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Montclair State University Commencement 2016 at the Prudential Center. 5/25/16 Newark, NJ (John Munson | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Why & How to Graduate in Four Years

If you think four years of college is expensive, try five…or six. You may hear jokes about “super seniors,” but the extra time and money you will spend on an additional year in college is nothing to laugh at. Not only will you pay another year’s worth of tuition, textbook costs, campus fees and other education expenses, but you also will lose a year that you could have been earning income and experience at your first professional job or getting started in graduate school.

It seems that graduating college in four years has become less of a priority for many college students. In fact, at most New Jersey colleges and universities, freshmen have a less than 50-percent chance of earning a bachelor’s degree within four years, according to a Star-Ledger analysis of graduation data from more than two dozen campuses around the state. If you’re just starting your college career, be sure to keep your eyes on the prize and remember the real reason you’re in college: to get your degree! The benefits of graduating in four years can outweigh the sacrifice.

It’s Practical and It Saves Money

Perhaps the most practical reason for graduating college “on time” is the money you and your family will save by not paying for an extra year of school. The in-state tuition cost for the 2015-16 academic year at Montclair State University is approximately $11,800, plus room and board (if you live on campus), textbooks, and other costs of living. If you’re using student loans to finance your education, you’ll only go deeper into debt when that isn’t necessary. It is simply more cost effective to graduate in four years. By the time you are starting your career and making a steady salary, many of your peers will still be in school. The quick start will enable you to get a better footing in the professional world; thus allowing you to advance more quickly.

Have a Plan

In order to graduate on time, you must have a plan. Here are some tips to help you stay on the right track to four year graduation:

  • Complete a course load of at least 15 credits each semester.
  • Enroll in summer and/or winter sessions to catch up or get ahead.
  • Coordinate your general education requirements with your major requirements.
  • Make full use of the academic advising available to you. Meet with your advisor at least once a semester.
  • Decide on a major early and stick with it. If you don’t know what you want to major in, complete your general education requirements while you think it over.
  • Put your effort and hours into school. Schedule your time to fit your academic plan and plan your job and co-curricular activities around that schedule. Your education is job #1.
  • Seek help if you are having problems. Keeping your mental, physical, and emotional health in check will help you to perform at an optimal level.
  • While learning lots of different things can be fun, don’t pile on extra majors and minors that will add unnecessary length to your time in school.

Your academic career is your responsibility; be actively involved in it!