By Lissette Camacho Morales. President Barack Obama spoke to more than 12,000 graduating students and their guests at Rutgers 250th anniversary commencement ceremony. Among the more than 52,000 guests who attended the historic event were two proud parents and dear friends of mine–the Torres family. Remarkably both their son and daughter managed to finish in four!
Let me explain what all the fuss is about for those of you that are wondering what’s so exciting about getting a four-year degree in four years.
Think graduating in four years is typical? Think again. Click To Tweet Think graduating in four years is typical? Think again. Only 33% of full-time freshmen at four-year, public universities finish in four. Nowadays college graduates who earn a bachelor’s degree in four years are making a different kind of history.
In this blog post, I share what I’ve learned over the years about the mindset, habits and strategies used by successful students who finish college in four years.
How to Finish in Four in Five Easy Steps
Step 1. BELIEVE
What often separates those that finish in four from those that don’t is having the right mindset. The secret to finishing in four starts with believing that earning a college degree in four years is possible. That’s because your actions follow your thoughts.
When I worked in enrollment management, my job was to do everything in my power to make sure students were awarded financial aid on time, met with an advisor, and enrolled.
Surely, financial aid, course offerings, and academic advising are all important pieces of the puzzle that must come together for students to graduate on time. Even so, students who don’t have the right mindset are less likely to take advantage of student services.
Students that finish in four make time to degree completion a priority. Start by believing that earning a college degree in four years is not only possible, but it is also your job as a student to do all that you can to make it happen.
Step 2. PLAN
Once you have the right mindset, you need to know where to best spend your time. Students who finish in four are relentless about planning how they spend their time in high school and college.
If you want to get the same results, you will need to create a plan to finish in four that you start in high school and continue through college.
Develop an action plan in high school to ensure that you are college-ready even if it means getting a tutor to help with classes you would rather avoid.
You can hire a tutor or an academic coach to help get you through your most challenging high school subjects for a fraction of what it would cost you to take remedial math, reading and writing classes in college.
Doing less than your best in high school today could mean you’ll have to take college courses for no credit. That’s time and money wasted on college courses that don’t count towards graduation.
Failure to map out a plan to be college-ready will not only prolong time to graduation, but it can also adversely affect your financial aid eligibility.
Step 3. DOUBLE DIP
In case you haven’t figured it out already, getting the most out of college starts with getting into the habit of getting the most out of high school.
Students who finish in four are more likely to double dip to get a head start on college. Double dipping is the practice of taking college courses while still in high school.
Community and online college classes are a great way to get a head start while still in high school. Your community college may even offer scholarship money for double dippers who qualify.
Senior year is an especially good time to double dip. That’s because students that have fulfilled all their high school graduation requirements are likely to finish out the school day early. This leaves plenty of time for you to add a college class to your schedule and still be home in time for dinner.
Step 4. PLAN SOME MORE
Having a career plan is a must if you are going to finish in four. Students who finish in four are more likely to choose a major that holds their interest, so they tend to stick with it. Not switching from major to major can also save you tens of thousands of dollars in additional tuition.
Take career assessments while in high school. The more you know about your interests, values, skills, and personality type, the better equipped you will be to identify careers, and majors that suit you.
If you choose your college before deciding your career goals, you may end up in a college that does not offer the major area of study you need. This means you may have to transfer to another college or school.
If you don’t transfer, you will have to customize a study program that hopefully supports your career goals. In any case, such changes usually result in extra semesters or years in school and extra costs. You can avoid these problems with good advance planning.
Step 5. KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
It is very important to consider a college’s four-year graduation rate when deciding which college to apply to and attend. If the college’s students normally graduate on time, you're more likely to graduate on time. Click To Tweet
Check four-year graduation rates at college navigator. Apply to schools where you are most likely to finish in four with the least amount of debt. Students who finish in four are likely to choose to attend the school that represents their overall best academic and financial fit.
Real Life Lessons Learned from the Torres Case
What is a good fit for one student may be a poor fit for another. Despite the fact that finishing in four at a public university can be tricky, Marisol and Carlos Torres were right not to rule out Rutgers.
Marisol and Carlos also wanted to attend the same school, so whatever school they chose would have to be a good fit for Carlos majoring in biomedical engineering and Marisol who was undecided. Rutgers fit the bill for both of them academically, financially and geographically.
Typically only 33% of full-time freshmen at four-year, public universities graduate in four years. However, Rutgers-New Brunswick students enjoy a much higher chance of finishing in four than most students at public institutions. That’s because of the school’s 57% four-year graduation rate.
When it comes to graduating students in four-years, Rutgers-New Brunswick even outperforms four-year private schools where the percentage of full-time freshmen graduating in four years is 53%.
By accepting the invitation to join Rutgers Honors College, Marisol surrounded herself with other students likely to finish in four. Honors colleges at state schools are a great choice for students like Marisol that are undecided about which course of study and career path to pursue.
The Torres family is a tight-knit family so it’s no surprise that Marisol and Carlos wanted to stay in-state. By opting to stay in state and choose a public university these two saved their parents a fair amount of money.
Like most families with household incomes of $60,000 to $80,000 and above, the Torres family did not qualify for need-based aid at state universities. That’s why finishing in four was the key to helping this family cut the cost of college. Paying full price at a public university has not been easy, but their kids are now set for graduate school and will be off to the world of work before you know it.
What’s Next for Marisol and Carlos?
Based on Marisol’s undergraduate coursework and grade point average, she has been accepted into the one-year graduate program in Human Resource Management at Rutgers. Not only did Marisol finish in four, but she’s also on track to complete her masters at age 20!!!
Carlos’ accomplishments are equally impressive. Biomedical engineering students typically carry heavy course loads that make it extraordinarily difficult to finish in four, but he did it anyway. He even found time to apply to and get accepted to graduate school at…you guessed it–Rutgers!
What’s Next for You?
Over the years, Rutgers has awarded more than 550,000 academic degrees. When Marisol and Carlos graduate from Rutgers with their Master’s degrees in hand, some of those that started as college freshmen with them will still be working on their bachelors.
Where will you be in your quest for a bachelor degree come 2017? Not sure? What do you plan to do about it?
Be sure to share your thoughts in the text box below.
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