Getting into college and earning a degree is an exciting experience, but you may be in a hurry to finish school and get started in your career. Fortunately, there are many paths to speed up your college learning path and earn your degree faster!
What is the quickest way to get a bachelor’s degree? From “testing out” with exams to transfer credits, here are some options to get your degree faster.
If you’ve taken any college-level courses with credits, transfer them! You’ve already earned those credits, whether you took college courses as a high school student or you’re returning to school after a long break, so put them to good use. Even one course will save you time and money.
Remember, some credits will transfer as an equivalent that counts toward your degree requirements. For example, if your new program requires a science elective – and you’ve taken biology or chemistry – those may count.
Make sure you have your transcripts and have your prospective schools review the credits you’ve earned. Speak to your new school’s admissions advisor about your transferable credits and compare your options.
Life experience can earn you some college credits if you can prove it in a test. This is common with adult learners, but even young students could have skills that allow them to “test out” of a college course for credit. There are many ways to learn a subject outside of a formal course.
For example, if you’re a bilingual speaker, you may be able to take an exam to test out of Spanish I and satisfy a language requirement. Or maybe you have a hobby interest that can be applied to a course, such as computer programming.
You have a few options for exams, including the College-Level Examination Preparation (CLEP) or DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST). Consider the courses you may be able to test out of and make sure your school will accept the test for credit. Note that you will need to meet the minimum score on the exam.
You may have to pay a fee, but that’s a fraction of the cost of course tuition.
Get College Credit with High School Courses
If you’re still in high school, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses can give you a jump on your college courses. These courses are at the college level and prepare you for an exam, which you will need to pass to earn college credit for your work.
Another option is dual enrollment, which is when you take college courses, taught by college professors, while in high school. These courses count toward your requirements for your high school diploma, just like AP courses, but they give you a head start on your bachelor’s degree.
Enroll in Accelerated Programs
Accelerated programs are exactly what they sound like – a fast-track through course material. This is a great option if you have the self-discipline and aptitude to learn course concepts at a faster pace than standard classes.
Depending on what you plan to study, you could use an accelerated bachelor’s degree program to graduate in under four years. These programs have much heavier course loads, however, so consider your study style and whether that will be a good choice for you.
Some accelerated programs are designed for people who are enrolled in both bachelor’s and master’s programs – and want to finish both quickly – so they can apply a few courses toward both degrees. This won’t necessarily help you speed up your bachelor’s specifically, but you’ll be ahead when it comes time for your master’s program.
Become a Full-Time Student
Naturally, being a full-time student is a faster path to a degree than part-time. Often, students go part-time to manage other responsibilities, such as a job or family, or to see how they adjust to the rigors of college by taking it slow.
Keep in mind that for some schools, a full-time courseload is a path to finish a degree in about four years. Part-time students may take five years, or possibly longer, to finish a bachelor’s degree.
Think about how much time you can realistically devote to your coursework. If you think a full-time schedule will be too demanding and your schoolwork or personal responsibilities will suffer, it’s best to stay part time and double up on courses when it’s feasible. It’s better to take longer and come out with good grades and a firm grasp of the material than rush through it just to finish faster.
Get a General Studies Degree
If you’re not sure what degree you want, and you’ve built up a lot of random college credits over the years, a general studies degree may be the ideal choice for you. Pursuing general studies will allow you to maximize your transferable credits, since these degrees have a wider variety of free electives than more focused degree programs.
This is an ideal option for students who have explored a lot of different subject areas and interests to see what works best for them. You may find your career fit later, but in the interim, general studies develops valuable transferable career skills like critical thinking, written and verbal communication, and interpersonal skills.
Use Online Learning Options
Online learning platforms like Sophia offer low-cost courses that are transferable to many colleges across the country, including a long list of partner universities. Most of the courses offered at Sophia are general education courses, which are required for every bachelor’s degree program. You could even start taking courses in high school.
There are also some prerequisites that you can take toward specific degrees, such as science courses for nursing school and foundational business courses for a degree in business administration or business management.
Best of all, they’re self-paced, so you can work through the material at the speed that works best for you. For example, if you took a high school public speaking course, you can use that knowledge to your advantage to move quickly through the material with Sophia.
While Sophia can’t get you a full bachelor’s degree faster, it can help you accelerate your progress toward your degree with gen ed courses.
Ready to Take the Next Step?
Your four-year degree may not have to take four years! Whether you use one of these methods or combine them, some strategic planning will allow you to fast-track your bachelor’s degree and get started on your career. Explore Sophia courses or start your free trial today!