Rutgers-Camden Blog

All it Takes is #15toFinish: 5 Tips to improve your chances of graduating in four years

graduating student smiling and walking across the stage with diploma in hand

Ah, college graduation…the moment that marks the completion of a major milestone and the beginning of the rest of your life. But how soon will “the rest of your life” start? DID YOU KNOW that the vast majority of college students aren’t taking the credits needed to graduate on time, despite research showing the significant benefits of doing so (e.g., better academic performance, higher rates of returning to college for the following year, and the increased likelihood of completion)? Stop and think about it for a second—how many credits DO you need each semester in order to graduate on time?

The answer: most students looking to graduate in 4 years will need to earn at least 15 credits each semester or 30 credits each year to stay on track (this may differ if you’re a transfer student or if you have transfer credits). Sometimes, students get confused because federal financial aid policies require you to be enrolled in just 12 credits each term to be eligible for assistance. While this is considered “full-time” for financial aid purposes, it doesn’t equate to “on-time” graduation. The end result: students graduate late, if at all, and rack up unnecessary time and debt in the process. The good news for you is that by the time you finish reading, you’ll be better informed and 5 steps ahead of some of your peers!

First, let’s talk about the benefits. By graduating in 4 years, you: 

  • – Get to graduate alongside the friends you made at first-year orientation 
  • – Save money on additional tuition, reduce the burden of student loan debt, & reduce opportunities for distraction. Each extra semester comes with a cost, and the longer it takes, the more life gets in the way 
  • – Get to pursue advanced degrees sooner, like graduate, medical, or law school 
  • – Get to start your career and gain valuable work experience sooner. Employers will be impressed by the work experience that you’re building over time.
  • – Can start earning money & build financial security faster: this means becoming a homeowner, establishing or adding to your personal savings, etc. 
  • -Earn more on average than those with only a high school diploma 
  • – Increase your career opportunities and decrease chances of unemployment: In addition to the potential to make more money, earning your college degree could also lead to more career stability

*Note: there’s no shame in graduating in 5 years, 6 years, or even 10 years. As long as you make it to the finish line, that’s what counts!

So, what can you do to ensure that you’re setting yourself up for the best chance of success? Here are 5 easy tips:

  1. 1. Make sure that your major is the right fit for you. Choosing a major that aligns with your passions and interests reduces the likelihood of switching programs and having to complete new requirements.
  2. 2. Confirm the courses and course sequence required for your major (and minor). Some courses are only offered in the spring, while others might be offered only every other fall. This will play a huge role in strategically scheduling your classes.
  3. 3. Meet frequently with your academic advisor to monitor and update your academic plan.
  4. 4. Seek course assistance early if you’re struggling. Avoiding a failing grade means your credits aren’t going to waste!
  5. 5. Enroll in summer or winter classes to catch up on credits. You can use this time to repeat a course or register for electives.