How to Graduate College Early & Its Benefits

Graduate holding diploma.

There are a number of reasons why many people carve a path to graduate early from college. Some of the many benefits of this include:

  • Saving students thousands on the final cost of their education.
  • Allowing college students to enter the workforce faster, enabling them to start paying off student debts sooner.
  • Placing individuals on a different time-table than other students, which can lead to less competition in their job searches as they avoid the seasonal resume rush that follows graduation.

Graduating from college early isn’t right for everyone, but understanding the pros and cons of early graduation allows you to make a more informed decision about your future.

Pros and Cons of Graduating College Early

Among the many pros and cons of graduating college early, the cost of tuition is often one of the most important considerations of this decision. The money you can save by graduating early varies depending on a variety of factors, including where you attended school and the annual or per-semester cost of tuition. With careful planning, many early college graduates are able to reduce the amount of time they spend in school by a full academic year, which would save the average student between $10,000 and $30,000. 

Another benefit of graduating college early is that you can start developing your career earlier and start earning a full-time income. However, if your immediate career plans require strong letters of recommendation and you need time to build relationships with professors, then graduating from college early could be counterproductive. Your application may also be weakened if you are not able to get the research and internship experience you need to be a competitive candidate before graduation.

Getting on Track for Early Graduation

How do you know if you can graduate college early? The answer partially depends on the game plan you develop.

  • Find accelerated semesters. In most schools, typical 15-week semesters can be accelerated, or made available in alternative formats. An accelerated format can be more challenging, but does allow you to complete sequential course requirements in less time.
  • Take online courses. Similar to accelerated semesters, virtual classrooms allow you to take on a course load at your own pace. Since it’s easier to fit necessary courses into your schedule, it’s also easier to complete more classes over the course of a year.
  • Make the most being full time. People who take at least 12-credits are considered full time students, but, depending on your school’s maximum course load, it may be possible to take 19 or more credits each semester. You may be able to take 6-7 courses at the same time as 4-5 courses. And if you attend a school where your tuition is based on your status as a full-time student, you may pay no extra tuition to take those extra classes.
  • Take courses during breaks. Can you take summer classes to graduate college early? If you live at home over the summer or between semesters, consider taking summer classes at your local community college. They’re available for a fraction of the typical costs of attending a university, and they can help you to knock out graduation requirements in your downtime.
  • Test out of intro classes. Most colleges will allow students to test-out of required courses in English or math, provided the student can demonstrate proficiency on a standardized test. You may also be able to test-out using high school AP courses and AP exams which offer college credit if a student passes a national test.
  • Plan ahead. Talk with an academic advisor about your plans to graduate college early. Many courses have course prerequisites to enroll, while others may only be available during alternating semesters. Without carefully planning of your schedule, you may not be able to graduate as early as you’d like.


Can you graduate college early? The answer is probably yes. But should you? That’s another question entirely. Graduating early from college can save you tuition costs, and it can help speed your entry into the job market. But pulling off early graduation is something that takes practice and planning.

It can be tough to decide whether or not to graduate early from college, but it’s much easier once you know exactly what career path you want to pursue. For students who could use some more advice on finding their dream job, as well as those who are considering their best options for a career change, take a moment to check out MyPath’s Career Wizard Tool. You might just find a career path that can help you decide whether or not early graduation is the right choice for you.