Financial Education Explained by Danielle: How I Finished College in 3 Years

Oct 11, 2017
Paying for College, Article

The National Center for Education Statistics said in a recent study that it takes undergraduate students an average of 6 years to earn their Bachelor’s degree. That’s an extra 2 years worth of tuition and university related costs that could have been saved. In all fairness, some majors like biochemistry are difficult, and it takes more time to complete them. Additionally, everyone’s college experience is different, and sometimes students take a year or two off to save money, focus on their career or hone in on the academic path they’d like to pursue.

This is my story of how I graduated college in 3 years:

When I graduated high school, I had two reach goals in mind: finish college in 3 years, and graduate with Summa Cum Laude Honors. When I transferred to the University of Maine, I was blessed with being assigned to amazing academic advisors who not only helped me adjust, but motivated me as well to pursue my 3 year graduation goal. They also encouraged me to petition for some of my classes from my previous college to count as course equivalents (note: if you’re a transfer student and not all of your courses transfer, do some research into a similar course at your new college and talk to your academic advisor to see if a petition would be a viable option).  

I took AP courses in high school, and my credits from those AP courses covered almost a full year’s worth of general education college classes. For the majority of the time that I was in college, I took 19-21 credits per fall and spring semester, and I took 9 credits during the summer semesters—while working full-time too so I could offset the cost of textbooks. I was fortunate in that almost all my credits from my freshman year of college transferred over—I had previously attended Wells College in upstate New York—and I even petitioned for some of my freshman year classes to count as course equivalents at the University of Maine, so that took care of having to take similar classes again.

In addition, I learned how to efficiently manage my time, and I was able to retain my Dean’s List status for all 6 semesters that I was in college. This was a factor in getting me inducted into 3 academic honor societies at the University of Maine. It was definitely an adjustment, but I was able to manage my time while simultaneously getting involved in a variety of activities on campus. I joined a sorority (Phi Mu), participated in the International Affairs Association, and joined the UMaine Mock Trial team.

Having the motivation and drive to reach your goals is great, but you also need to learn to make mid-course adjustments to bring your life back into balance. As studious and focused as I was, I found myself sacrificing time to socialize and go out with friends. I would spend most of my weekends cooped up in my favorite nook in the library, guided by the initial goals that I set prior to going to college. Missing the social aspects of college, I eventually had to adjust my work habits and declared "no homework on Fridays or Sundays." In addition to doing homework in the library with friends and going to club meetings, I set aside two days a week that were strictly reserved for spending time with friends. This allowed me to find a balance between my social life and my academic life. Work hard, play hard—am I right?

As graduation came and went, my family and friends kept telling me how lucky I was to graduate in 3 years because it would save me a whole year of college costs. When I crunched the numbers, I found that I ended up saving over $40,000. That meant less student loans to pay, and more opportunity to start saving for retirement, a car down payment and other savings goals. Graduating in 3 years was the icing on the cake, but I didn’t realize that it came with the bonus of not having to pay another year’s worth of tuition, room and board and all the other associated costs.

It wasn’t an easy feat, but I was fortunate enough to have parents who supported my decision to not take up a part-time job so I could focus my attention on managing my heavy course load. Ultimately, I achieved my initial goals of graduating in 3 years with honors. I’m here to tell you that graduating in three years is possible if you’re disciplined, motivated, and dedicated. And just think, you’ll be savings thousands of dollars in the process!

My two ¢ents:

  • If you’re looking into graduating in 3 years, mentally prepare yourself for the time, dedication, and effort you’re going to have to put in
  • Time management is everything when it comes to setting your priorities straight

Up for discussion:

  • What are some advantages and disadvantage of graduating in 3 years?
  • Do you think this is something you could handle? Why or why not?
  • How much are you willing to compromise when it comes to balancing your social life, academic life, and extracurriculars—not to mention sleep schedule?

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About the Author

Danielle Bautista

Danielle is a native of Southern California and a recent graduate from the University of Maine, where she braved the frigid winters—a feat in and of itself—and earned her Bachelor's degree in International Affairs. She has a passion for working with non-profit organizations and serving populations in underprivileged communities. When Danielle isn't writing NGPF blog posts, spearheading various outreach projects, or managing the social media accounts, you can find her doing some sort of outdoor activity, learning a new hobby, or cracking what she thinks are witty puns!