4-Year Programs Explained – GradPlan


4-Year Programs Explained

Everyone is talking about it, but what is college, really?

What is a 4-year College?

Great question, let us give you some more information…

There are over 2,800 4-year colleges and university programs in the United States enrolling nearly 14 million students a year, and you can join them!

A 4-year program means that you are committing to completing 120 credit hours of study. Most colleges give 3 credit hours per class, so if you do the math, you will be completing 40 college classes in order to graduate.

But here’s the thing

Because the goal is to complete the 120 credit hours (not to be on campus for four years), some students are able to graduate from college in three-and-a-half years, while others go more slowly and take five or six years to complete their program. If you earn your Bachelor’s Degree, there’s no right or wrong way to do it.

Here are some tips to graduating college in 4 years or less:
  • Take one class each summer session
  • Take the maximum number of classes allowed each semester.
  • Take an additional science class with a lab for one of your electives.
  • Take a dual enrollment class in high school and earn college credits early.
Why you might want to complete college in 4.5 years or more:
  • If you have to take a course in a subject that is especially challenging for you, you can reduce the number of credits you take that semester so you have more time to study.
  • If financial aid doesn’t cover your tuition, taking less credits may reduce your bill.
  • If you need to work while in college. Taking fewer classes each semester will allow you to better balance school and work.
Important to Know: You usually have to be registered for at least 12 credit hours (typically 4 classes) to be considered a full-time student. If you are not taking enough credits to be a full-time student, your financial aid will likely be reduced.

What is a “Degree”?

Degrees given from 4-year colleges are called Bachelor’s Degrees – the most commonly held degree in the United States. They come in three types, based on the subject you study:

Bachelors of Arts (B.A)
(i.e. education, writing, law, criminal justice)

Bachelors of Science (B.S.)
(i.e. biology, psychology, pre-Med, engineering)

Bachelors of Fine Arts (B.F.A.)
(i.e., dance, drama, fashion design, visual arts)

What are potential benefits of Bachelor’s degrees?

  • An in-depth course study on your major that can help prepare you for careers in that field.
  • Opportunity to explore a wide variety of classes outside your major that interest you.
  • A variety of options for school size, diversity of the student body, and extracurricular activities available.

Did you know, on average, Bachelor’s degree holders earn almost $20,000 more per year than those with a lesser degree and more than $35,000 per year than those with just a high school diploma? Over the course of your lifetime you could earn an additional $1 million dollars! 

Median Weekly Earning (1)

What’s the next step?

Now you have some key information about 4-year college programs that can help you make the best choice for your future. The next thing to do is to check out our Types of Majors resource page and keep learning about this process!

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"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."

Malcolm X, human rights activist