What exactly does the phrase “graduating on time” mean for you? There is a set standard for the various types of degrees that many schools offer. At American Public University (APU), students can enroll in a number of programs, detailed below:
This standard length is mostly country-wide (the types of programs offered will change amongst schools). Based on the credits it takes to complete the program, we can calculate how long it should take to complete each type. A certificate program should take no longer than one year. An associate degree should take two years, while a bachelor’s should take four years. Since graduate courses have different enrollment reporting requirements, even though it only takes approximately 36 credits to complete, the typical time frame for completion is two years.
Unfortunately, many students are not able to complete their program in the standard time frame listed above. There can be numerous reasons for that. First, full-time enrollment for financial aid purposes is only 12 credits. If you only take 12 credits each semester, you will complete 96 credits over four years, leaving you over 20 credits short of your bachelor’s degree. You will need to take an average of 15 credits a semester to earn your bachelor’s on time.
Another problem some students face is changing their major/minor/concentration too frequently, which can cause you to accumulate credits that cannot be put toward anything other than general electives. Therefore, it is important to carefully consider which program you would like to pursue, and then stick with it. Lastly, your personal life can get in your way. If you work long hours, have young children, or just do not have the time to be a full time student, you may not be able to graduate on time.
The drawbacks of not graduating on time are obvious. It will take longer to get your degree, if you are using Federal Student Aid (FSA) loans you will accrue more interest, and you may start to feel like quitting school is the best option. However, if you can work to graduate on time, the benefits are plentiful. Successfully completing college in four years looks good to potential employers, you will accrue less interest (assuming you do not defer your loans after graduation), and (hopefully) that feeling of quitting school never creeps into your mind. While earning a degree “on time” is always the most desirable route to take, remember that the main goal is earning the degree. Do not get discouraged if it takes you more than the standard time frame!
By Ryan Laspina
Senior Specialist, Red Flags and External Reviews