How to Avoid a Costly Extra Year in College

When it comes to saving money on college expenses, the simplest thing you can do is graduate in four years. Taking even one extra semester to complete your degree will add significantly to your expenses, according to U.S. News & World Report Education.

The well-known magazine quotes the financial management website Nerd Wallet when it reports that an extra year in college costs an average of $19,000 at a public college and $27,000 at a private college. This blog covers how you can avoid paying for more time in school than necessary to earn your degree.

Spend Time Researching Your Major

One of the leading reasons students do not graduate on time is that they changed majors, and some of the early courses they took did not transfer to their new degree program. While it can be challenging to know what you want to major in while still in high school, taking the time to research and reflect now can save you a lot of money later.

Take advantage of the resources in your high school guidance office and what you can find online to help zero in on a major. Completing career quizzes and personality inventories can be helpful, as can job shadowing with someone who works in a career you are considering.

Compare Retention and Graduation Rates for Every Potential School

The federal government requires all post-secondary schools to publish how many students remain with the school from year to year and the percentage that graduates on time. If you notice that more students graduate in five years instead of four years, the likely reason is that the college requires additional core courses and pre-requisites. You need to carefully consider whether you want to spend the extra time and money taking those courses and how much they will contribute to your eventual career goals.

Take Advanced Placement Courses in High School

The purpose of advanced placement (AP) courses is to prepare high school students for the rigor of college-level work. You complete the class at high school and take an AP exam to earn both college and high school credits. If you have room in your schedule and think you can handle more challenging classes now, completing AP courses can save you a lot of time and money in college. It is common for students who took AP courses in high school to graduate in less than four years.

Take a Full Load of Courses Each Semester

Newsweek reports that only half of all college students take 15 or more credits per semester, the amount needed to graduate within four years. Research also indicates that students who start out taking at least 15 credits per marking period are more likely to continue that pattern. Just be aware that some majors, such as accounting and engineering, take longer than four years because of the accreditation requirement for STEM majors. This is true even with taking 15 credits or more each term.

Looking for additional help with financial planning for college? Accolade Financial in York, Maine, meets with students and their parents by appointment. Please contact us to reserve a convenient time to discuss college financial planning.