As we are both planning on graduating this calendar year, we wanted to discuss the process of graduating early for this week’s post. If you aren’t sure if an early graduation is the right fit for you, we hope to share our insight on the advantages, disadvantages, and planning process!
One of the obvious pros of pursuing an early graduation is the substantial savings on tuition. Going to a school like UCLA with out-of-state tuition reaching up to $55K/year, the advantages of saving any amount of tuition, whether it be graduating a quarter or even a year early, can be incredibly beneficial. In addition to monetary benefits, graduating early offers you the opportunity to figure out if your current graduate school plan is the right fit for you before jumping straight into another four years of school. Both of us are looking forward to pursuing part-time jobs and research opportunities during our gap years to further pursue our interests in medicine. In addition to extra time for career advancement, graduating early can be the perfect break between years of schooling to explore a new passion or to travel. It is a great break from taking tests and doing homework to pursue a hobby without any obligations from school or work. We are very excited to have some time off to travel and pick up some hobbies like pottery and reading.
However, we urge you to be aware of the potential hurdles that you may experience on your journey to graduating early. With the benefits of a reduced overall tuition comes a hefty academic workload. While your peers might be taking a normal quarter load of 15 units, many quarters preceding your graduation might require you to take up to 22-24 units. In order to devote due diligence to your classes, you might also have to compromise on other extracurricular activities or social events to take in extra study nights. Graduating early is also a huge challenge not only in terms of course load, but also in planning. Course planning involves hours of assessing your general education requirements, major and upper division requirements, grad school and work program requirements, and meeting with an academic counselor to ensure you are on the right track. Additionally, enrollment at large, public universities like UCLA make it difficult to get the classes you need to graduate on time. Furthermore, graduating early often means that you have less flexibility in picking the best professor for a class, thus forcing classes with more challenging professors for the sake of a timely graduation.
While the mentioned disadvantages may seem jarring at first glance, there are many things you can do to keep your academic and social life organized! While it is ideal to prepare a 3-year course schedule as an incoming freshman, don’t be discouraged as we only decided to pursue an early graduation midway through freshman year/sophomore year. In addition, we made an active effort to meet with our academic advisors as early as possible to develop a course planning schedule in order to meet all the requirements on time. Summer school is another great way to get through tedious classes that might take up your time during the academic year. Both of us took classes the summer after our freshman year where we finished difficult courses including mechanics, chemistry lab, and writing seminars!
All in all, graduating early, despites its difficulties, has been a very rewarding choice for us. Seeking out resources and mentorship in a timely fashion along with collaborating with our peers has helped us reduce a lot of the stress that comes with course planning. While the benefits definitely outweigh the cons in our case, every person’s situation is unique, so be sure to pick the graduation plan that is the best fit for you!