15 to Finish: Graduate on time

When you enroll in college you probably start out with some specific expectations – including the amount of time it will take to complete your degree.

If you are attending college full time, you likely expect to graduate with an associate degree in two years or a bachelor’s degree in four years.

Here’s the problem – more than half of Missouri students do not earn enough credit hours each semester to graduate on time. Many students may not even realize they are making this mistake.

Students can come up short for a variety of reasons. They may limit themselves to 12 credit hours per semester since 12 hours is considered full time to qualify for most financial aid programs. They might start with 15 credit hours but drop a course or two as the semester progresses. They may need to retake courses in order to earn a higher grade so the credit will count toward their degree.

Why does this matter?

Staying in college an extra year or more comes at a price. The longer you stay in school, the more it costs. An extra year of tuition, fees, room and board, and books, plus the money you could have earned if you had graduated and gotten a full-time job can add up to $50,000 or more. For many students, another year in school also means more student loan debt.

What’s the solution?

Do the math!

  • Know how many credit hours you need for your degree. Determine how many credit hours you need to complete each semester to earn an associate degree in two years or a bachelor’s degree in four years.
  • When you register for classes, think 15 to finish. You need to complete at least 15 credit hours each semester to put you on track to graduate on time. Make sure the credit hours you earn count toward your specific degree, so map out the courses you need.
  • If you aren’t averaging 15 credit hours a semester, consider summer school or online courses to help you stay on track. If you’re still in high school, AP and dual credit classes can help you get a head start on earning college credit.

Talk to your parents and your advisers about the courses you need to reach your college and career goals. Focus on 15 or more credit hours a semester to graduate on time.