Graduating Early (Civil Engineering)

Hello! I am curious about how difficult it is to graduate early (3-3.5yrs) for Civil Engineering. I’m out of state, so I figured graduating early could help me reduce costs. I have a decent number of credits coming in but I’m wondering how much graduating early depends on taking a heavier course load or having a lot of credits coming in. Additionally, I would like to know how useful credits not related to the my major would be (for example, I’m debating studying for AP Chinese because that could give me 20 credits, but would that help me graduate earlier?). I don’t know how much this matters, but I still want to study abroad.

Thanks in advance! (:

It definitely depends on how many credits you have and if they apply to your degree requirements. You would have to discuss with an engineering counselor to confirm. If you came in with 20 total credit hours that could all be applied to your degree and averaged about 16 hours a semester, you could be on track to graduate a semester early if you plan it correctly with your adviser.

Some credits may not help you because they may be redundant credits for electives or simply don’t apply to the necessary requirements for your engineering degree. They may appear on your transcript but won’t help you graduate early. Definitely consult with someone in the engineering department to make sure what credits apply to your specific degree plan.

Is it possible? Perhaps. Should you make it a goal? Depends but for many questionable:

  1. Engineering typically requires the completion of at least 128 semester hours (average 16 hours per semester) to graduate, while the other colleges stay in the 120 range (average 15 hours per semester).
  2. Some of the courses you have to take, such as labs, are typically 3 hours a week for only 1 semester hour credit. Some others that are 3 or 4 semester hours have an extra hour per week for small group sessions. In other words, most non-engineering students average 15 hours a semester and go to class 15 hours a week, while the average engineering student needs to average 16 hours a semester, but goes to class 18 to 20 hours a week to get 16 hours of credit.
  3. It is more or less a general consensus that the average engineering student spends more time out of class studying and doing things needed than the average student in the other colleges.
  4. Large numbers (potentially the majority) of engineering students do not finish until 4 1/2 to 5 years. For many of those that is partly because the university has many coops available where the student works for a company for a semester (and often also through a summer) and thus gets a valuable addition to his resume and a possible future job offer as a result.

Coming in with 20 hours toward a degree can help as long as most of it can count toward completion of general education requirements needed to graduate. As to the AP Chinese, it may help The engineering department requires three college semesters of the same language to graduate (other colleges require 4). However, all or part of that requirement is waived based on the high school level of a language reached. If you complete the third year level of a high school language, the entire engineering requirement is waived. Thus, completion of an AP Chinese course, which would be considered completion of the fourth high school level of a language, would result in waiver of the three semester college requirement (unless you already have that waiver as a result of completing three years of a high school language), and a decent AP score would also get you some credit toward general education requirements.

@illinoisx3 , @drusba thanks for the replies!

Most of my credits were taken to satisfy GEs for UCs (since I live in California) so I’m not sure how they’ll be applied at UIUC. Here’s a quick summary of my credits; sources are transferology, UIUC AP credit page, and a current student.

Transferable Community College Classes (class taken/class credited):

  • ANTH 110 = ANTH 103 (3hrs): GE- Cultural Studies - Non-West and Social & Beh Sci - Soc Sci
  • PSYC 100 = PSYC 100 (4hrs): GE- Social & Beh Sci - Beh Sci
  • CHEM 192 = UPSL1–#***: GE- Natural Sciences and Technology- Physical Sciences 4SH 3LEC 2LAB (? hrs)
  • CIS 254 = CS105: GE- Quantitative Reasoning I 4SH (3hrs)

AP Credit:

  • AP Bio (5) = Integrative Biology 150 and Molecular and Cellular Biology 150 (8 hrs)
  • AP Eng Lang (5) = Rhetoric 105 (4 hrs) and Composition I requirement fulfilled
  • AP Calc AB (5) = Math 220 (5 hrs)
  • AP US History (4) = History 1-- (3 hrs)

Potential Credits (not sure if transfers/haven’t tested yet)

  • ACTG 119 Personal Financial Planning = ?
  • CIS 132 Introduction to Databases = ?
  • AP Macroeconomics (?) = 3-4: Economics 1-- (3 hrs); 5: ECON 103 (3hrs)
  • AP Stats (?) = 3: Statistics 1-- (3 hrs); 4-5: Statistics 100 (3hrs)

In total, I have at least 30 hours going in, maybe more depending on the potential credit. Does anyone know how these courses would help a civ eng major or maybe just an eng major in general? Thanks!

*edits: found more info on GE credit for transferable college classes!

The General Education requirements you need to complete for a degree (university required and engineering college required combined) :

(a) 6 hours of social and behavioral science. Although it appears you have 6 hours coming in, you are actually still short of one 3-hour course for civil engineering. It requires either Econ 102 or Econ 103. Thus, you will need that 5 AP score in Economics to actually complete the hours required for social and behavioral science.

(b) 6 hours of humanities and art. It does not appear any of your credits will apply to that requirement. You needed a 5 in US History to have it replace one of the history courses that can be used to meet the 6 hour requirement.

© 6 hours of cultural studies consisting of 3 in western/US and 3 in non-western. That Anth 103 would meet the non-western requirement (the course can be used to satisfy both the cultural and social studies requirements), but you have no credit coming in for a western/US course.

(d) Three semesters of a single foreign language, which can be meet by completion of the third high school year or higher high school level of a language. That is not shown on your list, although you mentioned AP Chinese (are you taking it or do you already have completion of a a third year level?)

(e) 6 hours of science/technology and 6 hours of quantitative reasoning. You will meet those with the courses you have coming in but meeting those requirements does not necessarily reduce the courses you need to complete toward the required 128. In other words, your biology and chemistry courses, and your CIS course may add hours for which you get credit but add nothing to reduce the science and computer science courses you will need to complete the 128 hours needed to graduate . Typically those requirements are always easily met by the required college courses you need to complete for civil engineering. You do have one course that replaces one needed to graduate in civil engineering: math AB which counts as math 220, so out of all the science, math and and CIS courses you have, only the 5 hours for math replace any curses you are going to need to graduate in civil engineering.

(f) Rhethoric 105, a four hour course which is met by your AP English Language score.

In other words, though you might have 30 hours in course credit coming in, and assuming you actually get a 5 on the AP Econ test, you are currently showing coming into UIUC with 15 hours (Anth, Econ, AP Lang, and math AB – psych adds nothing because of there Econ GE requirement) that actually replace courses you need to complete the 128 hours needed to graduate, and you may or may not also have the foreign language requirement met (but as to the 128 that does not add much because the 128 needed to graduate more or less presumes you will have the language requirement met by high school courses). So basically you will still need to complete about 14 hours per semester to graduate within four years, 16 to graduate in 3 1/2, and more than 18 to graduate in three years. and you should add 3 hours to those per semester numbers to get the likely actual hours you will be spending in class per week.

Also, none of the above considers the issue of prerequisites and actually getting the courses you need when you need them. As you progress from freshman to higher level courses, you will start to get prerequisites – required courses needed before taking a course – and you cannot take the course until you meet the prerequisites. That is usually only a minor issue to a four-year student but it can become a more significant issue for someone trying to graduate early, because you can face an issue that a prerequisite needed may be offered only in one of the semesters per year, or the times it is offered conflict with other courses you need to take in a semester.

Thanks so much for the thorough answer!

In terms of getting ahead, take as much math and physics that you can. Also try to get out of the Foreign Lang requirement since those classes are a pretty big time/credit sink (AP x Language will do that for you.)

I’ve completed 3 years of Chinese, didnt take AP Chinese was considering self-studying for the exam. Based on what you said, I don’t think I will, since 3 years is enough.

I’m thinking of taking some math/chem/physics as summer classes at community colleges, does UIUC have any rules against transferring courses like that? Thanks for the advice!

Classes in engineering are.often sequential. It’s hard to graduate early because the course sequences just take all four years. My engineering kid (her major was in the civil engineering dept) started with over 50 AP and DE credits, including AP Calc BC and APChem. All of her general education classes and some of her engineering prerequisites were covered. She could have graduated in 3.5 years, not sooner. If you also want to study abroad for a semester, graduating early will likely be all but impossible.

Yeah, now that I’m in my second semester of senior year I’m regretting my course choices… wish I took AP Calc BC and AP Chem as those courses could have sped up my progression pretty significantly… I guess the junior year burn out was real. Financial aid came out Friday and things don’t look too good so I don’t know if UIUC is plausible for me anymore. But thank you guys so much for the helpful feedback! I hope this thread helps other applicants (: