One of the questions that I’m always asked is how did you graduate college early as a biology major? The class requirements and workload of a biology major is no joke, much less for a pre-med student who is expected to maintain a high GPA. However, I was able to finish college in 3 years even while dedicating over 10 hours a week as president of a student org and working two part-time jobs for about 20 hours a week. In this post, I’m going to explain how I graduated college early and why I decided to do it.
It’s important to understand that every student’s academic journey and life circumstances are different. I can’t guarantee that you will graduate early just by following these tips. It really depends on a number of situations, which I will explain more below. Keep reading to see if you are able to graduate college early too! I’m also giving away a FREE downloadable 4 year plan template to make it easier in determining whether you can graduate early! 🙂
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Here’s How I Graduated College Early:
1. I had a lot of AP credit and community college credit coming into college
In high school, I took around 7 AP classes and two community college summer classes. Thankfully, UC San Diego accepted both types as credit, allowing a lot of my G.E. (general education) classes to be waived. I believe I had 2 math, 3 biology, and 2 history courses waived, which gave me the opportunity to start my major requirements right away.
If you are still in high school, I highly encourage you to take AP classes and pass those AP tests because they will only count for credit if you pass! The same concept applies with summer community college classes. Before you apply to a college, make sure that you check whether it accepts these types of credits because each college has their own set of requirements.
2. I had fewer G.E. requirements
In UCSD, every student is placed into a different “college” within the whole system. Think of a “college” as a house from Harry Potter. Compared to the other UCSD colleges, the one that I was placed into (Muir) had fewer G.E. requirements. Since I had a lot of credits coming into college, I was able to knock out my G.E. requirements really quickly.
Your situation may be entirely different from mine. Your G.E. or major requirements may be more intense, which may make it harder to graduate early. At the start of your freshman year, I suggest that you make a list of the classes required by your major and G.E. Then, determine whether you can waive any of those classes with your AP or community college credit. With the remaining classes you actually need to take, create a four year plan and see whether you can graduate early.
Here’s my 4 year plan that I created freshman year. On the left, I have my tentative schedule and on the right, I have a list of all the classes I need to take. I sorted the classes by my upper and lower division major requirements as well my G.E. requirements. If you are planning to apply to graduate school, you should look into the classes that they suggest or require taking and add that to your list.
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3. I was a full-time student and took 4 classes every quarter
I was really fortunate to be a full-time student. Although it is suggested that students take 3 classes each quarter (12 units), I’ve consistently taken 4 classes every quarter.
Every student’s situation is different, so I am not saying that you have to take 4 classes a quarter. You should only do this if you believe you can handle the workload on top of your other commitments. If you think you can do it and get good grades, go for it!
4. I took summer classes in college
In order to finish all my class requirements in three years, I’m currently taking 2 classes this summer after my third year. If I didn’t take these classes right now, I’d have to stay one more quarter in my fourth year. Even though I won’t have the summer to relax, it will be worth it in the end!
If graduating early is something that you want to pursue, you may need to take some classes in the summer. It’s important that you figure this out early on, which is another reason why you should create a four year plan!
Why I Chose to Graduate Early
Even if you are able to graduate early, you don’t always have to. It’s really important that you weigh out your options because this is literally a life-changing decision. Here are some legitimate reasons why you might not want to graduate early:
- You want to pick up a minor, which requires staying longer to take extra classes.
- You want to take advantage of the classes, student orgs, and student job opportunities that are only accessible to students.
- You want to increase your GPA for graduate school or job applications.
Although these are some really good reasons to stay in college, here is why I chose to graduate early:
- I’m saving tens of thousands of dollars on tuition.
- I plan to apply to medical school, so I’m going to use my “fourth year” to study for the MCAT without distractions and hopefully get the best possible score. After the MCAT, I plan to work full time to get more clinical hours and experience.
- I didn’t pick up a minor, and I graduated with a good GPA which I didn’t want to risk lowering. I know, I know.. not everything is about grades. However, the first thing medical schools look at are your GPA and MCAT score. I want to maximize my chances of getting in!
Conclusion on How I Graduated College Early
Graduating college early is not an easy feat. You’re going to have to work hard for it, but just know that it will pay off in the end. These were the steps that I took to graduate college early. However, every student’s path is different, so my experiences may or may not align with yours. I do hope that this post helped you in figuring out whether you can graduate college early or if it’s something you want to pursue. Always feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need college advice! I am here for you!