How To Graduate College In Four Years

Many college students head to college, get side-tracked, and have to spend an extra semester or two before they graduate. For me, I didn't have a choice. I didn't want to take out more loans than I already had (I took out about $20,000 in loans at the undergraduate level.)

Part of my school money came from the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship which has a four-year maximum. If I didn't manage to graduate in four years, I wouldn't have had the money to keep going without taking out way more loans than I wanted to. So, I made my four-year time frame work, and today I am going to show you exactly how I did that.

How To Graduate College In Four Years | Graduation is one of the proudest moments ever, but how do you do so in an economical way? So many people seem to be graduating in five or six years now, but there is a way to stop that. Today on the blog I am sharing my best tips for graduating college in four years.

1. I Kept Up With My Own Class Records

My undergraduate institution had a perfect advising system. Our first year was spent with a general adviser, but if we declared our major, we had a professor as an adviser from our Sophomore-Senior years in college. I loved my adviser deeply, but I was such a control freak with making sure that I knew exactly where I stood when it came to graduation. I made and updated spreadsheets with my course schedules in it all the time; I have probably printed dozens of general education, major, and minor check sheets; and I just made sure that I was the most knowledgeable person about my own college education path.

Yes, your advisers can be the most helpful people in the world and I loved mine (and I even took two courses with her during my time in college), but you should take an interest in your own graduation check sheets. When your adviser is advising tons of students, it can be easy for your information to fall through the cracks. While that never happened with me, it could happen with you. Advisers get changed, advisers lose information, and then those things can have a major impact on your graduation time.

Related Reading: How To Make The Most Of Your Academic Advising Session

I Understood All Of My Requirements

With that being said, I also understood all of my requirements. Here are a few you need to consider:

  • How many total hours do you need to graduate? Usually this is around 120ish.
  • How many upper-division hours do you need? Your college career can't be strictly made up of freshman and sophomore level courses. You probably have a specific amount of your hours that have to be at the junior and senior level.
  • What courses do you need to take for your major(s) and minor(s)?
  • How many hours do your major(s) and minor(s) require?

Once you understand your requirements, you can make sure that your entire course schedule revolves around them. For instance, I had taken way too many freshman and sophomore level courses, and I almost didn't have enough hours to take all of my upper-division hours. I ended up taking 15 upper-division hours my last semester at UCA which happened to be just enough credits to fulfill my upper-division credit requirement.

2. I Took My Courses Seriously

I was never one to joke around with courses in college. Going to college is a privilege that not many people get to experience, so your course work needs to come first. Even if you are just taking a physical education class or a class on film theory, you need to take it seriously! When you do that, you are able to get a higher GPA, avoid academic probation, and make sure that all the courses you finish end up counting for something more than a harsh lesson.

Related Reading: How To Study When You Feel Unmotivated

3. I Didn't Drop Any of My Courses

Now, I did think about dropping my courses, but I never actually went through with dropping a course until I got to graduate school. By not dropping any of my courses I always got all of my credit hours each and every semester which was super helpful to graduating on time. Sometimes dropping courses is almost mandatory to avoid getting a super poor GPA, but I would not drop classes if you can avoid them. If you have to, you need to make them up at a later date.

Related Reading: Dropping A Class: The Happy Arkansan's Guide

4. I took full Course Loads Every Semester

I really thank the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship for that because it required me to take at least 15 hours ever semester except my first one (but I took 15 hours that semester too.) If you want to graduate in four years without summer classes you need to be taking at least 15-18 hours each semester. This means that you need to be a full-time student, otherwise it's pretty difficult to graduate in four years without a ton of extra summer semesters.

5. I Understood The Importance Of COurse Work Balance

Another thing that I did was understand the importance of balance. I tried to understand the different courses that I had to take and I never tried to pair too many difficult courses in one semester. Even if I had to take many upper-division courses in one semester, they weren't all built the same.

I understand that every major cannot have the same amount of balance, especially when you are a STEM major, but if you can, create some balance in your course load through a fun class or an easy class when possible.

Obviously you don't want to take Basket Weaving 101. You want the easier class to be pertinent to you or your interests. Think about which courses will be the most difficult and see if you can spread those out among all eight semesters versus taking multiple difficult classes in one semester.

6. I Decided On my Major My Freshman Year

Now, that's not to say that I didn't change around what I did quite a bit.

I started as a History/Sociology Double Major. After my first year I dropped my double major and majored in Sociology with a minor in Writing. After about another year I changed my minor from Writing to Public Relations. Finally right before my senior year I changed my minor for the last time to Anthropology because I could use some of the excess courses I had acquired in Sociology for an Anthropology minor. Last, but not least I did end up adding a Criminology concentration to my Sociology major literally right before I turned in my graduation paper work. I already had the hours from taking the Criminology concentration course work, so the people I was working with in the Sociology office convinced me to add the concentration right before I graduated.

In case all that was confusing, I ended up getting my Bachelor's in Sociology with a concentration in Criminology and a minor in Anthropology. Yeah, that's a handful.

While I changed my minor a lot, I knew when I needed to settle down and how to pick the best minor for the courses I had already taken. I never changed mymajor after my freshman year though.

If you can, stick with the major you love. College is tough, and you will need a lot more from a major than the fact that it will make a ton of money in the future. I am not saying that no one has genuine love for tough majors like those in the STEM field. You can totally adore all things STEM! But you also have to understand why you love STEM. Is it because that field has so many well-paying jobs or because that field really excites you? Most people I knew who went into STEM because of the money didn't make it, they only made it if they had a genuine love of STEM past their desire for a healthy paycheck later in life.

So, with that being said, use your freshman year to experiment, take courses outside of your comfort zone, etc. I am not rushing you to pick a major because there are probably a ton of general education requirements you need to get out of the way first, but the sooner you declare the better your chances of graduating on time.

7. I Sought Help When I Needed It

Last, but certainly not least, I sought help when I needed it. College can get tough and you never know when you may have an issue adjusting to something or doing something. Your college is filled with amazing resources to help you conquer all of those issues, but colleges aren't always the best at reaching out to people who need their resources (even though they try.) So you must be proactive, reach out to the right resources so that you can get over any speed bumps you may have. I would suggest reaching out to your academic adviser first because they can be extremely helpful with showing you resources you didn't even know your campus had.

Methods I didn't Use That Are Helpful

I was extremely lucky in that just doing the above helped me graduate on time. Here are a few other methods that will also potentially help you.

1. Consider Summer Courses

I never took a summer course until I went to graduate school, but taking a summer course can help you get back on track to graduate in four years.

I would consider taking a summer course so that you can focus on a particularly difficult class or so you can retake a course that you dropped during the year. If you take summer courses strategically, you may even be able to graduate early!

2. Enroll In The Four-Year Plan

If you don't mind losing a bit of your flexibility, many colleges often offer four-year plans before you sign up for your first courses. These plans are strict regimens that you take semester after semester that allow you to graduate in four years if you follow the plan to a t. Many schools offer these plans, but it's definitely not as flexible as creating your own four year plan.

Four-year plans (also known as degree plans, eight-semester plans, program completion plans, etc.) often focus on getting your general education requirements done extremely early in your college career. For example, the four-year plan for my alma mater wanted me to complete two science courses during my first year of college, which I just didn't want to do.

I would definitely encourage you to look over the four year plan for your school just to see if you like it. If not, they also are a great thing to model your own plan off of.

3. CLEP or AP Test Out Of Courses

Do you have a lot of knowledge already? You may want to use an AP or CLEP exam to get out of some of your college hours.

AP stands for Advanced Placement. If your school has any AP classes, you can get credit for courses by scoring a high score on the exam (usually by scoring a 3 or 4). This is great for testing out of courses like college writing, college algebra, world history, etc. The great thing about AP tests is that they are paid for by your high school so you don't have to pay for them out of pocket. They are extremely lengthy tests though and you have to be really prepared for them to make a good grade on them.

There is also a CLEP test. CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program. These tests run about $100 a piece (which is a fraction of the cost of a college course) but they also require a lot of preparation to master. Your school may have a limit on how many hours they will allow you to CLEP out of too, so remember that as you are deciding which tests to take.


Graduating in four years is not an easy feat. With so many distractions and the difficulty of college courses, more people are taking a longer time to graduate. For me, I graduated in four years out of necessity. I couldn't afford to spend longer than four years on my college degree, but you may have another reason for wanting to graduate on time. Whatever your reason, I hope this advice has helped you out!

Why Do/Did You Want To Graduate In Four Years?


Amanda Cross

My name is Amanda Cross and I am the blogger behind The Happy Arkansan. I am a 20 something college graduate, graduate student, and all around awesome person.

12 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went To College


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Download: Your Perfect Fall Bucket List

This weekend in Arkansas we finally got a bit of actual fall weather. It's warm so much of the year here in the south, so I was excited to actually get some weather in the 60s! I spent the weekend in front of hay bales and at a man-made lake for an upcoming post that I can't actually show you until November which is kind of a bummer, so to make up for that I decided to create a fall bucket list that you can start using today!

Download: Your Perfect Fall Bucket List: It's fall time which means leaves are changing colors and it's getting colder by the day. Click through for a fall bucket list that comes in multiple colors and is filled with fun fall activities for you to do no matter how much time you have!

Tuesday isn't my normal post day, so I don't want to take over your entire day today. I just wanted to pop in and share a cute fall bucket list I made on Photoshop. I created it in a burgundy, navy, and orange color. I think these colors remind me so much of fall, and that's why I chose them for my fall bucket list. Print this off and check things off as you accomplish them this fall. 

You obviously don't have to accomplish every task on this list, and there are so many I wish I had the room to add. Like, I didn't even get to mention fall festivals which were definitely my favorite thing as a kid. Cake walks and bobbing for apples, yes please!

So, if you are interested in having a cute little list of possible fall activities this PDF is right for you!

Click on the color you want to download the PDF!

College Fall Bucket List

Here are a few more things to add to your list in case you are in college right now:

  • Attend Homecoming
  • Walk campus looking for fall foilage
  • Attend a campus Halloween party
  • Try coffee at a new coffee shop in your college town (not mainstream coffee shops!)
  • Go somewhere fun for fall break
  • Have a scary movie marathon with your friends
  • Watch Hocus Pocus, Halloweentown, Twitches, and all those other fun Disney Channel Halloween originals so you can be reminded of your childhood
  •  Do it for the Instagram and have a fall photo shoot

Get Your Fall On!

Those are my general and college specific fall bucket list items, but this list is in no way an exhaustive one! I want to hear all of your suggestions.

What's on your bucket list this fall?


Amanda Cross

My name is Amanda Cross and I am the blogger behind The Happy Arkansan. I am a 20 something college graduate, graduate student, and all around awesome person.

12 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went To College


Subscribe to get instant access to my masterclass 12 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went To College so that you can create the best college life by learning from all the mistakes I made as a college student.

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How To Remember To Eat During Stressful College Times

Disclosure: This post was sponsored Tai Pei, all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

Upon reading this title, I know what you might be thinking:

Amanda, who forgets to eat? It's a basic human action, and of course, our stomach shouts at us when we don't eat.

To which I would counter, have you ever been hungry, but you couldn't eat right away, so then your stomach just accepts its lot in life and stops growling at you? I know that's happened to me more than a few times. College can get super stressful and before you know it, it could be 10 PM before you get the chance to eat a real meal. I am all about eating throughout the day, though!

Today on the blog I have teamed up with my friends at Tai Pei to let you know all about how you can remember to eat during those stressful college times like midterms and finals! Their delicious Asian food will help you when you feel hungry, and they are even offering my readers a $1 off coupon on any single serve Tai Pei bowl so you can enjoy their frozen fried rice!

AD: How To Remember To Eat During Stressful College Times | In this post, sponsored by Tai Pei, I share some simple tips that will help you remember to eat and make eating easier even during stressful college times like midterms and finals.

1. Set An Alarm

This is the most basic idea, but set an alarm on your phone that occurs daily to remind you to do a certain task. On the iPhone, there is an app called Reminders, go in there and set yourself a daily reminder to eat as many times as you need to. For you, that may look like 3+ reminders a day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and maybe even some snacks. Or, you may only need one reminder because you are pretty terrible at eating one meal in particular. For example, it's so easy to skip breakfast or work through lunch so you may not need all the reminders, just reminders for those meals in particular.

You want to set this around your schedule, so try to pick the most convenient alarm times for that. After all, you don't want an eat food alarm going off during class time.

2. Meal Prep For The Week

It can get easy to get frustrated when you are hungry now, but there are no meals at your house. 

There are so many easy meal recipes that you can make then freeze or refrigerate for a later date. Many students pick a specific day (usually Sunday) to prepare a ton of meals for the week, then they get some Tupperware to store it all in.

Meal prep is a great thing, especially if you have a slow cooker in your apartment because you can usually throw all the ingredients in the slow cooker, set it, then forget about it for a few hours while you run errands, do your homework, or even take a good old fashioned college nap!

3. Have Delicious Meals Ready To Go

If meal prepping is not your favorite thing in the world, there are so many great meals you can keep in your freezer for the moment when you want food NOW. I have been obsessed with Tai Pei lately, and I know that you will be too.

Tai Pei has wonderful frozen fried rice options for you to keep any time you need food, and they are very reasonably priced. At my local store, these dishes were only about $2.28! Want to try Tai Pei's frozen fried rice? Tai Pei is giving you a $1 off coupon on any Tai Pei single serve bowl if you click the last link! If your store is priced like mine, that means you can try a delicious meal from Tai Pei for just $1.28! Use the store locator to see where Tai Pai is available in your area.

Tai Pei meals are literally the easiest thing in the world to make. You keep them in the freezer and when you are ready to eat a meal you break the seal, pop it in your microwave for 4-5 minutes, let it set for 2 minutes, then you are ready to eat! It's such a good meal and it's very well seasoned. For this post, I picked up the Tai Pei Beef & Broccoli (my favorite Asian dish) along with the Tai Pei Sweet & Sour Chicken dish.

My Beef & Broccoli meal had tons of premium beef strips, rice, onion, and broccoli florets. My Sweet & Sour Chicken dish was filled with tons of things like carrots, bell peppers, onions, pineapple, rice, and of course tons of breaded white meat chicken. Each, with a few seconds of mixing, was coated in a delicious sauce that elevated both their flavors. I highly recommend trying these two dishes out when you need a quick meal!

When you have delicious meals like Tai Pei around your dorm or apartment, it can make eating in college so easy.

4. Set A Routine

Routine is so important when it comes to doing anything. When you have a routine set, it becomes easier for your body to adjust and do certain things automatically. Now, routine isn't always easy in college because you can't pick everything you have to do on a daily basis. Even if you can only pick a routine for certain days, it's better than having no routine at all.

So, develop a weekend routine, a morning routine, a nighttime routine, etc. If you can compartmentalize your routines so they are separate tasks, and not just have a daily routine, setting routines can be much easier.

5. Bring Food To School With You

Often, the reason that we just let our stomach growl so much it stops alerting us is because we didn't prepare in advance for our activities that day. So, bring snacks with you when you need to go to the library, or bring your Tai Pei with you if you have access to a microwave on campus. It's so easy to pack a lunch before you go to school, even if it is a light lunch! When you prepare for potential late night library study sessions during dinner time, by not only meal prepping but actually taking your lunch or dinner with you to school, you can cut down on a lot of unnecessary hunger during the day.


Eating throughout the day and not skipping meals is so important in college. There are already SO many stressful things happening, and the ever so awful freshman 15 waiting. It is important for us to eat right and take our meals seriously.

Remember: Eating Helps You Perform Your Best

When you skip meals or go through the day hungry, you are not performing your best. When I was in college, I couldn't focus on my homework or in class when I was really hungry. Now that I am a freelancer/blogger from home, I can't write the content that I need to write for y'all or my clients when I am hungry. So, remember to take a break and eat food so you feel refreshed.

Thanks again to my friends at Tai Pei, I will be sharing a few more stories with them in the coming months so be on the lookout for them to appear on the blog soon. While you are waiting, don't forget to try Tai Pei frozen fried race with a $1 single serve bowl coupon. Also, don't be afraid to check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Amanda Cross

My name is Amanda Cross and I am the blogger behind The Happy Arkansan. I am a 20 something college graduate, graduate student, and all around awesome person.

12 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went To College


Subscribe to get instant access to my masterclass 12 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went To College so that you can create the best college life by learning from all the mistakes I made as a college student.

I won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit