Speeding Up the Process: How Long Does It Have to Take to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree?

one woman in cap and gown hugging another woman
Have you noticed? More and more people are going back to college later in life. Maybe they dropped college in the first place to work or start a family, but now they’re back, ready for more. Those just out of high school are facing the same issues — do they start earning or start learning?

Traditionally, it takes four-to-six years of college or university attendance to obtain your bachelor’s degree. It’s a time-eating reality that can be frustrating, especially for those who want to get education out of the way so they can start working on a new career. Unfortunately, for many careers, there are no shortcuts around an education or earning a degree.

But there is a way to speed things up.

The traditional perception that a bachelor’s degree takes four-to-six years to complete is based on traditional styles of education. Things can, and have, changed.

How to Get to “Real Life” Sooner
What can you do to turn that four-year degree into a three- or even a two-year process? First, you need to recognize that some programs just take longer and there’s not much you can do to speed up the process. A medical or a law degree is just going to take you longer. Bottom line.

Still, here are six ways to help you speed up the process of getting the traditional bachelor’s degree.

#1: Use What You Already Have

For those who already have some college under their belts or have earned an associate degree, getting a bachelor’s degree faster can be easier to do. Choose a degree path and a school that will accept the credits you’ve already earned. Not all credits from an associate degree will transfer to all schools, and that can be limiting in some situations. However, many schools offer a Prior Learning Assessment where students to earn undergraduate college credit for work experience and certain other life experience. In short, create a plan for transferring as many of those previously earned college credits to move you to the next level. Ask your school of choice about their transfer credit policy. Have an advisor go over your previous transcripts for classes that apply.

#2: Still in High School? Take College Courses

Today’s high school student can capitalize on the numerous college-level courses available in their community colleges or even some of the larger colleges and universities nearby. For example, Post University offers high school students the opportunity take classes online. Just taking the right courses in high school can help. For example, international baccalaureate courses can help you obtain college credits. Generally speaking, this is also financially smart. Those same courses are going to cost you a significantly higher amount when you get to college than they do while you are in high school.

You may want to work with your college counselor early on to plan to take these courses. Nearly all high schools today offer some college-level courses or placement tests to help you to qualify for college credit.

#3: Take Advantage of Flexible Schedules

Work with your college counselor to get your timing right. You may be able to take faster-paced courses that wrap up in just six weeks (depending on your area of study). Or, you may be able to qualify for more flexible scheduling that better fits your professional work schedule. Night time courses and weekend courses can help, even with standard coursework. In other words, even if you are a full-time student, taking those extra courses on the weekend or into the evening can help you move through the program faster.

To achieve this, you need to work closely with your counselor or scheduling professionals. The key here is to create a plan from the start of your education that allows you to build in these types of extra courses. Doing this allows you to move through courses faster while still getting in everything you need to do. However, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself too much with courses that are too hard to take or too much coursework to complete.

#4: Online Education Can Be Essential

Taking courses online can help shorten the time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree by 30 percent. If you’re driven, focused and can work on your own, online classes give you more time focused on coursework and less time traveling back and forth to class. This may even give you enough time to take an extra class or two along the way.

Be sure to map out your online courses with a counselor. Not all online (nor on-campus courses, for that matter) are offered every semester. Your counselor can help you find options to fit just about any need.

#5: Choose an Accelerated Degree Program

The more flexible you are with the specific degree you wish to complete, the better. Some of the best programs for today’s modern student are, in fact, accelerated programs. These allow you to get through the educational requirements to achieve your bachelor’s degree in a shorter amount of time. The coursework tends to be heavy, and it will take a concentrated effort to get there. But the reward is a degree in a much shorter time than via a more traditional program.

#6: Go to School Year-Round

Sure, it is really nice to get a break from school during the summer months. But summers off go away when you enter the real world of a 365 day a year career. Why not get used to it and enroll in a few courses over the summer months? Online programs over the summer months give you the flexibility of living a summer life while staying on top of your educational goals. It’s is an excellent way to get in those hard-to-schedule classes when you have more time. You can take a full load during the summer if you want. If so, this can significantly speed up your time to earning your bachelor’s degree.

Don’t overwhelm yourself. Be sure to work closely with your counselor through this process. There isn’t a need to spend four years (or more) in college earning a bachelor’s degree in all cases. It’s up to you to determine which methods fit your lifestyle best.

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