19 May The Truth About Graduation

Attending a four year college means you must graduate in four years, right? For many students who matriculate into four year colleges this isn’t the case. The data shows that most undergraduate students are not graduating in four years.

Four-Year Graduation Rates
Public colleges and universities: 33%
Nonprofit private colleges and universities: 53%

Six-Year Graduation Rates:
Public colleges and universities: 57%
Nonprofit private colleges and universities: 65%

Some colleges have graduation rates as low as 4%! This is a very good reason to reconsider applying.

College is expensive and spending an extra year (or more) is a huge unexpected expense for families. On average students who graduate in six years spend 40% more than those who graduate in four years. That’s A LOT of money that you can avoid spending if you’re careful.

Graduation may be delayed due to financial setbacks, changes in major (up to 80% of students will do so), transferring colleges (up to 34% of students do so), or other unplanned circumstances.However, it is not always student circumstances that affect graduation rates. A huge problem for students at less selective schools is that students can’t get the classes that they need to graduate on time. If this is a problem at a specific college then it might be best not to apply there.

The more selective colleges, with lower acceptance rates, tend to have higher graduation rates. This may be attributed to the fact that all of the students admitted are highly competitive and have the necessary skills and determination to complete all their required courses in time to earn their bachelor’s degree in four years. But, this does not always hold true so research is necessary.

Transferring can also affect a college’s graduation rates. Some colleges have low freshmen retention rates. When students transfer after freshmen year they are counted in the federal graduation calculations as students who did not graduate from that college. Therefore, it is important to check a college’s freshmen retention rate when the graduation rate is below what you would expect.

Overall, if the graduation rate of a college seems daunting then research that college and what it takes to graduate in four years. Sometimes doing an honors program will make the path to graduation smoother. Sometimes the graduation rate is only low for specific majors. The important thing to remember when choosing colleges is to do your research!

An additional “word to the wise”: Keep track of your credits. While doing a super fun elective is great and can help you to explore topics that you never envisioned before, remember to keep your required courses in mind. Many students complete more credits than actually needed to graduate, and this can delay their graduation date.