When you imagine your daughter’s future, you probably don’t envision her spending extra years in college.
Yet, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 40% of college students earn their bachelor’s degrees in four years. And only 60% of college students receive a degree in six years!
What will these extra years in college cost your daughter? A lot.
According to a new study from NerdWallet, taking six years to earn a four-year college degree can cost students almost $300,000 in tuition, interest on loans, lost income, and stunted retirement savings.
Here are 7 proven ways that students can get through college fast.
1. Make completing college in four years or fewer a family goal, starting very early on.
Because the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex of the adolescent brain is underdeveloped, most students in their teens and early 20’s lack skill at evaluating risk and planning for the future. Four years from now seems like an eternity. Help your child by saying, “Let’s set a goal of your getting through college in just four years, and then let’s figure out what we have to do to get there.”
Your child will be more likely to do this if it’s a firm family goal.
2. Suggest that your child take as many real college classes in high school as possible.
Doing so can get kids through four years of college by age 20! Be sure to read the emphatic post I wrote on this subject here.
Students who are super serious about this can start earning low-cost college credit by taking CLEP tests as early as 8th grade. See the article I wrote on CLEP here.
3. Insist that your child not apply to college until she’s set a well-thought-through career goal for herself.
Wild guessing on career goal is not a good idea — but I explain exactly how students as young as 10th grade can set good-fit career goals by using well-respected career assessments. You can find all the details in chapter 13 of my book LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward.
If your daughter knows her career goal early on and takes only the college classes that will get her straight there, she’ll get through college in record time without wasting time or money on classes she doesn’t need.
4. Insist that your child visit multiple colleges before enrolling in one.
Doing so will limit the likelihood that your son will dislike the college he enrolls in first and want to transfer.
Transferring from one college to another is always expensive, and it almost always results in students spending extra years in college. According to the NerdWallet report, transferring students “lose about 13 credits on average, equaling approximately one semester, according to a 2014 report by the National Center for Education Statistics.”
For 39% of transfer students, no credits whatsoever carry over from one institution to the next. (Insert panicked face here.)
If you’ve got a copy of my book LAUNCH, chapter 15 explains exactly how to choose the college you’d most like your son or daughter to visit first, when to do college visits, what to do and what to ask on college visits, and how to keep track of the information you gather on college visits so you can use it to weigh college costs later.
5. Suggest that your child take community college classes during summer breaks.
Sure, your son will be working during each June, July, and August. But there’s no reason he can’t take a college class or two at the same time.
Taking one or two community college classes each summer can shave an entire semester (or more) off of the time it’ll take your child to earn a four-year degree. Plus, it’ll save a boatload of cash.
Just make sure that your son or daughter checks with her regular four-year degree granting institution to make sure that each community college class she takes can be used as part of her particular four-year degree plan.
6. With the exception of the first semester, pack every semester as full of classes as possible.
According to the NerdWallet report, “nearly three-quarters of college students are not enrolled in schedules that lead to on-time graduation, according to a 2013 policy brief commissioned by Complete College America. Only 50% of students at four-year institutions are taking the 15 or more credit hours per semester that they would need to graduate on time, according to Complete College America.”
Worried that your child won’t be able to handle a large load of college classes each semester? Sign up for my free Monday morning email updates on this website, and you’ll find out when I’m next teaching my one-evening class for students entitled THE STRATEGIC COLLEGE STUDENT: How to Get Higher Grades By Studying Less Than Most Other People. This class will help your kid to feel confident about taking a heavy load of college classes starting anytime after first semester freshman year. You can see parents and students raving about this class by clicking here. The class is available both live and online on two different dates each year.
7. Urge your child to visit his or her college advisor each semester before registering for college classes.
At each of these meetings your child should say, “I’m headed for a degree in ___. I’d like you to look at my degree plan and help me pick out classes that will get me straight to that goal in the least possible number of semesters.”
The NerdWallet report warns that “students take too many courses that are outside their major and don’t count toward graduation. On average, graduates accumulate 134 credits when only 120 credits are required for most bachelor’s degrees, according to a 2014 report by Complete College America.”
For clear, step-by-step help getting your kids through college debt-free and into careers they love afterward, get your copy of my book:
It’s a reference book, so nobody reads the whole thing cover to cover. Pick out what you need to read in it using the fast-paced, 10-minute video instructions here.
You can see more than 100 reviews of it on Amazon at:
(Tell your friends.)
You can see why financial advising professionals love LAUNCH, here.
You can see the “Top 9 Questions Parents Are Asking Me About LAUNCH,” here.
Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.
And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.
Take a step on this right now. Get regular, inspiring help from me—every Monday morning.
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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26 and their parents and grandparents. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazine, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.