College #002: How I Finished College in 2.5 Years

This post is $$$ – literally! If you shave off a year (or more) of college, you’re also shaving off a year (or more!!) of college tuition. This will save you or your parents THOUSANDS of dollars! According to CollegeData.Com, students pay $10k to $35k on average just for tuition and fees. This doesn’t amount doesn’t include the other expenses, such as textbooks, parking permits, and the biggest heavy hitter, DORMING!!

I was so blessed to not have to pay much out of pocket due to academic scholarships (another post coming up!) and since I stayed at home with my parents. However, finishing school early still improves your $ standing because there is opportunity cost when going to school. For every semester I am still in school, I am forgoing $25-$40k of entry-level salary (entry-level salary divided by two if semester-based). So because I was able to finish school 3 semesters early, I could have garnered about $100k of money/savings.

Or in other words, if it took me the rest of the 3 semesters to finish school, then I am losing $100k. That’s the best scenario loss. What about you? If you are paying $25k for each semester, then you are losing $75k to pay the rest of your 3 semesters and the $100k in lost wages.

Disclaimer: I am not saying that finishing school early and making money as soon as possible is the most important thing. It’s important to also enjoy college and savor the experience, take advantage of being a kid/student (we try to grow up too fast), travel and spend time with friends/family, and lastly take college at your own pace. We are all different – but if you so happen want to finish college ASAP for personal or possibly financial reasons, here are my tips.

These are tips that I personally took advantage of. It also includes tips that I didn’t even know about that I wish someone told me so that I could have taken advantage of them! Maybe I could have finished college in 2 years or less!

Take AP Classes

This item you would have to have implemented in your high school days – but don’t worry, the rest of the tips take place in college if you’re already done with high school.

If you pass an AP exam, most colleges will take that credit and apply it towards your bachelor’s. For example, if you pass the AP Biology exam, then you don’t need to take Biology in college because it’s been assessed that you have college-level knowledge of the subject.

I took…AP Human Geography, AP French, AP Biology, AP European Geography, AP Environmental Sciences, AP Chemistry, AP Psychology, AP United States History, AP Photography, AP World History, AP Government, AP Calculus, AP Language, AP Physics. It ended up giving me 58 units right when I entered college! Junior status was 60 units – I was only 2 units shy!

This theoretically should have shaved off about 2 years of school for me, right? Nope. What I wish someone told me was that you don’t have to take all AP exams. I took 4 different AP history exams (and spent $100 each exam // sad!!) when at most it crossed off only 1 college history credit!!! So in conclusion, you’ll only want to take one AP exam of each subject (language, art, biology, chemistry, history, math, etc).

Note: You’ll also want to research the colleges you are most likely going to. Certain colleges will take AP credits only for certain subjects. For example, if you went to a physical science school and are majoring in chemistry, they might want you to take their chemistry course even if you’ve already passed an AP chem exam.

Take Summer Classes (or Winter Classes!!)

I personally didn’t capitalize on this because A) I didn’t realize, B) I was working, and C) summer tuition is proportionally more expensive. I ended up taking only 2 summer classes after my freshman year and then just 2 more after my sophomore year. Here are some tips.

Take a summer class or two straight after high school.
I didn’t do this and I totally regret it! A lot of us forget to consider the summer after high school as the beginning of college, but it is! Once you’ve received your high school diploma, you can dive right into college studies at your enrolled college or local community college. Don’t miss this summer opportunity.

Take a winter break class!
I didn’t know this, but many schools actually offer classes over winter break. What an efficient way to knock out a class.

Take summer classes every summer, even if it is just 1 or 2.
I would say 2 a summer is a totally practical – I would say even 3 is manageable. Emphasis on manageable! Doing 3 lower division classes would be a piece of cake whereas 3 upper division courses would be manageable, just a bit heavier. Going to 4 courses per summer would be doable, no longer manageable, but you’d probably be low-key suffering.

You can travel during your summer and still take summer classes.
A lot of people’s reason as to why they don’t want to take summer classes is because they are travelling. There is totally a way to manage around your scheduled travels. Firstly, there are more virtual courses offered over the summer because they know that many students go back home during summer break. Online courses are great for travels because you don’t have to attend class and can read and do assignments when you are available.

Furthermore, many colleges split the summer into two sections – Summer Session 1 and Summer Session 2. If you are travelling non-stop for all of June, then schedule summer classes for just Summer Session 2 in July/August! Work hard, Play hard.

Take More Units

Take more units, finish college faster. No duh. My contribution is to advise you to take more units earlier in college. Make your first few semesters 18 to 21 unit loads (or the quarters equivalent). For my first semester, I was apprehensive about how difficult college would be and played it safe by taking less courses. I took only 18 units, just 3 units more than the recommended number of units for a semester. It was SO easy! I should have taken 21 units!

During your first two years, the lower division and general education courses are easiest – resultantly, an 18 or 21 unit load that consists of Theater 100 or Religion Studies 200 is not as daunting. When you move onto upper division and all your classes are, for example, accounting and finance courses, it’s no longer as easy to take so many units. I even took less than the recommended units in my later years (granted, I was also working at the same time).

Online Classes

Online classes are not for everybody, but they provide the opportunity to manage your own schedule. In addition, they tend to be easier. The exams are based directly from the textbook (rather than lecture) – you’ll be good to go as long as you read. This flexibility and straightforwardness allows you to take more units~!

Community College

Take. Community College. Courses…WHILE YOU CAN!! You can enroll in cc courses even while you are at enrolled university! Not only is community college much cheaper, but the rigor is usually much less. I didn’t get the chance to take many because I didn’t realize that community college classes will only fulfill your lower division courses. So you’ll want to make sure you take as many as you can during your first two years of college. Once you’ve finished all your lower division, you have to take all your upper divisions at your designated university.

Obviously, take community college courses over the summer and winter breaks. However, I highly recommend taking community college courses even during your regular school year. Many of them are online, and since they are usually easier, you can easily fulfill them simultaneously with your university courses. This is the best way to take on 18 to 21 unit semesters.

Test Out Classes

This is a great piece of information, and probably the least known. Universities offer test-out exams for certain classes. For example, instead of taking a 3-unit course for California Government, I tested out of it! Not only is it cheaper (just pay the exam fee and for the related textbook), but it is way quicker.

With these tips you’ll be finishing college in 2 years or less!

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