Future me! But with burnt orange, of course.This May, I will be graduating. I will be twenty years old, and have completed my degree in just three years.

When people ask me about how I did this so quickly, I think that they often assume it’s because I’m somehow smarter than other people in my field. This is absolutely not true. I just mapped out my degree plan very effectively, and found alternative ways to earn some of my credits.

You can do the same thing, and I highly recommend it. Here are the resources I’ve used to speed up my graduation date, but there are a myriad of others as well:​​

-AP (or IB) Credits: FREE college classes? You don’t realize what a gift this is until you’re looking at your tuition bill (and weeping, and eating chocolate out of self-pity. Kidding, mostly.)

-Community college classes (in person): For the general education requirements, these are great. I took a few classes this way when I was still in high school and learned about some pretty interesting topics. I believe a class cost about the same amount as a Chipotle burrito, too.

-Community college classes (online): The summer before I started college, I knocked out my Texas government requirements. And I got to do this remotely, where my fellow Californians all thought I was crazy for taking a class about the most un-Californian state and government in the US.

-Placement tests: So technically I have a minor in Français from this… And all I had to do was take a short little test during orientation based on the French I’d already learned in high school. Très facile.

-CLEP Credits: These can save you from being stuck in a class where you already know most of the material. Just take a 100 question multiple-choice test and you’re good to go.

That being said, I would never recommend that a computer science student test out of any comp sci or math classes. The rest of your education will build on what you learn in these. Furthermore, learning from UT’s world-renowned faculty in your field of study is not something to throw away for a few hundred dollars saved on tuition.

Yet people are often concerned that I am not “enjoying” college to its fullest extent by shaving a year off. To this I respond that enjoying college isn’t my goal – enjoying life is. My path in college was supposed to set me up for a career that will encompass much more of my life than just four years. Furthermore, I’m not giving up on fun! I’m joining McCombs School of Business next year to get a master’s degree in business analytics. Nothing is more fun than big data (*insert joke about my dependence on buzzwords*).

Now pull out a spreadsheet, and map out the future classes you need. It really, really, pays off.

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