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February 08, 2006


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It's a good tip, but it usually doesn't work out that well. The way programs are structured, it is often difficult to actually finish college a year or more early, even if you enter as a sophomore (or junior). Unless you know the program you are going into, and it's requirements (which would require you to know the school you are going to attend) before you take the AP classes, the majority of the time students will end up going a full four years (or more if they don't graduate in the 'minimum' amount of time).

AP classes are nice because they can reduce your workload your freshman year, and they do a better job of preparing you for college than most regular HS courses, but the majority of the time they don't end up actually reducing the amount of time it takes to get a degree.

Enrolling as a sophomore isn't the important step. It's actually graduating in three years that is the important thing, and that is alot more difficult than taking six AP courses and tests.

In addition to taking AP classes before going to college, students should take the maximum number of credits allowed. Most schools charge full-time tuition for 10-18 credits (quarter system). 15 credits per quarter will allow you to graduate in 4 years (12 quarters). Taking 18 credits per quarter costs the same tuition dollars but allows you to graduate in 3 1/3 years (10 quarters). Also many schools offer credit for internships or jobs. Since most students work at least part-time, they should look into their school's policy on awarding credits for work.

I wish I would have paid more attention to this stuff when I was getting started with school. I am going to graduate in May, and I will have only spent three years pursuing my degree. I have been going to school full-time as a "part-time" student, while still holding down my full-time job and advancing my career. If I would have used some CLEP exams before I started, I could have knocked off another sememester or two.

And regarding Lee's comment. My school charges the same for 12-18 credit hours for full-time day students. It wouldn't affect me, since I take classes in the evening, but it surely would make sense for people who can take advantage of the situation. If you take 18 credit hours a semester, and couple that with AP and CLEP exams, you could likely get done with a four year degree in as little as two years.

Also, my school offers an accelerated BS/MBA program for all students pursuing a BS in a business major. It allows you to substitute up to five MBA-level courses for the equivalent BS course. In addition, if you got at least a B+ in an equivalent BS course, you can be exempt from taking the MBA-level course, for up to three courses... that is a total of eight courses, or 24 credit hours... almost half of the MBA program! I checked it out, and nearly did it, but I really wanted to attend a different school for my MBA... considering I have there are five top 25 MBA programs in my state, with two of them available right in my city. My school is a good school, and it has very small classes, but I think I would trade that in for the ability to have an internationally recognized school on my resume for an MBA.

I wonder how many students can actually handle 18 credits per quarter (or semester)? Assuming you can get around alot of the sequential course restrictions, it might help you graduate early, but it also might negatively impact your performance in college. Considering the amount of financial aid available, I would expect most students that would have no trouble succeeding at the credit hour max (which are probably the same students that are able to take pass a large number of AP courses in HS) can probably find scholarships and assistantships that will pay for school anyway.

Just don't have a double major like me! I came in with 19 credits, am now taking 18 credits here in my second semester, am working part-time, and I'm still looking at 4 years! If anyone wants to donate money to help with college, that'd be great! :D

I just graduated last May from 4 years of college. I was surprised that taking 18 hours was not much harder than taking 15 hours a semester. In fact, my worst semester grade-wise was one in which I only had 12 hours.

So maybe taking more credit hours, and working fewer hours at a part-time job, is a good trade-off if you can graduate sooner and then start a better-paying job in your intended career field.

If I could change one thing, though, it would definitely be spending less money on imported beers and late-night pizza deliveries!

This is a good idea, FMF, but I think Nick is making some good points. It may not be possible, or advisable, to graduate in 3 years. I know when I was in grad school, for example, the program was only 18 months long, but there were several classes I didn't have time to take that would have greatly enhanced my career. I couldn't stomach staying an extra semester just because, but I certainly couldn't have shaved off any more time than I did without really hurting my chances of working after school. Yes, grad school is different from undergrad, so I'm comparing apples to oranges, but I still think sometimes to really get what you came for in college you need to stay the full 4 years.

When considering this tip (a very good one), it must also be considered that some schools have extensive winter session and summer session programs, as well as home-institution credit requirements. For example, my school required the last 30 credits of the degree could NOT be transferred in, nor could any Major requirement classes.

One way to get around this is to contact the institution to be attended and see if your local community college offers the introductory classes with credit that is transferrable to the institution. These can be taken in summer or winter sessions while the student is home for break and transferred in.

Doing this, along with taking the maximum allowable credits per semester can alleviate some college costs and may help a student to graduate early.

I am graduating with a BS in 2 or 2.5 years, depending on how you look at it. I took several AP and dual-credit (high school and college credit both awarded) classes in high school. I also took some additional classes in high school so that I would be able to graduate a semester ahead of the rest of my class. During the spring semester, when my peers were finishing up high school, I took 14 hours at the local community college (first making sure they would transfer to my university of choice). That summer, I took 6 more community college hours. When I entered my university, most of my peers had no credits or maybe up to 10 because of AP stuff, but I had 35 or so. I took 18 hours my first semester at my "real" university, then 20 hours my second semester. I also took 3 hours of interterm classes in the winter. This summer, I'm taking 6 hours of classes and getting another 6 credits for my internship. I will have 19 hours each semester next year, then I will have graduated. Yes, this is a lot of hours -- but I have gotten all A's and one B in college, so my GPA is 3.91. If you are willing to work, you can do it. (I am also active in campus activities and sports, so it's not like all I do is study.)

College is the best time in your life. Don't screw around but don't rush it either. I feel sorry for anyone who never experienced college life to the full extent. I would have missed out on a lot if I would have only gone for two years overloaded. It's not worth sacrificing your sanity and having a decent social life for an extra two years of driving to a job every day. Do it smart but take your time, that's the last time you'll every really be free in your life.

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