Could You Graduate in Three Years?
By Bryn Dunbar
It is takes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree. Today this statement could not be farther from the truth. In 2009, USA Today reported that “only 4.2% of U.S. undergraduates earned bachelor’s degrees in three years, according to the most recent statistics from the Education department.” While this percentage is very low, it seems that some schools are taking more of an interest in helping students who choose this option have a full college experience.
In late May 2012, the president of Wesleyan University, Michael Roth wrote a special blog post for The Washington Post in which he announced the university’s new plan regarding completing a bachelor’s degree in the three years. He wrote, “We will help these students who choose to graduate in six semesters (along with some summer work) get the most out of their time on campus.” Roth’s plan suggests that students who want to finish early do not have to spend college in the library. The institution will attempt to ensure they still enjoy a typical college experience.
Roth also emphasized the economic benefits of making such a choice saying, “In our case, allowing for some summer expenses, families would still save about 20 percent from the total bill for an undergraduate degree. At many private schools that would be around $50,000.” So if you want to save some money, choosing to graduate in three years is one option.
Along with being cost-effective, graduating in three years could have many other benefits. It could be a way to enroll in grad school earlier, take time off to travel, or start working to gain experience and earn money. On the other hand, it can shorten vacation time and means you have one less year to spend with your friends on campus.
Anyone considering choosing this option should have a defined plan. Outline the reasons for your choice, so you have a goal to work towards. You should also know what you plan to major in and the classes you will take. Having a fair number of AP credits under your belt won’t hurt either (in fact most institutions require them). If you are interested in studying abroad, participating in college sports, or double majoring, find out how graduating in three years might affect these ambitions. It is important to start this plan as soon as possible and to double check with your institution that it makes sense for you.
The USA Today article mentioned above featured Nina Xue, a 2009 graduate of Rice University. Nina graduated in three years with a double major in history and French and was a cheerleader as well. Her experience shows that graduating in three years does not mean academics all the time. If you think this option is best for you, then it is worth considering breaking the norm.