Does the idea of spending more than four years in college make you cringe? If so, here are some tips for graduating in four years or less.
Take core requirements early. You should take core requirements during your freshman and sophomore years of college, especially if you're not certain about picking a major. This will ensure that you are taking credits that will count toward your degree. Core requirements are the general education courses all students must take in order to graduate. They include courses in communication, quantitative reasoning, natural science, humanities, social studies, ethnic studies, etc.
Pick a major and stick with it. This does not mean that if you switch majors, you won't be able to graduate in four years. It will just be easier for you to graduate "on-time" if you declare a major by the end of your sophomore year and stick with it. To decide on a major, you should start exploring your options early. Complete a career/skills assessment, talk to people about their jobs (i.e. skills required, likes, dislikes, salary), volunteer in areas of interest, etc.
Focus on academics. To make sure that you don't fall behind in your courses, you should attend all of your classes, study hard, and complete all assignments. Repeating courses to meet requirements or raise your GPA will only slow you down and prevent you from graduating in four years.
Take appropriate number of credits every semester. For most schools, you need 120 credits to graduate. This means that you should take at least 15 credits every semester in order to graduate in four years. Graduation requirements vary from school to school, so check with your advisor to confirm how many credits you need to take each semester in order to graduate in four years or less.
Attend summer classes. If you fall behind, be sure to attend summer school to make up the credits. Summer classes can also be used to ease your academic load during the school year.
Work closely with your advisor. An academic advisor can help you lay out a four-year plan and help you with any changes or problems that may arise along the way. Meet with your advisor as an entering freshman to discuss your four-year plan. Continue with your advising meetings at least once a semester to ensure you are staying on track. For each meeting, be sure to bring along a copy of your transcript and a list of possible courses you would like to take.
Polish your time management skills. In order to graduate early or "on-time", you need to be able to handle a busy schedule. Learn time management skills (goal setting, organization, etc.) early, so you will know how to balance your college schedule.
Keep in mind that while graduating in four years or less may help you reach your career goals faster, it's better to be prepared to meet those goals than it is to keep the time frame. Best of luck!