Graduating from college in three years, instead of the typical four, isn’t just a proposition for overachievers. Adding a few extra credits here or there over the semesters won’t just help get you out the door faster, it could also help you save on tuition and room and board.
Sounds great, right? Well, before you go filling up your class schedule with all your required courses, it might be worth considering whether graduating early is the right path for you both personally and financially. The average cost of undergraduate tuition, fees, and room and board across all U.S. postsecondary institutions stood at $26,903 in the 2021–22 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Americans owe about $1.77 trillion in federal and private student loans as of 2023. But, college isn’t only about dollars and cents and a final piece of paper.
Here are some key things to consider when deciding whether to graduate from college early and leave your student life behind.
Pro: You Could Start Grad School Sooner
If a master’s degree, medical school, law school, or another advanced degree path is in your future, completing your undergraduate work in three years may sound highly attractive. After all, you will be spending several more years in school to complete your higher education.
Just take care that your undergraduate grades remain up to snuff to increase your chances of placement in the graduate school of your choice.
💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? You could save thousands.
Con: You May Miss Out on Learning Opportunities
By rushing through undergraduate general education classes, you may be tempted to do the bare minimum in order to pass.
But in doing so, you could be denying yourself valuable learning opportunities, and you could be missing out on subjects that interest you personally or professionally.
You might want to make sure your workload is heavy enough to graduate on your own timeline, yet light enough to actually soak in all that new knowledge—and that it allows you time to pursue new passions. Isn’t college all about trying new things?
Pro: You Can Enter the Workforce Sooner
By completing your degree sooner, you could enter the workforce earlier, which could help you start earning a salary ASAP.
Want to max out your post-collegiate earnings? Some degrees offer a better financial ROI than others.
If you are graduating college early and
need to pay off your student loans,
check out student loan refinancing.
Con: You May Miss Out on the Full College Experience
Sure, you could start working a year earlier, but while you’re at your job, all of your college buddies will be enjoying their senior year together. And it’s not just about partying. The extra year together might give you and your classmates more time to bond with one another and to network with peers and professors.
Those relationships can play an incredibly valuable role in the workforce down the road. This can also be true for internship opportunities, which you may not have time for as an ultra-full-time student trying to fit four years of work into three.
There are other once-in-a-lifetime opportunities you could miss out on, too, such as studying abroad. While some of your friends may be off learning both life and academic lessons around the world, you could be stuck on campus having to cram in all your credits to graduate early.
Pro: You Could Save Money
As mentioned earlier, the average cost of undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board across all U.S. postsecondary institutions stood at $26,903 in the 2021–22 school year.
If you graduated early, you could save a pretty penny by skipping an entire year of tuition, fees, and room and board. Prices for college tuition and fees increased 4.7% from February 2020 to February 2023, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
When considering an ultra-full-time course load, don’t forget to calculate the cost of summer school, “overload” credits, and a year-round dorm.
Many schools have limits on the number of credit hours you can take at a time, and they may require you to get permission to go over the max (overload). You may also have to pay more for those credits.
Recommended: Living On Campus vs. Off Campus
Con: You May Have to Start Paying Off Student Loans Sooner
Most students who have taken out federal student loans have a six-month grace period before they need to begin repayment.
That means six months after you graduate (or drop out or drop below half-time enrollment), you will likely need to start paying back those loans. This is not necessarily a con, but keep it in mind and be prepared.
Refinancing your federal student loans with a private lender could give you a lower interest rate. However, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.
💡 Quick Tip: When rates are low, refinancing student loans could make a lot of sense. How much could you save? Find out using our student loan refi calculator.
Need Help With Those Student Loans?
Graduating from college early doesn’t eliminate your burden to repay any student loans you’ve borrowed. The 2023 debt ceiling bill officially ended the three-year Covid-19 forbearance, requiring federal student loan interest accrual to resume on Sept. 1, 2023, and payments to resume in October 2023.
Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.