College is expensive, but now there are so many options to earn credits at free or reduced rates. With dual enrollment, AP, and opportunities to test out of classes, many students come to college with several credits under their belt.
I graduated high school last year with enough college credits to be classified as a junior. I was so excited to graduate college in two years instead of four, but I began to put so much pressure on myself to be a “junior” that I didn’t take the opportunity to enjoy my first semester.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my mistakes and misconceptions about graduating college early.
1. College is different from high school
Even if you’ve done college-level work in the past, being a college student is still different from being a high school student.
For one, there are adult responsibilities involved. Many students take out loans and experience the fears and excitements from moving away from home. All students are expected to be independent and self-motivated. Professors vary on their policies, but in general, late work is not always accepted, and extra credit is more of a rarity.
Another major difference between high school and college is that there’s more diversity. College is a great time to meet people from other states and even countries. Every student has a different story about their high school experiences and their dreams for the future.
2. Take your time
Just because you have the class status of a sophomore or junior, don’t be afraid to be a freshman if it’s your first year on campus. Attend freshman orientation and activities to get better acquainted with students who are experiencing the high school-to-college transition with you. Get involved in what excites you. It’s okay if you don’t have the same level of experience traditional sophomores or juniors have.
During my first semester of college, I spent so much time stressing. I couldn’t be both a “freshman” and a “junior”—I thought I didn’t have time to be a freshman if I wanted to graduate early, and I also thought I was too inexperienced to be a junior. I tried to get involved in activities as soon as possible, but I was not in a position a “junior” should have.
So during second semester, I stepped back. I’ve been taking advantage of opportunities that have arisen, but I’m still trying to enjoy the classes I’m taking and the extracurriculars I’m involved with in the moment.
Also, don’t feel pressured to graduate early just because you have enough credits to do so. Having completed credits may allow you to pursue a double major or minor in another field you love. It may also offer you the flexibility to take a lighter credit load each semester or give you room in your schedule to study abroad. Do what is right for you and follow your own timeline.
3. Take advantage of opportunities
I almost wrote “take advantage of every opportunity,” but that’s not always the best option. I received advice from older students to not get involved in too much, and I wish I’d listened sooner. It’s best to be fully committed to excelling at a few things than to do poorly at multiple things.
The best opportunities may be tied to your major or career interests. As a Broadcasting major, getting experience at my college radio station has prepared me for what I hope to do one day. Investing more time in gaining field-related skills could also boost your résumé and confidence in your path of interest.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with pursuing your hobbies or trying something completely new. If you loved writing for your high school newspaper or singing in the choir, don’t be afraid to audition for these extracurriculars in college. Or if you’ve always wanted to learn something like coding or crocheting, college is a great time to discover new interests and skills.
Ultimately, college is one of the most exciting times of your life. Instead of stressing too much, make sure you take time to enjoy it.
Do you see graduating college early as an option? What are you looking forward to most about college? Let us know on Twitter @CollegeXpress!