The Path To Graduation: What’s Your Student’s Timeline?

Your student has graduated from high school and is headed off to college, and you are picturing that next commencement ceremony in another four years.  Or perhaps your student has been in college for a year or two and you see that commencement just around the corner.  When your student walks across that stage it will be a big moment, and you are anxious for the celebration – and the last tuition bill.

But there is a possibility that your student’s college commencement may not be exactly four years after high school graduation.

Although four years of college is still the norm at most elite private colleges, more and more students may be completing their college education on an individual timeline.  According to one study, only approximately 54% of students at private colleges graduate in four years.  The percentage at public colleges may be closer to 32%.  That means that many students may not graduate at all, and many students who do graduate may take significantly longer than four year to complete their education.  Five or six years of college may soon be the norm for the majority of students.

As a college parent, you may not want to think about your student continuing in college for more than four years.  Certainly, you may be thinking about additional tuition bills.  However, as college parents, we also recognize that our students are unique individuals.  Each student’s path may be different and may contain different roadblocks and detours.  It may be important that you have a conversation with your student about your expectations.  Is there a limitation on how many semesters of tuition you can fund?  If your student needs an extra semester, or an extra year, or two, to complete his education, will he need to pay a portion of the cost?  Might it depend on the reasons for the extra time?

Why might my college student need longer than four years to finish?

There are many factors that may influence a student’s college timeline.

  • Some students will not adjust easily to college and so may struggle at the beginning and need to make up for lost credits.
  • Some students may change to a different major which will require them to take additional courses.
  • Some students may find that when they transfer to another school they lose some credits.
  • Some students may opt for a specialized experience such as a year of studying abroad, off campus experience, or a particular internship that will mean a loss of credits.
  • Some students may need to take a break from school or find that they have been dismissed from school and need to wait out a semester or a year.

Some college personnel use the term “swirling” to refer to students who start college, then stop, or transfer, or move from part time to full time and possibly back again to part time.  The traditional, full-time, straight-out-of-high-school, finish-college-in-four-years student may become the minority.

If we remember that we want the best for our student, and that each student has different needs and abilities, we may need to adjust our thinking to include a more flexible timeline. The college experience is a phase of life, and not every student will proceed through this phase at the same rate.  It may take patience and understanding for us, as parents, to accept that our student may need more than four years to complete his college degree, but he may need our support more than ever as he finds his own path to success.

Related Posts:

Should My College Student Consider Summer Classes?

What To Do If Your Student Is Academically Dismissed From College

Parenting Your College Transfer Student:  The Decision to Transfer

Undecided Students: Who Are They?

Helping Your College Student Find Support on Campus

When the College Experience Hits a Roadblock: Helping Your Student Deal with Dissatisfaction

FirstTerm banner ad

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Log In


Log In to Favorite articles and Post listings

Enter College Name to See Local Results

Log In

Contact Us

Forgot your password?

Your new password has been sent to your email!

Logout Successful!

Find Your School

You just missed it! This listing has been filled.

Post your own housing listing on Uloop and have students reach out to you!

Upload An Image

Please select an image to upload
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format
Provide URL where image can be downloaded
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format
Please enter First Name Please enter Last Name Please enter Phone
Please enter Email
Please enter Message

By clicking this button,
you agree to the terms of use

Please enter Email

By clicking "Create Alert" I agree to the Uloop Terms of Use.

Image not available.

Success, your registration has been submitted

An email has been sent to you with a link to verify your registration
Image not available.
By clicking Get Started or Sign In you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service