Green clock and fake tree in metal pail on yellow background

3 Things to Do to Ensure You Graduate College on Time

College has bumps along the way you will never anticipate. Here's some advice for making sure you stay on track and head to graduation on the right timeline.

It’s every college student’s worst nightmare: not graduating in that four-year timeframe. Worse, you could spend six years in college—or longer—and still not have a degree. As scary as it may seem, this is the reality for countless college students across the country. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, less than half of all full-time students pursuing a bachelor’s degree finish in four years, and this figure only goes up to 60% when accounting for students who graduate in six. But don’t let these statistics discourage you. You can finish college on time—even if things are looking iffy. Here are some handpicked tips to help you graduate from college on time. So you can be the exception, not the rule.  

Schedule a meeting with your academic advisor

If you’re concerned about graduating on time, your academic advisor’s office should be your very first stop. Academic advisors are equipped to help college students stay on track for graduation and answer any questions students might have about their class schedules. Their job is literally to advise, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of their services. Chances are your academic advisor will be more than willing to sit down with you to address your concerns about finishing college on time. They can assist you in devising a personalized game plan to promote your academic success, and they can point you to other campus resources if necessary (like the bursar or financial aid office). If your college or university doesn’t already provide designated academic advisors for its students, then consider scheduling an appointment with your college’s equivalent. Whether that means trekking to the academic resource center or paying a visit to your campus guidance counselor, there are many college resources available to guide you.

Make sure your major is the right fit for you

If you haven’t decided on a major yet, don’t panic. You’re not alone. While most students worry that switching majors will result in them taking longer to graduate than expected, recent research has shown that students who change their majors in college are actually more likely to graduate on time than those who don’t. And why is that? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that as human beings, our passions and interests are constantly evolving, so it’s important that our choice of major reflects that. By selecting the field of study that’s right for you, you’ll be exposed to major-related courses that appeal to your interests. Before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to your college classes, making them go by faster than you think.

Related: How to Choose Your Major and Explore All Your Options

Consider changing your course load

One effective way of ensuring that you graduate on time is by enrolling in more credit hours during the school year. Although most college students only need to take 12 credit hours per semester to attain full-time status, most schools require their students to complete at least 120 hours of course work to obtain a bachelor’s degree. That translates to 10 semesters—or five years of undergraduate study. So for students entering college with little or no previously obtained college credit, really the magic number of hours to take in any given semester is 15. Obviously, enrolling in “extra” classes and earning additional college credit is easier said than done. Financial aid and scholarships may or may not cover extra courses. And depending on the classes you’re in and the amount of time you can realistically devote to preparing for each one, taking 15 credit hours a semester may not be a viable option for you.

How to maximize on your credit hours

Luckily, there are other ways of maximizing the number of credit hours you can comfortably earn at a given time. Arguably the best way is to take courses over your school’s semester breaks. Most colleges already allow students to enroll in courses during summer and/or winter break in order to get basic major requirements taken care of. Some schools even offer online classes for students who might find it difficult or inconvenient to commute to campus. Many of these online and in-person courses can be taken for a reasonable fee, but if your college or university charges more than you’re able (or willing) to pay, similar classes may be offered through your local community college. If you go this route, just be sure to familiarize yourself with your college’s transfer credit policy first, because they can vary a lot from school to school. Finally, you may be able to earn credit for internships or other extracurricular experiences, though, again, you’ll need to check in with your academic advisor to figure out if this is a viable option for you.  

Related: Avoid Credits That Won't Count Toward Your Degree

So while graduating on time may seem daunting, try to relax and take a deep breath. Also remember that it’s largely okay if you simply can’t graduate in four years; it may be complicated—both logistically and financially—but it’s doable, and there are people at your college who can help you. In any case, these tips for graduating on time are a great place to start. And with the right system in place, you’ll finish your college degree in no time.

Need a break from reading articles? Check out the helpful videos over on the CollegeXpress YouTube channel instead!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Josiah Kegg

Josiah Kegg

High School Class of 2021

I want to sincerely thank you all for this amazing website that's legitimately helped me find so many different scholarship opportunities. I've been stressing out for the longest time about paying for college since I would rather stay out of debt and have been working days trying to find any scholarship opportunity. When I found CollegeXpress, I discovered many easy scholarships that have given me hope for the future. Thank you and God bless!

Lexie Knutson

Lexie Knutson

High School Class of 2021

This whole website has helped me overcome the attitude I had before. I was scared to even approach the thought of college because it was so much. I knew it wasn’t just a few easy steps, and I panicked mostly, instead of actually trying. Without realizing it, CollegeXpress did exactly what I usually do when I panic, which is take it one step at a time. With college I forget that because it’s more than just a small to-do list, but this website was really helpful and overall amazing. So thank you!

Jessica Rinker

Jessica Rinker

Student, Fairhaven High School; CollegeXpress Student Writer

My high school counselor introduced me to CollegeXpress freshman year. It has made such a difference in high school, and I plan to continue relying on it in college. CollegeXpress is my go-to because it addresses each aspect of being a student. There are the articles you’d expect regarding college applications and financial aid, but you will also find advice on things like de-stressing and maintaining relationships while balancing a heavy course load. CollegeXpress will also keep you updated on current scholarships through e-mails each Saturday. (They don’t harass you with any product promotion like so many other sites do.) CollegeXpress is a lot like an older sibling who has already conquered the challenges you are facing. Now, they are reaching out a helpful hand. I say take it.

Joseph Johnsly

Joseph Johnsly

High School Class of 2021

It's an honor for me to be writing to share a little about my experience with CollegeXpress. I've been using CollegeXpress for about a year now, and the reason why I chose it is because it provides astonishing scholarships for every student around the globe. Besides that, this organization dispenses all the information necessary to help students get to college. CollegeXpress has helped me have an easier experience with applying to colleges and choosing the best fit for myself.

Nazira Abdelkhalek

Nazira Abdelkhalek

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2014

I am very honored to be this year’s recipient of the Multicultural Student Community Service Scholarship! This scholarship is vital to helping me achieve and fulfill my dreams, and gives me confidence and motivation as I begin my college career. The CollegeXpress website has been invaluable over the past year as I planned my educational and professional goals. I highly recommend it to all students as they begin to focus on their college and career interests. The website is a wonderful guide to schools and scholarships.

College Matches