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Graduating a semester early

nycbornandraisednycbornandraised Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
edited September 2012 in Parents Forum
Hi everyone. I would like your advice about graduating a semester early, from the perspective of parents. I am at a top 10 school with no financial aid, which means a semester of tuition is a considerable amount.

I feel there is definitely a negative stigma against graduating early. Advisors I have talked to on campus have not been very encouraging. They say that you’re only an undergrad once in your life, and that there’s many opportunities I would miss in that last semester.

But because I have taken heavy courseloads in the past, I will still have taken as many classes as others do in 4 years (and I’m not counting AP credits). I will also still be able to complete two honors theses with two different departments. Overall, I feel I will still have had as fulfilling of an academic experience in 3.5 years as most do in 4 years.

I do love being an undergrad, and I love taking courses. My parents are not pushing me to graduate early, and I know they would pay for the extra semester if I asked. However, I also know that my tuition is definitely a burden on them. (For complicated reasons, my financial aid does not reflect my true financial situation. I have tried appealing it, but was unsuccessful.) Seeing as my parents sacrifice a lot for me, I want to help them out. Especially as I can graduate a semester early and still accomplish all of my academic goals (major, minors, honors theses, and pre-med coursework), I almost feel like it would be the morally responsible thing to do. And like I said, I would still graduate feeling academically fulfilled.

In my semester off, I would probably take on a job, or if I cannot get a job, an internship. I could stay near campus so I could still keep up with my extracurricular involvements/volunteering if I wanted to. I eventually plan on applying to medical school, though I’m not sure if I will take a gap year or not.

Regarding my personal situation and from your perspective as parents, what do you think of me graduating a semester early?
Post edited by nycbornandraised on

Replies to: Graduating a semester early

  • BCEagle91BCEagle91 Registered User Posts: 22,762 Senior Member
    It's fine. You'll miss out on the senior celebration events but maybe that isn't worth $25K to you. My son graduated a semester early too and just proceeded into grad school.

    You might take this approach: start looking for a job now and say that your availability is January 2013. If you land a position, then take it. Same goes for a co-op or research assistant position. If not, continue on with classes if you want to.
  • mommelehmommeleh Registered User Posts: 303 Member
    My daughter graduated a semester early, as well. We were paying full freight at an expensive private school. So, when it became clear that she would be able to graduate early with her AP credits and careful course planning, I strongly encouraged her to do so. She remained in the city to work while her friends completed their last semester. She could have attended the graduation ceremonies, but chose not to. As you say, you have accomplished your academic goals. If you are contemplating further education, the money saved will come in very handy :)
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 74,572 Senior Member
    Why would there be a stigma? Usually, it is the top students who are most likely to have the option of graduating early.

    Of course, a private university may discourage a full-price student from graduating early, while a public university may want an in-state student to graduate as quickly as possible.
  • MoreoverMoreover Registered User Posts: 1,158 Senior Member
    My daughter felt like you and graduated last December. The graduation ceremony at big State U still had around 1000 kids! What annoyed me is the student speaker (a full-ride merit scholarship/tons of travel merit winner) assumed everyone was like him and had taken an extra semester. He also emphasized how much fun/partying he had done. She landed a pretty good job in October and started work the first week of January. I think she had a few regrets in May when everyone else graduated but is pretty happy now as very few of them have found jobs.
    Not only did we save on a semester, but she has completely supported herself since then. :) She did receive some generous graduation gifts and has a newish car from sophomore year. Her company also paid an nice moving allowance.
    I also think it is very noticeable on resumes and tends to look like just 3 years.
  • MarianMarian Registered User Posts: 13,109 Senior Member
    Graduating a semester early can save you a bundle on tuition money, but it's important to recognize that most graduate programs and some jobs cannot take you a semester early. You may have to make temporary plans for what you're going to do with yourself during that period, and it may not be possible for you to be completely self-supporting.

    You mention that you would like to stay near your campus. I think this is a common plan among students who graduate a semester early. It enables you to stay with your friends until the group breaks up naturally at graduation, and this is important to a lot of people.

    If the extracurricular activities you want to continue are college-sponsored, you might want to find out whether you would still be allowed to participate as an alumnus. If the answer is no, you might want to try to get hired for some sort of job at the college. You might be eligible for those activities as an employee.

    And don't forget that if you graduate early, you are still eligible to receive help from the health careers office (or whatever they call the people who help you get into medical school) and the on-campus job recruiting system. You will be an alumnus, and these services are available to alumni.
  • M's MomM's Mom Registered User Posts: 4,562 Senior Member
    While I was initially not in agreement with my S's decision to graduate a semester early - for the reasons given by your advisors - S was clear that that was what he wanted to do and he had good reasons on his side as well, including saving the money for grad school.

    He's 21- an adult. I decided I had to trust his judgement on this. A year later, it is clear that he made the right decision for himself. I regret a bit that he didn't get to use his last semester to do the exploring that I would have hoped he'd do - but I also appreciate that with the money saved, he's made my life easier and his new life has proved as educational and rewarding as the last semester would probably have been.

    So my final take on this is that you know your own needs best. Sounds like you've given it a reasonable amount of thought and aren't doing it for the 'wrong' reasons. Go forth!
  • flyaroundflyaround Registered User Posts: 434 Member
    I don't believe there is any stigma. I graduated in 3 years and still have that on my resume 30 years later.
    I think it all depends on how you want to spend your last semester. Are you done with the college lifestyle or do you still want to be part of it? Does your school have lots of events for graduating seniors that you would want to attend? Do you live off campus?
    If you want to work and earn money then go for it. Do you have the option of taking 3 credits and paying just for those? Many internships require you to be an enrolled student.
    We paid for 3 credits while DS wrote thesis in last semester. He enjoyed his time and got involved in things he didn't have a chance to before.
  • shellfellshellfell Registered User Posts: 3,146 Senior Member
    S2 graduated a semester early. I realized he would have enough credits to do so, so we proposed to him that we would pay his living expenses for 6 months if he agreed to graduate early. That would afford him the time to get a job or do an internship without worrying about income and it was certainly less expensive for us that paying tuition, room and board. He agreed to the plan.

    He stayed in the same city where he went to college, moved off-campus, and got a job in his field. He was still able to socialize with his college friends, attend basketball games, and participate in May commencement.

    The downside was not getting to take some of the electives he might have taken otherwise.
  • 4kidsdad4kidsdad Registered User Posts: 4,602 Senior Member
    I would suggest that you graduate early - save money and less competition to find a job.
  • kayfkayf Registered User Posts: 4,161 Senior Member
    What stigma? If she is in a major where there is a lot of on-campus recruiting, she can still participate, and if job not open till summer, do volunteer work etc till then.
  • writestuff54writestuff54 Registered User Posts: 266 Junior Member
    My D will complete her course work at NYU a semester early next year, but will "walk" with her classmates in May. She can work and get a jump start in her career field, which she intends to pursue in NYC any way, but won't have the rigors of classwork. She was thrilled when I explained that she would have her necessary hours complete in the Fall. If for any reason it does not work out, i.e. she has to drop a class along the way, we will continue through the Spring as originally planned.
  • fieldsportsfieldsports Registered User Posts: 550 Member
    Stigma? The people at the school may look askance at it, but employers will see you as a go-getter who can manage time well, make a long-term plan and follow it, and bring in a project under budget.

    Remember that the advisers are employed by a business that's selling you a very expensive product (yes, a non-profit university is still a business) and it's always easier to get more money from an existing customer than to have to bring in a new customer. After 7 semesters, you will have derived the vast majority of the benefit of the college experience. You and your family could have some very nice experiences with an additional $25,000. For example, your parents (gracious as they may be, not to pressure you) may be able to retire a year sooner on that semester's worth of money. It could be worth a lot.
  • LergnomLergnom Registered User Posts: 7,926 Senior Member
    One of my kids graduated a year early. She wanted to get into work and, btw, that required moving across the country. Graduating early is fine. It's considered a mark that you've done well because otherwise you wouldn't have the credits.

    The plan to hang around is fine because you won't be that removed in age or experience from your friends. My kid noticed a gulf opened quickly between her life and her friends finishing undergrad and moving into grad school.
  • screener22screener22 Registered User Posts: 42 Junior Member
    I think more and more students will wrap it up in under 4 years if at all possible. My son planned to shave off a full year, but we've talked him into graduating just 1 semester early. He'll save money and get a jump on the job market. He's in engineering, and his crowd just works hard and parties very little. It's nothing like my college experience of 30 years ago, but then, the world economy is nothing like 30 yrs ago either. These kids are more focussed on the challenges of the real world than the classic collegiate experience.
  • momjrmomjr Registered User Posts: 2,182 Senior Member
    I don't think that there's any stigma against early graduates. In fact, I think it's evidence of a strong work ethic.

    Have you checked to see if you could become a part-time student your last semester? My D choose to do this. We saved money on tuition, and she worked part-time. She was still able to participate in her club sport and all senior activities. She loved college and wasn't ready to leave, so this was good compromise. If you feel ready to move on, then it might make more sense to graduate early.
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