My Plan to Graduate College Early

Andrea Quezada / University of Charleston »

When I first started college, I was ready for four years of learning. However, as my first semester progressed, I realized that if I tried hard enough, I could graduate in three years. The University of Charleston (West Virginia) offers a fast-track program, something that many advisors would recommend. I talked to upperclassmen in my program, my professors, my advisors, and my parents, discussing the benefits and disadvantages that this program offers. I decided to give it a try and signed up for the fast-track program. After a lot of planning, I created a plan to graduate college early. 

I first learned of the fast-track program midway through my first semester. When my advisor mentioned this possibility, I was surprised to learn that graduating college in three years was a possibility, as I had just added a second major. And yet, my advisors believed that it was more than possible. Together, we developed a plan that included taking up to 21 credit hours a semester. I was a little nervous. What if I couldn’t handle having so many credits in a semester? What if I failed a class because of the academic stress? I took a leap of faith, however, and pursued the fast-track program. 

Getting Started on the Fast Track

My second semester was the first semester in which I took 21 credits. All my friends would tell me I was crazy. Why did I want to put the extra stress on myself? Why did I want to have so many classes and spend so many hours studying? However, I knew what I wanted to do, and taking 21 credits was not as hard as I thought it was going to be. Sure, I had to spend more time on homework, and I had to spend more time studying, but having an “extra” class turned out to be something I really enjoyed. As a non-athlete at UC, I had most of my afternoons free. I had no practice to go to, nor any games to travel to. So, while most of my peers were busy training or traveling, I was studying. And just like they enjoyed being an athlete, I enjoyed studying. By the time my friends were over with their practice, I would be done with my homework. Having 21 credits did not stop me from having fun or hanging out with my friends. 

My second year came along, and things started to get a little tricky. Now, I was taking 200-level classes like any sophomore while also taking 300-level classes like a junior. Classes were harder and homework took longer. On top of that, I had to make time for internships. The first three or four weeks of the semester were a struggle. I had to learn how to juggle everything while also making sure I had time to have fun and be with friends. However, once I created a routine for myself, everything became easier. I had enough time every day to go to class, go to my internship, do homework, and hangout with my friends. Since I was able to master 21 credits, I decided I needed another challenge. 

Doubling Up

After verifying with my advisors that I could still graduate in three years, I decided to add a psychology minor the second semester of my second year. If I still had 21 credits each semester and took a summer class, I was still going to be early to stay on the fast-track plan. I decided to go through with it, and another challenge started. I think the biggest issue I had was taking the time out of my summer to take the class. It was hard at times to stay home for a couple of hours studying while all my friends were hanging out having fun. However, I pushed through and was able to have a nice, fun summer while also being responsible and studying for my class. At this point, I had two years down and one to go. 

To my surprise, my senior year of college was going to be different from the others. I was able to take only 18 credits each semester. I was not going to have to go to as many classes as I had been used to. I was not going to have such a big homework load. This turned out to be great, as right before the year started, I was asked to join the cheerleading team. I decided to join and start a different challenge. Now, I had to learn how to juggle classes and homework with practice and traveling. After a couple of weeks, I was able to get a routine down and not struggle with timing through my days. I was still getting the grades I wanted, I was cheering for my school, and I was having fun in my last year of college. 

Looking Back

My peers used to tell me all the time, “I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know how you can handle all the stress and the content load while also having fun.” To be honest, most of the time I don’t know how I was able to do it. Were there times when I wanted to quit the fast-track program? Yes, many. However, I had to decide what I wanted the most and think about how this was going to benefit me in the long run. I was going to be able to go to graduate school a year early, I was going to be able to have my parent’s support for a little more time, and I was going to have the satisfaction of knowing that I did not give up on a goal I had set my freshmen year. 

As I get ready to start my last semester of college and reminisce on my college career, I don’t think there’s anything I regret doing. I am happy to say that I will be graduating after three years with a double Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications with a minor in Psychology. Thanks to the fast-track program at UC, I was able not only to learn in the class, but also to learn how to manage my time to the best of my abilities—and how to keep moving forward when times get tough.