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In Academics on
October 18, 2017

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 framework, 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’ve 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 to me, it could happen to 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 coursework 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 every semester except for 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 paperwork. I already had the hours from taking the Criminology concentration coursework, so the people I worked 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.

Picking A Minor That Coincided With The Courses I Took

While I changed my minor a lot, I knew when I needed to settle down and pick the best minor for the courses I had already taken. I never changed my major 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 advisor 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?

In Lifestyle on
August 7, 2017

Graduation 2017: I Am A Master’s Graduate!

Whew, this weekend was pretty crazy, y’all!

I am so excited to finally chat with y’all about this weekend and let y’all in on all the details of what I am doing next.

 Graduation 2017: I Am A Master's Graduate | Take a look behind the scenes of my graduate school graduation. Learn all of the thoughts going through my head as I shoved tons of bobby pins into my hair. Let's chat about what's next for The Happy Arkansan as well!

Being Really Confused By my Graduation Gown

I literally thought that my gown was a manufacturer error, y’all. Apparently Master’s gowns have these interesting flaps on the arms that go past the arm holes. It’s some real haute couture fashion. I had no idea that these things did that, and it was awkward AF to ask a question about it only to be told that it’s just what the gowns look like. It was so cool to be decked out in my robe, hood, etc.

Graduation 2017: bought to you by bobby pins

If you know the story of my college graduation, you know the story of my cap. My cap literally fell off my head while I was trying to shake the hand of the dean of my department. This is on video tape. It’s hella embarrassing. This year I embarked to find all the bobby pins and shove them in my cap so this wouldn’t happen. In total I added four bobby pins into my hair, and it worked like a charm. This was all the more important because this time my cap wouldn’t even give me the illusion that it was going to stay on my head. I found some community bobby pins, and I went to work.

A little later on I heard someone say that someone had took all the bobby pins and only left two. I wonder who that person could have been? If only they had seen the horror I’d seen in 2015.

Hurry Up & Wait

One of my least favorite parts about graduation is the hurry up and wait of it all. You have to be in the room at a certain time, but once you are there all you really do is wait. Luckily I had a classmate who was also graduating this summer so I just chatted with her during the time while I waited for us to line up.

On Being Super Close

This graduation I was super close to the stage. I was in the front row, in fact. This year my college (the College of Liberal Arts & Communications) was at the front of the second section of seats. Since I was getting a Master’s degree, I sat before all the people with Bachelor’s degrees. Therefore, I ended up sitting on the very front row. I was that close during my high school graduation because I was in the top five of my class, but when there are only 55 people graduating, everything feels close. This was a new level of close though since I was graduating with like 1,000 people.

 This is my dad. He is one of the best people I know and the photographer behind all of the blog pictures that I create in house.

This is my dad. He is one of the best people I know and the photographer behind all of the blog pictures that I create in house.

Shout Out To My Supportive Family

There were SO many times during this process that I was sure I wasn’t going to make it to see graduation day. This process was very stressful. Without my family constantly cheering me on and getting me to the finish line, I don’t think I would have made it past my first semester. Finishing this degree was awesome, but it was made more awesome because of my amazing family cheering me on every step of the way.

I want to thank all the people in my life who made this possible, especially my family.

 This is my girl gang. It consists of my niece, sister, and my mother.

This is my girl gang. It consists of my niece, sister, and my mother.

What’s Next For The Happy Arkansan

Well, I am going to be focusing on writing for the time being. I have literally been going to school since I was three years old so taking a break from it for a while seems great. I gave myself a year. During that year I will focus on deciding if getting my PhD is right for me. I personally couldn’t imagine jumping right back into school after the year I have had though.

I decided that during that time, I would take some time, and build up my blog and freelance career. Again, I am so lucky to have a supportive family that helps to support me during this time while I build up my blog. I am so excited about the things I have planned to take this blog to the next level this year. I will wake up every day with grace in my heart ready to tackle the next adventure so that I can grow this blog to bigger and better things.

 Another shot with my sister!

Another shot with my sister!

Thanks For allowing me to have fun doing what I do!

Without the support of my readers over these last few years I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking this huge leap of faith. Thank you for supporting my blog, continuing to come back for more encouragement, and making me excited about the future. I can’t wait to grow this blog with you over the next year. Let’s see where we can go!

In Lifestyle on
April 3, 2017

Beautiful Graduation Gifts With Minted

Note: This post was sponsored by Minted but all opinions are my own.

Happy Monday, y’all! Today on the blog I am back with another post from Minted to showcase exactly what I got when I was able to shop from the Minted website.

Before you check out this new post take a look at my previous post from Minted “How To Have A Great Graduation Season With Minted” This is where I really detail some great options for what to get around this time and I give my advice on how to survive graduation season. This post will most revolve around a video where I show you exactly what I hauled from Minted.

 Beautiful Graduation Gifts With Minted | Click through to se some of the beautiful graduation gifts I was able to get in my collaboration with Minted. Get excited to watch my latest haul and get to know why I picked the gifts I did as well as look back to the larger post I made about Minted and graduation season.


What I hauled:
Class Grad-Foil Pressed Graduation Announcements
Pink Wash Business Cards
Parisian Windows Wall Art Print
Arkansas Map Foil-Stamped Wall Art

1) Class Grad-Foil Pressed Graduation Announcements

I hauled these announcements because I was obsessed with the actual gold foil on them. They were simple, but beautiful and I can’t wait to send them off in the next month or so. They are perfect for any graduating senior and I am so in love with how these turned out. I hope you love them to or that you get to check out their other graduation announcements on the site. I shared some of my favorites in the post from a few weeks ago

2) Pink Wash Business Cards

Business cards are a necessity in my opinion for anyone who is getting out of college. I adore these business cards because they are fun and feminine. I do wish they had a bit more space for a longer email address, but other than that I am obsessed with these cards and I can’t wait to use them to wow anyone I really want to work with when it comes to freelance blogging or social media.

3) Parisian Windows Wall Art Print

Wall art is basically my favorite thing in the entire world so when I saw this piece I knew I needed it in my life. Wall art is a great gift for graduating seniors because you need decor to make your dorm room (if you are graduating from high school), your office, your apartment, or wherever you head to after school ends more home-y. I adore this limited edition wall art because it is just so beautiful. Plus, I was also able to get a piece that was signed by the artist which makes me even more happy.

4) Arkansas Map Foil-Stamped Wall Art

I have had my eye on this piece from Minted for what feels like forever. Getting yourself or your grad a foil stamped map is the perfect way to celebrate their time in college (especially if you went to college out of state, you are moving out of state, or even if you just love the state you attended college in.) I, of course, chose the state of Arkansas because I am The Happy Arkansan after all, but there are SO MANY states to chose from so feel free to choose the one that speaks to you.

Final thoughts

Minted has created some beautiful gifts for graduating seniors on their website. You can choose something more practical like a business card or a notebook or you can go for something that will help their new apartment feel like home. I am so in love with the artistry that Minted offers when they ship products to your home. I cannot say enough great things about the products that I was able to get from Minted and I thank them for sponsoring these posts and videos.

In Lifestyle on
March 20, 2017

How To Have A Great Graduation Season With Minted

This post was sponsored my Minted. Thanks to the lovely individuals over at Minted for sponsoring this post about graduation for my readers.

Graduation season is quickly approaching. Even though it’s just March I know that all graduating seniors probably have a countdown already starting on their phone, computer, and anywhere else with a clock. Most graduating seniors could probably tell me when they’d be graduating down to the second if asked (just kidding, but really…😂) I have attended quite a few graduations over the last few years and I have graduated both high school and college. In August I will be graduating with my Master’s in Sociology. I cannot wait to provide my tips on how to have a great graduation season and make it through the season (realteively) unscathed.

 How To Have A Great Graduation Season With Minted | The process leading up to, during, and after graduation is difficult. Most people don't know what to expect because a college graduation is so different from high school graduation. Click through for my tips on what to do before, during, and after graduation so that you have a successful graduation season.

So, first and foremost, you may be be asking, what is Minted? Well, my friends, Minted is a wonderful service that allows you to support local artists by browsing a site filled with designs from artists all over the world. Minted has a vareity of products on their website and they are all so beautiful and diverse. The Minted artists really know what they are doing and so does the Minted team when it comes to choosing the art that is showcased on their site. These artists make everything an art form, even the simplest invitation. You are bound to find a beautiful personalized gift on their website.

Before The Ceremony

There are many tasks that need to get done before you slip into your cap and gown and walk across the stage. These are my tips for the things you should do before your graduation ceremony.

don’t neglect your school work

If you haven’t had spring break yet you are going to have it soon. The after Spring Break excitement of getting ready to be done with college is real. You cannot let this interfere with your school work, especially if you are taking any mandatory college classes this semester, which you may be doing.

If you are not graduating this year, try to take your last mandatory classes in the fall semester of your senior year. The spring semester is not nearly as productive because graduation is so close you can almost taste it.

I tried and succeed at taking my mandatory capstone class during the fall semester of my senior year which was SO HELPFUL because while I was worried about making sure my grades were good, I wasn’t stressing out about my classes as much because I knew that a C or B wouldn’t stop me from graduating. (I made a 3.8 my last semester though so I didn’t go too crazy.)

It is so important to take your school work seriously so that you can end your college years strong. Plus, nothing is set in stone until you get your diploma. Your graduation isn’t set in stone, your graduate school attendance isn’t set in stone, everything is in the air still. I say this, not to scare you, but to make sure you know the gravity of the situation.

Think About your invitations and graduation photos

Inviting family and friends to your college graduation is so important, especially if you are one of the first ones in your family to graduate college. People want to see you succeed. You don’t necessarily have to take graduation photos to get your invitations done, but getting glammed up for a graduation shoot is the perfect way to get excited about graduation and the next steps in your life. Plus, if the photographs are great you could potentially use them for headshots as you are looking for a career.

Minted has all sorts of beautiful designs for graduation announcements. Some of them even have real foil in them. Here are just a few of my favorite announcements so you can get a great picture of what these announcements look like.

Toast of The Town | Gold Charm | Modern Deco | Modern Grad Script | Class Grad

Minted has a ton more graduation invitations to browse so be sure to check them out.

Start thinking about the future

If you haven’t started looking for a job, I definitely encourage you to start doing different things to prepare for the job search. There are so many things you can do to start this process

  • Have a meeting with your school’s career services office: This is the last time you will have such complete access to a service like career services. Make sure you take sometime to appreciate the service while you have access to it and use it.
  • Make and/or perfect your résumé: If you have yet to make a résumé, get on it right now. There are so many resources out there and this is also the perfect time to meet with your career services office and let them go over your results. If you already have one made, perfect it.
  • Make business cards: Minted has SO many beautiful business cards on their website. You will seriously love them all. I can’t wait to show you the business cards I got made through Minted, but here are a couple of my favorites:

Pink Walsh | Gold Dip | Name To Remember

I know that getting business cards seems so strange, but Minted has so many amazing business card designs that you can’t go wrong by at leasting checking out their archive of awesome cards!

Do you need some extra help thinking about your career path? Check out my post on How To Be A LinkedIn Rockstar!

Think About Living Arrangements

For many college students this is the first time they have ever been out and about on their own. You want your living arrangements to feel home-y and unique to you. Minted has beautiful home decor products that you should totally put on your wishlist so that you can decorate your new apartment or house after you graduate. They are also perfect for decorating your desk at your new job.

Ivy | Flower Hands | California Map Filled Foil State

I love the wall art that Minted has on their website because it allows me to personalize my space no matter if I am creating an office or a home. It’s the perfect gift to ask for for any graduating senior.

During the ceremony

Graduation is not always easy to survive and I am here to offer some tips for surviving any college graduation. Learn from my mistakes and have an even better graduation day than I did (and I had a pretty swell day, y’all!)

Secure your graduation cap

I CANNOT recommend this enough. Graduation is stressful enough without worrying that your cap will fly off all day, and sometimes it does actually fall off. Mine did. I held up the line after walking off stage because my cap fell off and I had to put it back on so I could take my official graduation picture. Those picture proofs still looked pretty flawless though and I was about to say goodbye to college anyhow so what is embarrassment? Seriously, though, secure your cap so you spend less time worrying about your cap and more time enjoying the ceremony.

Get to graduation as early as possible

I was not in my college town the day of graduation. I had actually gone to stay the night with my sister because I wanted to get my hair done the day before graduation. We were running a smidge late because my sister lived about 30 minutes from my campus on a good day, and of course traffic was making the situation a million times worse. 

So if you can, get to graduation as soon as you can. Yes, it’s no fun to stand in line forever and wait to be able to walk in to the place where the ceremony is being held, but it’s also not fun to have to rush through the process of getting prepped and ready to graduate.

Graduation is confusing. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes to make sure that people are in the correct order and sitting with their perspective colleges and majors. So get there early so you can find your place and get excited about the experience of graduation.

Pay attention during the ceremony

I know it will be SO EASY to doze off during graduation or think about other people and other things especially during the time where they are calling each and every name. Things can change in a heartbeat during graduation, though, so you want to make sure that you are adequately able to understand what is happening so you can react when necessary. 

 A picture from my college graduation

A picture from my college graduation

After The Ceremony

Here are my tips for having the best time after the graduation ceremony is over, because in my opinion, that is just as important.

Enjoy Your Family

Take some time to enjoy your family during this beautiful occasion. Your family has come together to enjoy your day so don’t forget to be thankful and gracious as you spend time with relatives close and far. They came  to celebrate your brains after all.

Sleep As much as you can

I know, crazy, but get some rest. You will have so much to tackle in the coming months from finding a job if you haven’t already to coming up with living arrangements. Don’t be afraid to get a nap or three in during the days following the ceremony.

Give thanks & Spread Love

Your family and friends have probably given you some amazing things and their company during this time in your life. Don’t be afraid to show them some love in return. You can quickly and easily do this by writing a handwritten thank you note to people in your life. Minted has you covered on this one.

Starlight | Painterly Script | Rosebloom

Sending out a thank you card is a must for people who have given you fun gifts, sent you money, or even attended your graduation. If you can do so I would highly encourage getting some cute note cards with your name on it for a more personalized touch instead of just generic thank you cards. Minted has tons of thank you cards just for grads and tons of general thank you cards too. In my opinion it doesn’t matter which kind of note cards you send, as long as you are thankful.

Final Thoughts

The graduation process can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Minted can really be a great tool for you as you begin the process of picking out graduation invitations and becoming more familiar with everything from home decor to business cards. Minted really has your back. Check back on Monday, April 3rd as I will be sharing some of my favorite Minted products for graduation seniors so that you can put these items on your list. I got quite a haul from Minted that I can’t wait to share with you.