A bachelor’s degree is no longer optional but necessary if you hope to have any chance of getting accepted in the workforce or promoted in the workplace, which has gotten tremendously competitive over the past decade.
But still, obtaining a bachelor’s degree can never seem to be accomplished any quicker. That’s because it requires at least four years of active participation and time dedicated to the long hours for the academic pursuit.
Some folks may even spend more than four years if they happen to fail one of their classes or don’t take the expected amount of credit in one semester, so they end up paying more and spending more time, on top of the four years that already seen unbearable.
A lot can happen in four years: You grow from age 14 to 18 in high school (and from age 18 to 22 in college), you have a leap year every four years with that one extra day on February 29, you have a new US president swearing into office, etc.
Besides, maybe you are older than the typical college student and have a family to take care of, so your previous time is even more scarce.
For what it’s worth, there are shortcuts you could take to get your degree faster without sacrificing the quality of your education, that might just work for you.
Advanced Placement Head Start
If you happen to be in high school as well as have the time, capability, and academic prerequisites in place from previous classes…you may have some college credit coming your way.
AP classes are a great way to get your bachelor’s degree faster because you have the opportunity to earn college credits before ever starting college, plus you can take them even before senior year.
The Advanced Placement (AP) program is recognized by most colleges, and it consists of any college-preparatory class that you can take to prepare your for that subject’s AP exam, i.e., AP English, AP U.S. History, AP French, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, etc. (For a complete list of available AP courses, visit the College Board – the same folks who are in charge of them: https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/apcourse)
Whether or not you earn those credits will be determined by your AP exam score that is administrated near the end of the semester. You’ll need to score a 3+ to actually gain the college credit, and some universities may require a 4+ (i.e., University of Southern California: http://arr.usc.edu/services/articulation/adv_placement_exam_credit.html); thus, you’ll need to check with your specific college’s AP credit transfer policy.
This all sounds nice, huh? But you have to be an excellent student and ensure that the college you want to go to admits this kind of program. The AP classes and exams will be just as rigorous as an actual college class and exam; therefore, if you are not prepared for this kind of challenge, don’t try to waste your time.
If your high school doesn’t offer the AP program or that particular AP class you want, you have the option of taking your AP classes online, but you will have to prepare for the AP exams yourself.
By doing this, it’s possible you could get your degree in almost two years, saving you time and money. How great is that?
To enroll in one of these classes and complete them properly you should first consider:
– Is it going to affect my overall GPA?
Taking AP classes will get you noticed on your college application, but if you are going to perform badly in them, lowering your GPA, then taking them makes no sense at all. So if you are already struggling in your regular classes, don’t bite off any more than you can chew by enrolling in a class that is simply beyond your current capacity.
– Have I already excelled in the subject I want to enroll in?
If you are a terrible science student, then why on earth would you enroll in “AP Environmental Science”? It’s common sense. Don’t go for subjects you don’t already know or excel at because if you do, you’ll experience a hurdle of setbacks than a mountain of progress.
Now then, if you find that you have what it takes, met the class perquisites, and are up to the challenge, then this is how you should go about the AP-shortcut towards getting your bachelor’s degree faster.
STEP 1: Decide on your major and college. When you are applying for college, the College Board (https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/home) will be the one to send your AP result to the colleges you’ve selected. You can do all of the registration on https://cbaccount.collegeboard.org/iamweb/smartRegister in case your school doesn’t provide this kind of program already.
STEP 2: Having selected a major and college, find out which AP courses will get you credits that you can actually use in your field. For example, if you are interested in becoming an Economist, you could sign up for these courses: AP Statistics, AP Macroeconomics, or AP Microeconomics. You can get all of this information about the courses with their aimed careers at https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/apcourse, and for summer AP courses here: https://www.apexlearningvs.com/advanced-placement
STEP 3: Check whether there is a policy regarding AP credit transfer for the college you’re interested in. Know which colleges accept AP credits here: https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/creditandplacement/search-credit-policies
The amount of credits you get varies from college to college.
STEP 4: Enroll only in the AP classes that you’ll surely excel in, and pay for all the necessary fees. Nothing good comes for free in life, right? So yes, you’ll have to pay a fee for each AP exam you take, but think about the precious time that you’ll be saving – nothing like having your bachelor’s degree by the time you’re 21. Know the fees and payment policies here: https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/takingtheexam/exam-fees
Competency-Based College Programs
Competency-based college programs are fairly new but are gaining ground at more and more universities. The core of the program is offering people who already have a great deal of experience in a given area, the opportunity to “exchange” that experience for college credit.
Thus, if you are in desperate need to get your degree in a year’s period and you are well-experienced in a field, then this is will be a pretty viable option for you. You would not only be saving time but also a considerable amount of money.
However, this program is usually addressed to folks who are older and have worked in a related field for some time or for those who have a certain amount of college credit, but no degree.
Before you turn towards this option, you should consider some pros and cons of it…you know, to sort it out the right way.
This is a mostly a self-education based approach with the whole point of encouraging a learning experience that is both personal and flexible; however, they do require a lot of work and organization from students.
If you’re not a self-motivated person, you should just go through the normal four years. Less time doesn’t mean less effort – in any case, means more effort.
STEP 1: If you don’t have any official document or job-training certificate that can back up your experience and knowledge, then you can start by taking College Level Examination Programs or CLEPs exams in order to fast forward your student years.
You can see the exams that are offered here: https://clep.collegeboard.org/exams. However, these exams will only get you through the first two years of the full four years that it usually takes to get your degree. Nevertheless, you’ll save two years and some money.
STEP 2: Take into account the things that can be relevant to your enrollment advisors:
– Work experience related to your chosen degree.
– Completed seminars or on-the-job training with certification.
– Independent studying that you can prove you’ve gotten (e.g., any massive open online course).
– Military training and national testing programs.
– Examinations such as CLEP, AP, IB, DSST, and UExcel exams.
– Previously completed college courses.
– Volunteer work may count, but not to any degree – so it will depend on what you’ve chosen and what kind of volunteering.
You can get as many as 75% credit recognition based only on your life and work experiences; hence, working on your Prior Learning Assessment portfolio will be a big deal. This portfolio needs to be an anthology of all your experiences, essays, résumés, documentation of prior and current jobs, credits of your volunteer work, job training, and basically all things that can accredit your knowledge and experience in the subjects related to your striving bachelor’s degree.
STEP 3: Find the college experience based program that best suits your needs. There are several colleges you can enroll that have this program, but not all of them allow students to get their degrees only by the experience-based program. If you want to get your degree fully on life experience program, then you can check out Excelsior College (http://www.excelsior.edu) programs, Thomas Edison State College (http://www.tesu.edu) or the Western Governors University (http://www.wgu.edu).
These experience-based programs redefine the traditional undergraduate experience because you could end up getting your bachelor’s degree in the blink of an eye.
Classic Online Education with an Accelerated Twist
Oh, the mighty internet! The convenience of online classes has allowed anybody to be able to study anywhere without actually leaving their house or spending ridiculous amount of money wasted away confined in boring lecture room.
Now, with the accelerated pace of contemporary society, such online classes are getting shorter yet more concentrated.
This leads us to the fast-track degree programs, where you can get your bachelor degree in a more reasonable amount of time. But, just like the other programs, they do require a full commitment on your part to your education.
With all of these online options, anybody can get their degree faster and economically.
So, here is what you need to do:
STEP 1: Locate online bachelor’s degree programs that are accredited. You can find the list here: https://www.geteducated.com/online-degrees/bachelor
STEP 2: Select the program that offers the degree you want. Adhering to the program you’ve chosen, custom-tailor a study plan to figure out how many courses you can tackle at once. Anticipate the amount of homework and quizzes that you will be assigned, especially if you happen to take modalities that increase the pace of your natural six-months class periods into just eight weeks that can drive you to the edge of madness (which if you don’t thrive “under pressure” you should reconsider).
STEP 3: Do not go crazy with the amount of subjects you enroll. Yes, you need that degree fast, but you’re also aiming for quality, aren’t you? So be realistic with your schedules including your homework time.
The Best of Both Worlds Simultaneously
As you should realize by now, fast forwarding your life can get tricky. Always keep in mind that when it comes to fast results, all the weights are on your own shoulders.
Nobody says that college will be easy in any regard. You’ll still have to spend some money on your education (even if you’re on scholarships or financial aids), set time to complete your homework and study, and be active as a student to grant yourself a quality education.
With all this said, however, the amazing thing about these fast-track alternatives to getting your bachelor’s degree is that they present the opportunity to juggle between several activities.
Whether you’re an 18-year-old student or a mid-40’s veteran, you will utilize the best of your time, and no more being stuck in the rut all because a degree is needed to get that promotion or advancement in your career.
Of course, it’s not going to be all moonlight and roses. Stress and pressure are going to occur…if you’re not organized. So keep track and intact of all your fast-goals and knock them out as quickly as possible, and you should have no problem.
Remember, whenever you feel overwhelmed and on the edge of throwing in the towel, focus on the positivity of all the time you’re saving by taking this fast-route and the reward it will bring you on the other side of the tunnel for many years to come, just by continuing this path for a couple years.
Either way, you’re winning, so why wouldn’t you kick it up a notch for a while?