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If you can’t wait to finish earning your degree, you may be particularly interested in some of the fastest online bachelor’s degree programs in the nation. One question you should ask when considering any degree program that claims to have a fast completion time is how the school or program accelerates an undergraduate education. Different programs use different methods of making a four-year degree available in less than four years. You want to make sure you choose a program that works well with your needs, goals, and the qualities and experience you bring to the school.
Allowing Students to Complete More Classes in Less Time
A typical bachelor’s degree program requires students to complete 120 credits of college-level undergraduate study. Accelerated programs have the same requirements. However, they may allow students to complete more credits in a shorter span of time, so students can graduate earlier – sometimes years earlier.
At some schools, accelerated classes are condensed into seven or eight weeks of intensive study. By including numerous terms throughout the year, these schools allow students to quickly work their way through their required courses, even if they take just one or two classes at a time.
Other schools have terms as long as six months, but allow students to complete as many courses as they want during that time. These institutions often charge a flat fee for the term, so students are saving a good deal of money as well as time.
Still other accelerated degree programs reduce the time it takes to graduate by offering a full load of courses throughout the year, not just in the spring and fall. By taking summer and intersession classes rather than taking time off from your education, you can decrease the time it takes you to earn a degree by as much as a year.
Awarding Prior Learning Credit
Another way the fastest bachelor’s degree programs reduce the time it takes to graduate is by offering students opportunities to earn credits besides the traditional way of attending a course. Many schools with fast undergraduate programs accomplish this through prior learning credit policies. Under these policies, students may be able to receive credit toward their degree for the things they already know.
Many programs, including degree completion programs, allow students to transfer a large number of credits – often, as many as three-quarters of the total credits needed to earn a bachelor’s degree. Some programs allow students to test out of courses if they already know the material, often by taking CLEP examinations and similar tests. If you have undergone job training courses or attained some kind of professional certification, you may be eligible for credits toward your bachelor’s degree. Even if you haven’t had formal training, you can still get credits for your work or life experience at a school that offers a portfolio credit option. This entails creating a portfolio of your professional work to showcase your skills.
Choosing an Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree Program
It’s important to choose an accelerated bachelor’s degree program that shortens your education in a way that complements your experience. A student who has already completed a couple years of college at another school would benefit from enrolling in a degree completion program. A student with a lot of professional training and work experience but no past college education should look for a program that will award credit for their professional achievements. The best way to earn your degree fast is to understand from the start which program makes the most sense for your unique situation.