How to Finish College Faster: 6 Ways to Get on with 'Real Life' Sooner

How to Finish College Faster

Earning your college degree inch by inch might feel like a financially responsible route. But it could actually end up costing more in the long run. The extra years you spend as a student are years spent in the workforce without a degree.

This can have a detrimental effect on your bottom line because as a general rule of thumb, earnings increase with education level, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is likely one of the reasons you’re interested in completing your degree as swiftly as possible.

So how can you finish college faster and start maximizing your earning potential as soon as possible? Keep reading to learn about six opportunities you may have to speed up your college experience and get you one step closer to the rest of your life.

6 practical ways to finish college faster

1. College coursework in high school

For some, the ship has already sailed for this option. But if you happen to be reading this while still in high school, do whatever you can to enroll in some advanced placement (AP) or international baccalaureate (IB) classes that offer college credit to students who pass the final exams.

Some schools also offer dual enrollment courses. In these programs, you can earn college credit by taking the same courses as students at a nearby community college. These credits come basically free of charge and don’t take any additional time since you’d be taking them as part of your high school fulfillments.

Do your homework to ensure any dual enrollment credits will transfer where you want them, and put in the time to succeed in AP or IB classes. A little extra dedication now can pay big dividends time when you transfer those credits into the college of your choice after graduating.

2. ‘Test out’ of classes

Some institutions allow students to test out of general education courses if they prove they have mastered the subject matter. This option will save you the time and cost of taking the course while still awarding you the necessary credits.

If you’re someone who is going back to school after gaining some practical, real-world experience, this is an ideal option to be rewarded for the transferrable skills you’ve acquired in the workforce. That way you can devote your time, energy and money toward the courses that will prepare you for your chosen career

3. Take advantage of blended or online classes

Many traditional undergraduates don’t discover this option until it’s too late. If your school offers online courses or blended courses (part online, part classroom), do some research into the per-credit cost. Online classes won’t always be cheaper, but if they are at your institution, you can save both time and money by enrolling.

These courses often allow you to work at a more flexible pace and save you the time of hauling yourself to class every day. An online option might not be available for certain hands-on or highly interactive courses, but it can be a godsend for others centered on reading and writing.

4. Take a year-round schedule

Summer school once represented a student’s worst nightmare. But those negative connotations are quickly changing. Taking advantage of the summer school term will allow you to knock out another batch of credits, putting you closer to graduation.

Listening to lectures and writing papers is probably not your ideal way of spending a gorgeous July day, but sacrificing a little sun now could help you finish college in a fraction of the time. It’ll also give you an extra edge in remembering important material in addition to a host of other benefits. And hey, you can always soak up some rays while studying outside!

5. Capitalize on your experience outside of the classroom

Ask to see if your work or life experience could qualify for credit. Some institutions recognize that relevant work experience can be much more valuable than the typical 101 courses. These colleges might award credits or allow you to forego them if they’re aware of your expertise in the subject.

Additionally, some schools may offer credit to students with military experience or time spent working abroad. Could your years spent in Spain equate to some Spanish course credits? Could your freelance web design company cover some of your basic business courses? It never hurts to ask!

Even if your college does not offer credit for past experience, there may be opportunities to capitalize on internship opportunities. The benefits here are threefold: you can earn credit for your work; you can gain practical field experience; and you could be earning a paycheck on top of it all.

6. Enroll in a competency-based learning program

If you haven’t yet chosen a school to attend, explore those that offer competency-based learning options. This modern philosophy allows students to learn at their own pace and earn their degree on their schedule.

Competency-based programs will give you the freedom to navigate your courses independently, completing your tasks on your own time without deadlines. You’ll progress through your assignments by proving what you know, working as quickly or slowly as needed to master the required concepts.

Program specifics will vary depending on the school, but competency-based programs are notorious for saving students time and money. While this model is still fairly new to the higher education scene, competency-based learning is generating increased interest and awareness nationwide.

Get on the fast track

With college, as with many things in life, it pays to be a go-getter. If you’re already asking yourself how to finish college faster, it’s clear you’ve got your goal in sight and the motivation to achieve it.

Utilize these tips to get the most bang for your tuition bucks and acquire the practical knowledge and training you need to advance your career. The sooner you have your degree in hand, the sooner you can start reaping the rewards.

Want to learn more about how to earn your degree faster at Rasmussen College? Visit our Flex Choice page to see your options!


This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen College to support its educational programs. Rasmussen College may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit for a list of programs offered. External links provided on are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college and Public Benefit Corporation.

Brianna is a freelance writer for Collegis Education who writes student focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She earned her MFA in poetry in 2014 and looks for any opportunity to write, teach or talk about the power of effective communication.

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