While getting a degree from a four-year school can be expensive, recent research shows that more and more students are taking six years or more to complete their degrees.
What’s more, every extra semester costs a college student thousands of dollars in tuition, room, board, books, and fees. This may cause someone to rack up even more student loan debt in the process.
Yet, a student’s graduation delay is often totally avoidable.
Most college students end up spending more time in school because of misunderstood requirements, like not realizing a class’s limited availability or course-load difficulty.
Here are four of the most common mistakes that can derail your education as a college student, and how to stay on track.
1. Relying solely on your advisor
As an incoming freshman, your college will likely assign you an academic advisor to help you choose your courses.
Typically, this advisor is experienced in helping new students transition to college life. However, they may not necessarily know the ins and outs of your specific major.
If you rely solely on your advisor’s guidance, you could end up missing out on major requirements you need for graduation because he or she did not know about them.
For example, in college, I had a lovely professor as my advisor. But I was a Communications and English double major, and he was in Political Science.
While I was focused on graduating as quickly as possible to minimize debt, he believed in learning for the sake of learning. So he encouraged me to take classes that filled neither my core nor major requirements.
If I had followed his advice–as many of my classmates did–I would have ended up behind in my graduation requirements. In fact, I would have needed extra semesters to make up the necessary classes.
Instead, I worked closely with my department chair, the registrar’s office, and studied the student handbook to manage my own credit requirements. I kept myself on track to graduate, especially since my advisor wasn’t in the know.
Remember, in order to graduate in four years or less, you need to be your own advocate on-campus. Find out which classes you need to take to graduate, make a plan, and stick with it.
2. Not checking course availability
One of the biggest mistakes people make is not planning ahead when it comes to course selection.
Many students assume that when they’re ready to take a required course, it will be available. But that’s not always the case. Some schools only offer certain classes during select quarters or semesters.
At my college, the school required you take a particular class before graduation. However, they only offered it every other year. So if you missed it, you had to wait a full two semesters before the school offered it again.
Once you know what classes you need to take to graduate, including classes for your major, minor, and core academic requirements, check with each department to find out when they’re offered.
Classes are scheduled well in advance, so they can generally tell you at the start of the academic year when classes will be offered. If not sooner.
By my second semester of my freshman year, I had the next three years of classes fully planned out. And that helped prevent any surprises when it came to course availability.
3. Accepting a “class full” as final
Of course, no matter how well you plan, sometimes there are hiccups.
At some schools, classes can fill up quickly. And due to their lottery or wait-list systems, you may not get to choose the classes you wanted when it’s time to select your courses.
But accepting “course full” and just giving up is a huge mistake that can delay your graduation.
For example, despite all of my diligent planning, I had two courses that were full before I could add them.
Yet, the second I got that notification, I ran down in person to the department’s building and stood outside the department head’s office.
Once I explained to them how missing the class would derail my plans for graduating on time, the department chair ended up overruling the class maximum and allowing me to enroll.
However, if that option isn’t available for you, ask if they can add you to a course waiting list. That way if students drop out of the class at the start of the semester, you can take their spot. And stay on track.
4. Signing up for a class that’s way too advanced
Most schools have some sort of core academic curriculum with classes in math, science, foreign languages, and English. They’re tailored to provide a foundation and taste for each subject.
Unfortunately, many students overestimate their abilities and sign up for a class that’s too difficult.
Whether they take on an advanced Spanish class because they took a year of it in high school or sign up for geology because it sounds interesting, their course-load is way more than they bargained for.
Many students end up failing a class and have to retake it. Or, they take a new class to fulfill the core requirement.
That happened to me, actually. I took neuroscience because it was fascinating to me, and I thought it would be a basic course for all majors.
However, it was a preliminary course geared towards biology students, so I struggled heavily. Despite my best efforts, I barely managed to pass the class with a “C.”
But if I’d failed or had to re-take it, this could have easily have been the class the derailed my carefully-crafted graduation plan.
Saving money in college
College is expensive enough already without you adding years to your time there.
By carefully planning and staying in close communication with your department head and advisors, you can help deflect any issue that may arise.
For more information about how to save money while still in school, check out this article on how you can save thousands by skipping the college meal plan.
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|1.04% – 11.98%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
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|3.84% – 9.40%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.05% – 11.44%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.22% – 11.66%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|2.76% – 7.14%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.24% – 11.99%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers. |
1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
Information advertised valid as of 4/22/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.37% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.12% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.30% to 11.52% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.29% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 10.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 4/1/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)..
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.76% – 7.14% (2.76% – 7.14% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.01% – 7.50% (3.01% – 7.50% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.19% – 6.73% (2.19% – 6.73% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 2.89% – 7.09% (2.89%-7.09% APR).
Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.36% – 9.54% (1.36% – 8.82% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.13% – 9.84% (4.13% – 9.12% APR).
Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.36% – 8.34% (1.36% – 8.04% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.03% – 8.64% (4.03% – 8.34% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.10% – 7.41% (2.10%-7.41% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.69% – 7.83% (4.69% – 7.83% APR).
Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.45% – 9.60% (4.45% – 9.53% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.38% – 12.81% APR).
Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.55% – 7.05% (3.55% – 6.77% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.07% APR).
Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of March 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.11%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%.
Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7 Important Disclosures for Discover.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.