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Why It’s Okay if You Don’t Graduate in Four Years

Sep 23, 2022 05:58 PM

Completing an undergrad degree only takes four years, right? Well, maybe not… and that’s okay! 

The new reality is that a lot of students don’t end up graduating in the traditional four year window. In fact, a recent CNBC study found that only 41% of college/university students graduate in 4 years or less. You may feel alone as you take a 5th year or feel stressed about planning to take an extra year or two to graduate, but clearly, you are not alone (I’ll give you a moment for a sigh of relief). 

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why students like you might not graduate “on time”: 

Changing Majors 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 80% of students change their majors before they graduate (I was surprised by this, too!). 

Depending on when you change your major (and for some, what you change it to), it can delay your graduation date. Although this may be discouraging to some, if you feel like the choice to refocus your studies on something else is helping you to reach your goals, then you’ve hit the jackpot! 

Taking an Internship Term

This is what I did. 

While it is taking me a whole extra year to graduate, I know that I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity to supplement your classroom learning with real world experiences and hands-on learning. 

If you ask me, it’s never a bad idea to graduate with relevant job experience!


I know you saw this one coming. 

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic presented us with so many unprecedented changes in all facets of life, including class delivery. For this reason, many students opted to pause their studies to combat the mental stress of completing school online.

There’s nothing wrong with preferring to learn in a real classroom setting, and I hope this year brings you everything you wanted in terms of your education (yay for being back on campus!)

Working during studies 

Some students have to be financially responsible and independent, and may have to work during their studies (sometimes full-time) to offset the costs of education. Some students may have to take a reduced course load to afford their post-secondary education to deal with financial barriers, if they face them. 

There is nothing wrong with working during your studies, and you should know that your hard work is paying off (even if it doesn’t always feel like it!) 

Changing Schools 

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reports that 37% of post-secondary students end up transferring their educational career. 

Unfortunately, credits for completed courses don’t always transfer to the new school. 

Again, if you don’t feel like the school you originally chose is a good fit for you, the best thing you can do is switch! Your happiness is so important! 

Final Thoughts 

While graduating in four years might be important to some students, putting the four-year timeline on it can be unnecessarily restrictive. 

It is so important to consider that every student works differently, at different paces, and are faced with different circumstances and challenges during their studies (education is not one size fits all, people!)

School does not define you and neither does the amount of time you spend in it!