How long does it take to graduate college?

Does graduating college take 4 years? Typically, that’s how long your undergrad should take you if you stay on track. However, it depends on how many AP and college credits you completed in high school and any placement tests. There is also the factor of major changes and adding on a major or minor. There are also dual degree programs, which would take say 5 to 6 years to get both a bachelor’s and an MBA. Here are the reasons students don’t graduate college in 4 years in detail. 

Major change

One thing I stress to new college students and current high school students is that while you most likely picked a major to apply into for college admissions, it could change. About 80% of college students change their majors at least once. This means that there’s some people who switch more than once, or kept on the same major their entire time. Which is a good thing, since it means these students recognized that the major they entered into was not a good fit for them. 

High cost of tuition

With tuition rising from $17,451 in 2005 to $26,120 in 2015 (nearly a 50% increase), it’s no surprise that more students are struggling to pay for a 4 year university. To keep up with financial costs, 40% of students are working 30 hours a week or more. It can be quite difficult to graduate college when you’re working or studying 55 hours a week.


For whatever reason one may have for transferring, it doesn’t always go smoothly. Students may find that they switched into their “dream school” after a couple years and most of their credits wouldn’t transfer. Nearly 40% of transfers got zero credit for their work done at a different college. 

Entering with the intention of leaving early

Not everyone takes 4+ years to graduate college. This depends on your college and high school. Normally it’s done by students who plan ahead in their high school underclassmen years. Here’s a rough outline of how one would do this in 3 years.

  • Take AP World History sophomore year in high school and pass with 4.
  • AP Chemistry junior year, pass with 5. Take AP Calculus AB junior year, pass with 4. 
  • AP Biology senior year, pass with 4. 
  • In college, add on a 6th class to 2 of your semesters. These can be easy and fun classes. Or, if you have the money, take 2 summer/winter classes.

Based on how many credits your college and major will allow you to transfer in, the above AP tests would get you to over 24 credits, which is nearly a full year, and adding on a course to two semesters would put you at 120 credits. It’s enough to graduate college, but again, depending on your major requirements you may need to take more courses to complete your major.

Regardless of how long it takes to graduate college, it is important to meet semi-annually with your academic advisor to ensure you are on track for your goals. Be sure to check you have all the classes you need, and that you know what’s expected of you to graduate. 

Are you in college and on track? Let us know your experience!

Have you already graduated? What’s one thing you learned here today?

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