If you’re jumping into college for the first, second or even third time, you may be sweating a bit over some of the details. Will you like your courses? Have you chosen the right major? Will you be able to get the help you need from professors?
In reality, the overwhelming question for most American students is very simple: will you actually graduate at the time you plan to? It’s a massive problem in the U.S. today.
Elite private schools often see 100% of students graduate in four years In their bachelor degree programs. But elite schools are just a small percentage of America’s colleges. If you look at the vast number of public universities, online schools, community colleges and small private schools, graduation rates are absolutely terrible, and they have been for years.
Less Than Half Succeed
Even the better state universities only see about 65% of their full time students finish a degree in four years. The national average at all colleges and universities is downright shocking. Just 40% of all college students in the nation are now closing out a degree in four years.
The cost of all this is high. Staying on for an extra year of study is costing American college students about $15 billion per year. That adds, in many cases to the crushing debt so many college graduates carry with them after completing school.
A big problem is that many students overestimate their abilities to handle the toughest college courses. If the environment at the school is not supportive, that can lead to the student dropping out before ever finishing a degree – a terrible result that leaves the student in debt but without any skills or credentials to get a job.
Finishing a degree in five or six years is a better, but still not wonderful result. Graduating with 50% more debt than originally planned can create tremendous pressure to get a job, any job at all, to start paying down loans.
One key that can help you avoid getting bogged down: Make sure you know exactly which courses are required for your major, and get them done right at the start. Taking the courses that interest you most and having to circle around later and take your required ones can throw you off track of some of your required courses happen to be full or unavailable when you need them.