It’s about you, not the calendar

Four-year graduation structure is not the rule

The common expectation for undergraduate graduation timeline is four years. However, it’s not always the best path for students. Here are some reasons to consider prolonging your time in undergraduate education at Portland State.

Professional, personal and academic life balance

PSU requires a minimum of 180 credits to graduate, with every major differentiating how credit hours must be dispersed. If students want to graduate in four years, they need to take 45 credits per academic year, excluding summer, which is 15 credits per term. This is no small task and a huge commitment, especially when students have part or full-time jobs, internships, sports and social and personal lives. Striking a balance at any age can be challenging. Depending on your situation, it can be worth cutting back on class hours to allow more time in other areas of your life.

Undecided Major

Rushing into a full schedule at the beginning of your university career isn’t beneficial if you don’t know what you want to study. About one-third of undergraduate students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program change their major at least once, and one in ten change their major at least twice. Changing your major often leads to unnecessary credit hours on your tuition bill. Slowing down and taking 6–10 credits your first couple years can allow you to explore new interests inside and outside of the classroom while getting major-related requirements out of the way.

Student Loans

Some say four years will be less expensive, but when looking at the big picture, this is not always the case when student loans are involved. About four in ten adults under age 30 are still paying off student loans including interest. Investing in yourself by taking on loans can be the right choice. However, working more to help pay the cost of tuition upfront can save you potentially thousands of dollars after graduation because of the interest rates you avoid later.

Life May Have a Different Plan

Some students may decide to take a break from college when opportunities like internships, travel, professional development or significant life changes come up. Not to worry; college will still be here when you get back. Taking a gap year—or years—may benefit your life and the time you spend in university after. It’s okay to decide to take a term or two off to focus on other interests.

Academic advisers at PSU can help make a graduation timeline, mapping out realistic goals. Currently, the Office of Student Success is developing customizable degree planners for students to help visualize their time in college. PSU also has many resources available for students who would like to graduate in four years.

It’s okay not to graduate in four years; it’s okay not to graduate in six years. It’s okay to have things in your life besides textbooks and class commutes. Prioritize your life by what you want, what works with your lifestyle and what is realistic. It’s about you, not the calendar.