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.
Sure, college costs more than ever.
Americans owe a whopping $1.6 trillion on their student loans. But, college isn’t only about dollars, 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.
But you might want to ensure your grades remain up to snuff with your undergraduate courses to increase your chances of placement in the graduate school of your choice.
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 paycheck ASAP. (Want to max out your post-collegiate earning? Some degrees can earn you a great deal more 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 the partying. The extra year together might give you and your classmates more time to bond with one another and more time 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. According to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA ), 341,751 U.S. students took part in a study abroad program in the 2017-2018 academic year.
That marks a 4% increase from the previous year. 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
According to data collected by U.S. News & World Report , the average yearly tuition and fees at an in-state public college were $10,116 for the 2019-2020 year—and $36,801 at a private college. That means if you graduated early, you could save a pretty penny by skipping an entire year of tuition.
However, before making this a deciding factor, it might be a good idea to calculate the cost of summer-school credits, a year-round dorm, and the cost of taking overload credits.
Many schools have limits on the number of credits 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.
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 it’s a good idea to keep it in mind and be prepared.
Need Help With Those Student Loans?
If you have graduated from college early and need to start paying off those student loans, there may be a way to help you better manage the debt.
You could consider refinancing your student loan with SoFi, and you may be able to get a lower interest rate or a shortened term.
Consolidating student loans via refinancing with a private lender isn’t for everyone, though it may be a good option for those whose financial position has improved since graduating from college.
However, if you have federal loans, you will lose the benefits associated with those loans, like income-driven repayment programs and loan forgiveness programs, when you refinance into a private loan.
Before you refinance, you might want to make sure to do your homework. As someone who’s considering graduating early, that shouldn’t be a problem for you!
Thinking about refinancing your student loans? Learn more about how SoFi can help.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended to December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since in doing so you will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave up to $10,000 and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients unrefinanced to receive your federal benefit. CLICK HERE for more information.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
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