Five Ways to Graduate College Early & With Less Debt

Attending college should be the time of your life, right? But sometimes the social aspect of college can get in the way of the ultimate goal—graduating with a great education with little to no debt. Here are five ways you can achieve your goal while still having an amazing college experience:

  1. Take classes at your local community college in the summer and winter intersession. If you attend a college or university during the school year, but you live at home between semesters and in the summer, you can take courses at your local community or county college for much less than you pay at your four-year institution. What people do not realize is that all county colleges have partnerships called articulation agreements which allow students to seamlessly transfer courses to the four-year university. And what’s more…you generally pay one-third of the tuition (or less!) at a community college than you would at your four-year school.
  2. Find the accelerated terms or semesters. Colleges and universities know that the traditional 15-week semester does not work for all students. But what you may not know, is they offer the most popular general education (core) courses in various semesters and you just have to search the different offerings to find them. Most schools offer 7-week, 10-week, and 13-week semesters. You can also take classes in 4- or 5-week semesters in the summer. Often when you take a 7-week course you will find the next level of that course is offered in another 7-week semester that begins right after the first one ends. So you are able to take two classes in a 15-week period as opposed to one.
  3. Take online classes. Online classes also run in accelerated terms, and since you can do the work for the online course when it is convenient for you, you can take more classes each semester to fit into your busy schedule. Most schools also have hybrid classes which are classes that meet in the classroom with a teacher 50% of the time, but the other 50% of the work is done online.
  4. Take more than 15 credits if you pay for full-time tuition. Most four-year schools require students to pay tuition for either part-time or full-time status. Full-time status is generally 12-15 credits (4-5 classes). So if you are devoting your days to being a student, you can take 6 or 7 classes for the same price. Be careful though—if you over extend yourself with work or too many high-level, complex courses, you will not be successful with this method.
  5. Complete dual credit courses while still in high school. Some community colleges offer dual credit certification. This means you get high school and college credit for the courses. Students can earn up to 24 college credits while still in high school. Make sure you check with your local community college to see which classes are certified dual credit. Entering college with 24 credits is like saving yourself TWO FULL semesters of paid tuition and time.

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