Speed Degree: Benefits of Finishing College Fast

Shelbie WilliamsJan 21st, 2021

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Earning a degree is not a quick process.

Over half of people pursuing a bachelor’s degree for the first time take longer than the standard four years to graduate.   Even more sobering are the statistics for students over the age of 30. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 84% take more than six years to graduate. Worst of all, half of students over 30 take more than 162 months to earn their bachelor’s degrees. Can you imagine spending 13 years of your life in college?

Every additional year that a student delays graduation, they lose money. Often, these students are balancing their long years of study with other priorities such as full-time employment and caring for their families. A traditional college program with mandatory attendance and scheduled class times makes it difficult to finish a degree quickly.

Is there a better way? Can college be shortened?

The answer is yes, and it's not as complicated as you might think. Here are 6 ways to drastically shorten your college experience:

1. Save your commute

Traveling to (or within) a campus can be a big timewaster. Think of the hours that students roam the halls, run across campus, or drive through traffic to attend classes. Even if you only commute for 30 minutes a day, over the course of a school year you’ll spend 75 hours just to get to class! With the ever-increasing popularity of online courses (about a third of all students take at least one online course during college), most colleges and universities are rushing to join the modern age. In summary: online courses eliminate commute time.

2. Don't take courses with fixed schedules

In-person classes typically involve a greater time commitment than online classes, but not all online courses are equal. Some classes have mandatory testing dates, require you to virtually attend lectures at fixed times, or spread the material over an entire semester. Students looking for a faster path to graduation should avoid courses with rigid schedules. Students in our Global Digital Classroom complete self-paced online courses in 8 weeks or less (as opposed to the 15 weeks required for a typical semester-based course) because they’re allowed to complete the material as quickly as they desire and study anywhere, anytime.

3. Don't spend two years on General Education courses

General Education or “Gen Ed” credits make up between a third and a half of every bachelor’s degree and cover a wide variety of standard subjects. These core education courses are typically unrelated to the major and often include information that many students have already fully or partially covered in high school. Because these courses tend to cover wider, more general topics, taking them in a flexible online format is a great way to expedite college. For example, when I had to repeat Precalculus for my bachelor’s degree, it only took me a few weeks to refresh my high school knowledge and complete the class.

4. Earn credit for what you already know

Another way to speed up college is by earning credit for skills or knowledge you already have. Many colleges award credit for expertise gained outside of a classroom with Prior Learning Assessments (PLA). Other institutions offer credit-by-exam, which test knowledge on a subject and award college credit via a single pass/fail exam.


Pearson Accelerated Pathways offers a quick way to enroll in courses and skilled advisors to help you graduate faster. Learn more about Accelerated Pathways and discover whether it is a good fit for you.


5. Transfer courses from other institutions

Most colleges or universities allow you to apply transfer credits from other institutions to your degree, as long as the transfer courses fit your degree requirements. While mastering the art of transfer credit takes a little work (or the dedicated support of our credit transfer experts) to make sure no credits go to waste, you can save time and money on your degree by outsourcing flexible college credit options.

6. Plan ahead so you don't take unnecessary courses

While transferring credits can be optimized to shorten a degree (as mentioned in the previous point), many students unfamiliar with the process lose college credits when changing schools or picking back up on a set-aside degree track. Colleges don’t have a one-size-fits-all degree template. In fact, every single college has different degree requirements. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree, the average student takes 12-15 extra credits that do not transfer. This amounts to wasting an entire semester on classes they had to pay for but didn’t count toward their degree at all. Students can save on both time and debt by creating a college plan in advance to minimize credit waste (or they can enroll in a program like Pearson Accelerated Pathways, which guarantees degree plans and protects the student from wasting their time, energy, and college funds.)

The traditional college experience isn't the right move for everyone, and the cost is far outpacing the average person's ability to pay for it. Here at Pearson Accelerated Pathways, we help forward-thinking students find a better, faster way to achieve their educational goals so they can graduate quickly, move forward in fulfilling careers, and build a life after school without debt.

College can be challenging, but it doesn't have to take up a tenth of your life. When you share your college objectives with one of our skilled advisors here at Pearson Accelerated Pathways, you'll receive a free customized degree plan designed by our credit transfer experts. Take a few moments to find out if Accelerated Pathways is a good fit for you!

Shelbie Williams

If Shelbie has a cup of tea, a good book, or a deep conversation, she is a happy camper. With a background in accounting, classical music, and blogging, she believes learning is one of life's greatest adventures.