Graduating Early: A Two-Sided Experience

By Evana Brenelus

Graduating college early has always been a dream of mine and I am almost across the finish line. Finishing school early is not easy, but it can be worth it for some of us. 

I have always loved school and excelled in it. I began taking high school courses in middle school and when I got to high school, I had Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) courses for my first two years. Eventually, I switched to a high school that was full-time dual enrollment on a college campus for my last two years.

I graduated high school in 2021 with my Associate’s Degree and entered UT as a first-year freshman, but I had enough credits to be considered as a junior class standing. This year, I would technically be a sophomore, but I am a senior graduating in 2023 which also means I will be completing UT’s honors program in a much shorter time span than usual.

When I agreed to be part of the honors program, I had no idea UT was making so many changes to it. I have spoken to students who joined prior to 2021 who mentioned how simple things used to be, but I have had a different experience. Of course, I expected the honors program to be challenging, but completing it in two years rather than four has been quite exhausting.

If you plan on graduating early while in the honors program, you can reach out to your academic advisor and someone on the honors board to explore the best approach. They can show you all the courses you are required to take and which ones can be waived or replaced. I was able to get two honors classes waived with transfer credits, which only happened because I was willing to contact higher ups and ask questions. 

Graduating early means you are in a time crunch, so every step to keep yourself on track is important. With proper planning and great time management, anything is possible as far as academics go, but some aspects of your college experience cannot be controlled.

A downside of graduating early is losing time for your college experience and certain expectations that being a college student holds. Your first year can be a lonely experience as you try to navigate in an unfamiliar setting. 

I spent most of my first year closed off and did not socialize as much as I should have because I felt so out of place. But once you find people that become your new friends or family through an organization on campus, you gain new connections which will make your time away from home much more enjoyable. The memories you make will be with you even after finishing school so early. 

A pro to graduating early means you can take a gap year, or more, before throwing yourself to the wolves. You can begin graduate school or your career after taking some time for yourself. In that time, you can travel, study, get an internship and add more experiences to your portfolio.

Graduating early has its pros and cons and the experience differs for everyone. Some may not care about anything except for school while others want a full college experience. Even when graduating from college at an early age, it is easy to feel as if you have not done enough. Think back to all of the accomplishments you have made in just a few short years, and remember that it is okay for the graduation experience to be different for everyone.

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