To graduate in the typical four years, there will be an average number of credit hours you need to complete per semester. However, if you have the option to take more than the recommended amount of credit hours, and you think you can handle the extra course load, you should definitely go for it. If you consistently take a heavier course load, the credits will add up over time, and you could end up graduating a semester or even a year earlier than those who simply keep pace with the four year plan.
Having extra credits also allows you to make some mistakes. No one plans to fail classes or have to drop them, but it does happen, and it’s better to be prepared than sorry. Any extra credits you have can make up for those missteps and will prevent you from being in a situation where your graduation plans get postponed because you’re only a few credit hours short.
Taking extra credit hours may cost more money depending on your school, but you’ll save even more money by graduating a semester or a year early and not having to pay that tuition. It’s worth it.
Take Summer Classes
Going to school in the summer sucks, but if you power through school all year long without any breaks, you will graduate before your peers who take summers off. On the bright side, summer classes are usually shorter than fall, winter, or spring classes. Plus, you’ll be so accustomed to school that it won’t be jarring to start classes back up in the fall.
Test out of Lower Level Courses
The easiest classes to test out of in college are foreign language classes. Oftentimes, if you studied a language in high school, your college will allow you to take a placement exam to figure out which year and which course number you should start in. This is a very easy way to test out of a year or two worth of foreign language classes, and those free credits quickly add up. Talk to your advisors about any other classes you may be able to test out of.
Utilize AP Exams
If you’re still in high school, it can’t be stressed enough how much taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes will benefit you when you get to college. They may sound like a lot of extra work, but in reality, AP courses aren’t nearly as difficult as most students psych them up to be. Of course they will involve more effort than a general course, but taking a college level class in high school is still easier than taking that same college level class in college. If you do well enough in the course to get a high score on your AP exam, there’s a strong chance your college will give you free credits for the college equivalent of that class, and you won’t have to take the course again. The more AP classes you take in high school, the fewer classes you might have to take in college.
If you’re already in college, but you took AP exams in high school, make sure you check with your school’s registrar to see if your scores were high enough to test you out of any classes, and make sure you check that those credits transferred through. There’s no reason to pay money to take the same class twice when you don’t have to.