7 Tips to Graduate from College in 4 Years

You are taking the next step, you are ready to further your education and receive your degree and accept your dream job.  All you have to do now is go to college and get in and get out in 4 years, right?  Well…

84% of students think they will graduate in 4 years.

Only 38% actually graduate in 4 years.

(UCLA)

NACAC ButtonImage2 7 Tips to Graduate from College in 4 Years

This will cause additional costs, living expenses, and longer time before start your future career.  The longer you are in college, the higher likelihood that your normal life will get in the way and decrease your chances of graduating.  Why is graduating in 4 years important?  Each additional year of college can cost you over $15,000 in tuition, fees, room and board.  Also, many schools offer a Finish in Four program that includes financial benefits for students.  Finishing in the least amount of time possible can help you save money.  Right now you might be a little scared, but after reading these tips you can be prepared for the challenges ahead and have a plan to graduate in 4 years!

There are many causes to adding an extra year or two or three or FOUR of college, here are some of the most common:

  • college life the best 7 years of my life 7 Tips to Graduate from College in 4 Years

    Don’t be THAT guy…

    Changing Majors – 50% of students change majors at least one time in college. (Penn State University)
    *Changing to a major not offered at your current school can cause this next issue…

  • Transferring – transferring credits can be wasted if not properly planned while enrolled.  National averages show 30% of students don’t return their sophomore year. (NCES)
  • College Choice – your initial college choice was not what you thought it would be, you will need to make a switch.
  • Cost – the cost of college has increased every year and can be too expensive if not budgeted properly in the beginning – tuition, fees, books, pizza, room and board, meals, travel, parking, MORE PIZZA!
  • Family or Personal Challenges - you need to take time off or take less credit hours each semester and manage any life experiences.
  • GPA – most colleges require a certain GPA to enter a specialized school or degree program, failure to hit that mark might mean repeating classes to increase your GPA.

Did we miss any?  Comment below for any reasons that could lead to not graduating in 4 Years.

So now you know what to avoid, or at least plan for the future, here are the…

Tips to Graduate in 4 Years:

  1. Start your planning early in high school, as early as sophomore year:
    • What classes do you like, which ones do you hate?
    • What extracurricular activities do you enjoy outside of the classroom?
    • Get a summer job, preferably in a field you are interested in following, to gain experience and see if you like a specific career path.
  2. Find your Major and Career before College:
    • Take a quiz to figure out what is best for your strengths and weaknesses.  Take the College Major Quiz to find your recommended majors.
    • Research the major and career field – what types of students major in this, which classes will I take (do they coincide with the classes in #1?), what are the career potentials (salary, job growth, careers where I live).
    • Create a back-up plan – OK, I know you have your dream job and major in mind, but the reality is 50% of students change their majors at least once.  Even if it is in the same “School of…” you at least have a plan for taking the right classes.  For example: if you are thinking about Finance, many of the other business majors (Accounting, Marketing, Management, etc) might be a good fit as well for you, but make sure you have these in mind so you take the right classes.  Even if you are thinking Finance or Biology, make sure you understand the core classes that you need to have completed by the beginning of your junior year.  Or even think about a minor in one of those fields.
  3. Find the right College:
    • Create a list of schools that offer your intended major (and backup), and research which schools you can afford financially each year.  Look to FAFSA, scholarships and merit aid to get down to your estimated net tuition.  Find out what schools you can afford by visiting the Tuition tab on your School’s page.
    • Create time the spring of your junior year, during the summer, or fall of senior year to visit your list of colleges.  One of the common reasons for transferring or dropping out is because that campus might not be right for you, do your research, read reviews, watch videos and talk to actual students and alumni to get personal experiences.  Visit with academic advisors to talk about the program you are interested in enrolling, they will help you start your course planning and give you required courses to complete for graduation.  (Here a list of good questions to ask)
  4. Confirm your plan with Counselor, Teacher, Parent or Mentor while in High School:
    • These individuals will help you take the next steps to fulfilling your college and career plan.
    • They will also help connect you with individuals in your career plan to do a job shadow, and can talk to you about your future campus.
  5. 15 Credit Hours per Semester:
    • Your magic number is 120 total credit hours.  Typically you will need to complete 15 credit hours per semester to stay on path to graduate in 4 years – 120 total credits (4 years x 30 credits per year).  Some degrees and colleges require more credits for graduation, confirm the details with your advisor and tell them you are on a graduate in four plan.  Normally 60 credit hours will be for your specific career and the other 60 will be core courses for graduation – choose these courses wisely for enhancing your education and working with your GPA.
    • If you can’t complete 15 hours in a semester, think about taking summer classes online or on campus.  Advice: if you know one semester you are taking a very challenging course, take 12 credit hours, and then take a 3 credit hour course over the summer to get back to 30 completed for the year.  Even take that one difficult course in the summer so you will only have one class to focus your efforts for studying.
    • Some degree programs, such as engineering, require students to be enrolled in degree required courses early their freshmen and sophomore year, which makes #2 on this list important to find out first.
  6. Focus on GPA early and often:
    • Any college student will tell you high school courses are very different than a college class and exam.  This can impact your GPA your first semester of college, which might force you to fight to get your GPA back up.  Many degree programs require a certain GPA to be accepted in that major/school.  For example: to be an Accounting Major, you may need to have a 3.6 GPA compared to a Management Major may only be 3.0, this will influence your major and graduation time.  If you completely mess up a class final exam, think about retaking the course over the summer to replace that eye sore on your GPA.
  7. Meet with an Academic Advisor every semester:
    • The last thing you want in the final semester of Senior year is to realize you missed a required degree course to graduate.  If it is one class, don’t stress, many schools will let you walk in May, but you will have to complete a summer course to finish your degree and receive your diploma.  If you are short 6 or more hours, normally you will think about taking the fall semester and graduating after fall semester is completed.

      Graduate in 4 plan1 7 Tips to Graduate from College in 4 Years

Many times graduating in 4 years is not the best plan for students.  For example, if you need to work a full time job and are taking night classes, you might not be able to complete 15 credit hours per semester.  Speaking with your Advisor you can create the best plan to complete your degree for what is right for you and your personal situation.

Do you have any personal tips for students to graduate in 4 years?  Add a comment below on your tips to share with others.  If you liked the tips share this with your colleagues, students and friends.

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2013 Cover Contest Finalists

Paper Lion online 540x540 2013 Cover Contest FinalistsGIANNA MANGICAROPaper Lion
Gianna Mangicaro, a senior in upstate New York, took her first art class as a junior and created Paper Lion Sculpture. “The project came to be because I didn’t want to do the normal. I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone. It took me about a whole week to do this significant art piece.” Gianna says she also wanted a larger piece and she estimates the art to be about three feet by four feet.

“I am pleased that I had such success in my first art class,” she says. The piece is white paper cut and designed to make the lion’s face and mane. Each strand of the mane was placed individually. “I am still making art, but with all the classes for college preparation and several AP courses, I couldn’t take an art class. I do whatever pops into my head. I may find something on the computer that inspires me. I taught myself how to crochet because I was bored one day.” She learned she dislikes charcoal as an artist’s medium. “We were doing a self-portrait where we had to draw half our face and the other half was the skeleton underneath the skin. It was so messy. I really like paper sculptures. It’s my favorite.”

Along with school work and art during her free time, Gianna is also involved in her school’s drama club and DECA (Distributive Educational Clubs of America), an organization that looks at marketing, finance, hospitality, business management or entrepreneurship. During the musicals, she has served as a dance leader to teach the cast the steps to dances for the school musicals. Along with school and art, Gianna is also a black belt in karate and is an avid horseback rider. “I sometimes volunteer with children who have disabilities and enjoy a therapeutic horseback ride.”

Her college could take her into the world of nursing. “I am still looking at college but I am interested in neonatal care or intensive care nursing,” she says. “I like math and science and math is my favorite subject. During a visit to a NICU, I saw that the nurses made colorful and well-designed name tags for the babies and I realized I could bring my art to work too.”

Hystericblue online 590x441 2013 Cover Contest FinalistsCAMERON JENKINSHysteric Blue
Cameron Jenkins, 17, a senior, North Farmington High School, in Farmington Hills, Mich., calls his art mostly mixed media as he uses acrylics and colored pencils to draw, but then manipulates colors in Photoshop. He submitted four works for the Creative Outlook Magazine cover contest. Hysteric Blue rose to the top, not only in online voting, but also with the panel of judges.

“I have been working on a series and practicing painting people,” he says. “Hysteric Blue was a painting that came from an image that inspired me and did the work and then changed the mid-tone colors in Photoshop. It brought on unique colors with the blues, grays and pinks. The title happens to come from a song I listened to while I was painting.”

Cameron says the series was for his drawing and painting class. “The teacher wanted us to do four paintings. The subjects were our choice, but definitely they turned out well.” In high school, he is also involved in leadership development programs. One specifically titled POWER pairs younger students with older ones to be peer mentors. “The goal is to close the achievement gap for African-American students. We look at younger students and help them through school. I try to get them into art. I want them to see that art is cool especially if they see me doing art.” He also sings in his church choir.  As for the future, Cameron is exploring the possibilities of fine arts and entertainment arts. “I love cartoons, animation and illustration,” he says.

As a matter of fact, one of his heroes happens to be Japanese artist Akira Toriyama, a cartoonist known for his manga series Dragon Ball as well as for being the character designer for the Dragon Quest series of video games. “Cartoonists can create worlds and characters that are both nostalgic and modern. Akira’s work inspires me in that way.” The two colleges he has been exploring are the College for Creative Studies in Detroit as well as the International Academy of Design & Technology, also in Detroit.

Chained Dreams online 539x540 2013 Cover Contest FinalistsALEXA ECONOMACOS – THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE – Chained Dreams
Alexa Economacos, a senior at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, Miami, Florida, submitted two pieces of art for the Creative Outlook cover contest. Facade and Chained Dreams both landed in the top 10 as far as most votes. As a matter of fact, Chained Dreams took the People’s Choice award with the most votes.

Chained Dreams is a mixed media piece Alexa says brings awareness to the plight of those who are affected by human trafficking. “The butterfly represents those who are brutally forced into lives of servitude and oftentimes stripped of their innocence. The butterfly is still beautiful in its fragility, but its beauty is disregarded. The transparency of the box symbolizes the fact that these victims live among us, but we may not take the time to notice their metaphorical chains.” At school, there is a human rights club that tackles a different theme each year. Last year happened to be about human trafficking.

Even in her International Baccalaureate Visual Arts 2 HL (higher level) class, the environmental issues of coral bleaching will be part of their work, she says. “Our 3D clay works will end up looking like coral reefs.” The IB program for art will give Alexa at least 18 pieces to present to the IB organization. “We continue to create, research and work in our sketchbooks.”

Alexa has been an artist for as long as she can remember. Her parents are both in the banking industry, but they also share art with their daughter as her father sketches and her mother paints. “I guess I inherited both talents,” she says. “When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I started taking art lessons from Puerto Rican artist Ximena Perez. She had me start with acrylics, but by the time I was in sixth grade, I moved to oils. I still visit Ximena when I get stuck.”

While art has seemingly been part of Alexa’s life, her high school career started in her junior year when she was evaluated to join the IB art program under the watchful eye of teacher Kari Snyder. During her freshman and sophomore years, she did policy debate. “I wanted to try something new, but art has always been my true passion.” She has been part of exhibitions around the Miami area.

Along with her art, Alexa is a National Merit Scholar semifinalist. She competed in the 2013 National French Contest and she is the French Honor Society president. She also received an honorable mention as part of the 2013 Scholastic Art Exhibition at the Miami Art Museum. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society and National Science.

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Sandra Rivas-Cole 2013 Art Teacher of the Year

RivasCole WithStudent online 700x524 Sandra Rivas Cole 2013 Art Teacher of the YearArt Teacher Sandra Rivas-Cole has taught at Lake Howell High School for 16 years. The high school of about 2,000 students is in Winter Park, a suburb of Orlando, Seminole County. An estimated 275 students sit in classes with Rivas-Cole annually. That means about 4,400 students have passed through her classroom, enriched by a self-described Disney fanatic and all-around animated and enthusiastic teacher.

Just like her own high school students, Rivas-Cole wanted to pursue every career. “You want to be everything, to try everything. I thought about computer animation, but my first semester at the University of Central Florida, I didn’t do well in my computer classes. I kept trying to figure out what I wanted to do and a conversation flashed from my English teacher, Mrs. Hopkins, who often told me that I would be a good teacher. I started taking education courses and they were the right fit for me. I have always been involved in art and the natural step was to meld those two together. As a child, I was always drawing. It was a calling. I just kept going and adding to my skills. Every so often, I will draw or paint with my students. They don’t believe I can and it cracks me up when I demonstrate one of the assignments.”

Despite an often 12-hour work day, Rivas-Cole draws and paints when she finds a few minutes. “We start at 7:20 in the morning and end at 2:20 in the afternoon. I get here at 6:30 a.m. and don’t leave at 6 p.m. I have my teacher cape on for about 12 hours.” Not only does she teach Art 2D, Drawing 1, Painting 1 and Advanced Placement Studio, she also sponsors the junior class and varsity club and serves as cheerleading advisor. “No student can be bored in my presence. From the moment they walk in until the moment they leave, they are moving and shaking.”

On top of that, students have learned that Rivas-Cole has a compassionate ear and will listen to students who aren’t necessarily in her classes. “We all want validation. When I got the principal’s award, I smiled and kept going. I am going to keep on trucking for the betterment of my students.”

Since being at Lake Howell, she has taught Art 2D, Art 3D, Drawing 1 and 2, Painting 1 and 2, Digital Photography 1-4, Traditional Darkroom Photography, Film Studies, Stage Craft, Humanities 1 and 2, Advanced Placement Art History, and Advanced Placement Studio Art. Currently she is teaching Art 2D, Drawing, Painting, and AP Studio Art. She also serves as the Junior Class Sponsor, one of the School Wide Mentor teachers, National Art Honor Society Co-Sponsor, and the Varsity Club Co-Sponsor (the school spirit club). During the 2011-12 school year, she was honored with the title of 2013 Teacher of the Year at her school and at the end of the 2012-13 school year, she was honored with the Principal’s Award.

RivasCole WithStudent2 online 404x540 Sandra Rivas Cole 2013 Art Teacher of the YearHer principal Frank Casillo nominated for the Creative Outlook’s inaugural Art Teacher of the Year. “I have worked with Mrs. Rivas and find her to be one of the most professional and talented young educators in the teaching profession. She has taught a wide assortment of art courses ranging from fundamentals to advanced placement. Regardless of the subject matter or academic level of her students, Mrs. Rivas has been successful in ensuring that her students reach a high degree of academic success,” he writes. “Through her enthusiastic approach, creativity and ability to motivate, Mrs. Rivas creates a nurturing learning environment that provides students with an exceptional creative educational experience. Never accepting mediocrity, she is persistent in seeing that her students have every opportunity to be successful. With her excellent planning and organizational skills, it is always a delight to observe Mrs. Rivas’ classes at work as her students are active participants in their course work.”

Regardless of stress and general craziness, Rivas-Cole marks successes each and every day. “I also have students who have stayed in touch. Several are in the arts. My ultimate goal is that one kid learns something. I want students to know more than what they did when they first entered my class. I know that not all my art students are going to be artists, but I want to know that I have made a difference.” Casillo further writes, “More than an outstanding teacher, Sandra uses her intelligence and tenacity to ensure that all students at Lake Howell High School are afforded an excellent educational opportunity. As an integral part of the Fine Arts Department, Mrs. Rivas gives countless hours both as teacher and Silver Hawk supporter for teams, clubs and committees. As a teacher her accomplishments are many, however; Mrs. Rivas’ greatest asset is her genuine affection for young people and the lifelong impact she has upon them.”

Rivas-Cole not only helps students reach their potential, she also serves as a mentor teacher to a peer teacher. “I said yes to this program about seven years ago. I like being a mentor teacher. These younger teachers keep me young. They are excited and they get me excited. I know the first year can be tough. It can be tough on teachers who have taught for 20 years and that is why I have a stash of chocolate.” She has also aided the drama teacher, James Brendlinger, in raising money for the Florida district of Broadway Cares: Equity Fights AIDS. “He’s an amazing teacher and I do the art for the penguin mascot. Two years ago, they had a Star Wars theme and last year it was Harry Potter. This year, it’s Almost Famous. I have done 35 designs; the buttons sell for a dollar each. The theater district has donated more than $30,000. I love doing the designs … they are a blast!”

She sleeps from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. during the weekdays. “I sleep on the weekends. My husband of 14 years and I love to go to the movies and we have an annual pass to Disney. He’s such a saint as he puts up with everything. He tolerates and hugs me. He knew what I was all about from the get-go. I don’t think too much about what I do on my down time. We spend time with family while I recharge my batteries and look forward to the new school week. If you ask my students, they will tell you the following: I love all things Disney, I have an outstanding collection of toys in my classroom of which they are envious of, I am a little crazy (but honestly what art teacher isn’t), and that I’m a big kid at heart.”

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Michelle Huang-2013 Cover Contest Winner

Calligraphy online Michelle Huang 2013 Cover Contest Winner

Calligraphy by Michelle Huang

Michelle Huang, a junior at Dulles High School in Sugarland, Texas, about 20 minutes from Houston, has already earned a few awards for her art, but she doesn’t let any of these accolades go to her head. During middle school, she placed at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. In her first year of high school she received a Gold Seal, the highest rating given at the Visual Art Scholastic Event (VASE), sponsored by the Texas Art Education Association, and her oil painting, Call of the Plains won the annual Congressional Art Show Competition and will be on display in the U.S. Capitol for the year.

Her works submitted to the Creative Outlook Magazine cover contest not only appealed to the voters, but the panel of judges. Calligraphy unanimously rose to the top of the list. “I have competed in many competitions. Winning or losing, it is pretty even. My honor is my own and I respect those who win or place in these events. My art means a great deal to me. I also know my art will mature and grow as neither it nor I are static.”

The piece titled Calligraphy was originally part of her AP art class. The piece depicts her father working on the very ancient and traditional art form of Chinese calligraphy. “My dad Xin taught himself Chinese calligraphy and he has been working on this art form for about 40 years,” she says. “I admire him so much. He majored in physics and earned a doctorate in the science. When we moved to Texas, he ended up with a small home studio. He finds time to work on his calligraphy every day.”

Michelle Huang photo online 405x540 Michelle Huang 2013 Cover Contest WinnerMichelle not only shares a love of math and science with her father, her mother Li Li Huang is a chemist. “My parents are my inspiration. I enjoy math and science, just as they do.” She is part of the high school’s Math and Science Academy. “When my father was in China, he was directed to math and science and art was set aside. Here I can explore the worlds of science, math and art.”

When Michelle was 7, Xin signed her up for art lessons. Her private art teacher, Xinsheng Wang, introduced her to acrylics first and then to oils around the age of 9. “He is so absolutely brilliant, especially in the way he mixes Eastern and Western art styles. I learned from him, much like an apprentice learns from a master artist.”

Once she learned the fundamentals, Michelle knew she had to continue to advance her skills. Amanda Freeman taught Michelle in Dulles High School’s Advance Placement Art class during her sophomore year. “She is so passionate and supportive. I have learned more perspective and I can articulate what I want. Ms. Freeman has helped me with composition and so much more. She’s a favorite teacher.”

Michelle is currently taking Calculus BC, AP Statistics, AP Physics, AP Chemistry with a lab that meets twice weekly, AP English, AP Design and a class called Scientific Research and Development which pairs a student with a mentor through the year. With school organizations, she is also the co-president of the high school’s Red Cross Club and an officer with TASK (Teens Assisting Special Kids). “We have a great special education program at the school and in the district. We throw a prom for the students. It’s great!” She is also part of the Spanish Honor Society.

Michelle describes her artistic style as “very dynamic” and, for now, oil paintings are her favorite thing to create.
“With oils I’m able to capture things in a way that I want to,” Michelle says.

She also helps set an example for her two brothers and sister, triplets in the seventh grade. “I know I have to do well in school. That is important. I know I can make all As. I can see that I am not painting as often as I would like, but I don’t have the time with preparation for the SATs and looking at colleges and careers. I am not sure about my future and whether or not I look at the medical or computer science fields. I really want to go into a college with a good art program.”

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2013 Cover Contest Finalist – Alexa Economacos “Chained Dreams”

Chained Dreams online 539x540 2013 Cover Contest Finalist   Alexa Economacos Chained DreamsALEXA ECONOMACOS – THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE – Chained Dreams
Alexa Economacos, a senior at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, Miami, Florida, submitted two pieces of art for the Creative Outlook cover contest. Facade and Chained Dreams both landed in the top 10 as far as most votes. As a matter of fact, Chained Dreams took the People’s Choice award with the most votes.

Chained Dreams is a mixed media piece Alexa says brings awareness to the plight of those who are affected by human trafficking. “The butterfly represents those who are brutally forced into lives of servitude and oftentimes stripped of their innocence. The butterfly is still beautiful in its fragility, but its beauty is disregarded. The transparency of the box symbolizes the fact that these victims live among us, but we may not take the time to notice their metaphorical chains.” At school, there is a human rights club that tackles a different theme each year. Last year happened to be about human trafficking.

Even in her International Baccalaureate Visual Arts 2 HL (higher level) class, the environmental issues of coral bleaching will be part of their work, she says. “Our 3D clay works will end up looking like coral reefs.” The IB program for art will give Alexa at least 18 pieces to present to the IB organization. “We continue to create, research and work in our sketchbooks.”

Alexa has been an artist for as long as she can remember. Her parents are both in the banking industry, but they also share art with their daughter as her father sketches and her mother paints. “I guess I inherited both talents,” she says. “When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I started taking art lessons from Puerto Rican artist Ximena Perez. She had me start with acrylics, but by the time I was in sixth grade, I moved to oils. I still visit Ximena when I get stuck.”

While art has seemingly been part of Alexa’s life, her high school career started in her junior year when she was evaluated to join the IB art program under the watchful eye of teacher Kari Snyder. During her freshman and sophomore years, she did policy debate. “I wanted to try something new, but art has always been my true passion.” She has been part of exhibitions around the Miami area.

Along with her art, Alexa is a National Merit Scholar semifinalist. She competed in the 2013 National French Contest and she is the French Honor Society president. She also received an honorable mention as part of the 2013 Scholastic Art Exhibition at the Miami Art Museum. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society and National Science.

Alexa Economacos 150x150 2013 Cover Contest Finalist   Alexa Economacos Chained Dreams

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