’s worth of exams and papers.
As much as I can worry about the future and feel unsure of where it will take me, I am ready to take this step forward. Ultimately, though I have enjoyed my time in college and learned so much, in and out of class, I think I’m ready to break out of the college bubble and emerge into the real world.
So that’s my story. And I guess if anyone takes anything away from it, I would offer a piece of wisdom that I am still working on fully accepting and implementing in my own life: do what is best for you, even if others don’t understand or wouldn’t make the same choice. Your path doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
Image source: https://www.udel.edu/udaily/2018/september/us-news-rankings-2019/