Are You On Track to Graduate on Time?

Tips for graduating on time include starting with a plan, not panicking, speaking up, considering finances, thinking before changing majors, and being smart about study abroad.
Students in a Line Outside Graduating on Time

College is described as a two-year or four-year experience, depending on the degree, but quite frankly, the odds are that you might be a student who isn't on the path to graduate "on time" within that period of years. Sometimes the amount of semesters it will take you to finish your degree is out of your control. But there are a few aspects to consider if you're struggling to graduate on time, and taking steps to address them may help you get back on track.

Start with a plan

Prior to starting college, or as soon as you can, create an academic plan, including your degree and major. Some students enter college knowing exactly what they want to do. Others enter undecided and later craft their desired major as time goes on. However, by starting with some type of plan, even if things change along the way, you have a foundation to get you started with core requirements and the number of credits you need for each semester. You can always go back to this plan you've created and make the appropriate changes.

Don't panic

You might feel like you're the only student who may not graduate on time. But not graduating on time doesn't mean that you failed. It means something else came up, and you had to shift focus. Remind yourself that you will still graduate, and work hard to do so.

Speak up

Colleges and universities have helpful college advisors who are available to listen to your concerns and questions, and help you with your academic plan. Utilize your college advisor and foster that relationship early on. That person is your best ally, can advocate for you, and has the knowledge you need to figure out your course plan.

Consider finances

If finances are stopping you from graduating on time, consider your options. Perhaps speaking to the financial aid office, applying for additional scholarships, or taking a small loan can help. Don't feel embarrassed by your situation. Actually, it's okay to be embarrassed, but still be committed to your process and don't quit

Think before changing majors

When making the decision to change majors, consider how many course requirements you've already completed, and if those would transfer to your new major. So, for example, if you are taking classes for a biology major and want to switch to fashion design, there may not be classes that you've taken that will also count toward fashion design. Be smart about switching majors before you make the switch. You could also consider keep your major and picking up a minor, as I did when I was in school.

Be smart about study abroad

If you have any interest to study abroad, consider the time during which you will do so as well as the amount of courses that you will need to take. With the help of your advisor, figure out the best time to go abroad based on the requirements for your major and the courses offered in your abroad program. And make sure the classes you take abroad make sense in your academic plan.

Above all else, students: remember that you are not alone in this! If you feel behind or worry you may not graduate on time, be proactive and take steps to set yourself up for success, even if that means staying at school for an extra semester or two. With hard work, you will get yourself on the path just right for you.