Is GRAD-IN-3 for You?

Is GRAD-IN-3 for You?

So, you can take AP courses in high school, get 12 college credit hours, and skip one year of college.

We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason. All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man's estate, is the gift of education. --- Jean Jacques Rousseau

Grad in 3. Sound good? Let’s take a closer look.

After all, your degree is an lifelong decision. It’s the launching pad for your life— both in terms of earnings, and perhaps more importantly, in the faulty of your thought processes, your critical intellectual power to exploit all the enjoyments of life itself.

So… is a 3-year degree the right fit for you? What are the pros and cons?

In the USA, 3-year degrees are all new and shiny, all the rage now, with more and more institutions offering the 3/4 time Bachelor’s option.

Basically, the student saves a year of tuition, and gets into the workplace a year earlier, assuming a job can be had. (The university or college gets an empty chair in its classrooms a year earlier, which is why many are offering the 3-year degree.)

A typical USA example is UNC Greensboro, North Carolina— the first campus in the state system to offer three-year bachelors’ degrees. Under the program, the school will accelerate studies only for what it is calling “highly motivated students.”

student sitting with laptop

They enter with 12 credit hours, (either through Advanced Placement from high school or community-college work), then take enough extra classes, (either during the fall and spring semesters or the summer), to reach the graduation requirement a full year early.

At today’s prices, the savings should be substantial. UNC-G says students will save $8,000 in tuition, living expenses and fees. There should also be additional savings associated with travel and incidental student expenses. The university says the total cost of a bachelor’s degree will be reduced by 22 percent.

Obviously, “highly motivated students” deserve that advantage.

Grad-in-3 looks like a perfect Grad solution to save time and money. But not so fast.

Let’s take a look at Canada, where the 3-year degree is nothing new. It was once very popular with Canadians— a “3-year-pass” degree.

When the 3-year option was popular, the 4-year degree was called an “honors degree.” It seems Canadians never considered the 3-year the true equal of the 4-year. In provinces that grant three-year bachelor’s degrees, a student can complete an additional year of studies to earn the four-year honors degree.

(Don’t confuse the Canadian honors bachelor’s degree with their “Bachelor’s degree with honors”— awarded to students who achieve an honors bachelor’s degree with a sufficiently high GPA (similar to “cum laude” in the U.S. system), plus writing a thesis. This honors bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for graduate studies in Canada.)

When you go into the workplace you are competing for a job. If you’re up against a 4-year grad, you might be at a disadvantage. But you’ll be out there a year sooner. And maybe your 3-year can show how hard you are willing to work.

On the other hand, if you want to go farther, and continually build your education, taking the full 4 years might be the right path… taking more time (to deepen your learning) might empower your intellectual base for a richer, more productive, and enjoyable life… not only economically but aesthetically as well.

Indeed, some Canadian universities no longer even offer three-year pass degrees. Many now grant four-year “honors degrees” exclusively. Hmmmm.

So… what does all this tell us? Is the Canadian experience illuminating?

Is the Grad-in-3 a good option for you? If you are in a hurry to earn— if money is the one thing motivating you to educate yourself— the 3-year can launch you better in the short term.

But if you are looking at the full term of your life— and want the richest experience possible— go for the 4, and never stop adding to your intellectual base of learning.

But whatever choice you make, educate, educate, educate!

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