We enter college under the impression that everything will pan out perfectly and we’ll graduate in exactly 4 years as planned. But little do we know that as time goes by, answers won’t appear on their own. Many of us can admit that at some point in our college careers we got comfortable—a little too comfortable. You blink and next thing you know it’s time to register for your diploma. Crazy, right? For many, this experience becomes complicated once they learn they didn’t acquire enough credits to graduate. But you might just be able to save yourself more than you think!
Read this list of a few ways to boost your credits when falling behind.
It’s disappointing how many college students I met that don’t know about CLEP exams. I was one of them, and if I could go back, I would probably take one every semester. CLEP exams usually consist of 80-100 in a subject of your choice. The exams test your well-rounded knowledge of the subject chosen and if you receive a minimum score of 50, you earn three credits!
“I learned about CLEP exams my junior year and I’m so mad I didn’t know about them earlier. I was able to get credit for Spanish one and two because I scored over 80 on the Spanish exam. They’re also way more cost efficient than taking classes especially those silly prerequisites no one really wants to sit through. CLELP exams saved my butt senior year when I was super behind on credits. I was able to get 9 credits just in exams. Had it not been for the exams I probably wouldn’t have graduated on time,” St. John’s University Graduate Student Isabella Bronco said.
Make sure to check in with your advisor to see which exams you should take. If you satisfied the requirement through another course, you won’t gain any extra credits with the CLEP exam. For incoming freshman looking to graduate early, check in with you advisor and take as many as you can! Seniors need to plan more carefully since they must wait one to three months before taking the test again if you fail. Exams usually cost around $80-$100 but that’s way better than dropping thousands on a course.
Like the CLEP exam, DSST exams provide college credits if you score well on the exams. In some cases, like mine, you must mix the two. It depends on what they offer and what your eligibility allows. Beware, universities tend to accept CLEP exams more than they would DSST. I’m not sure of the reason, but CLEP exams consist of less questions anyway.
“As an English major, I prefer the DSST exams over CLEP exams because they have a wider range of options and you can even opt to just write a few essays to satisfy the credit. Had I known about them right as I entered college, I would’ve banged out most if not all my intro courses with the DSST exams. They’re also a little cheaper than CLEPS. People always look at me crazy but my fellow English majors know that writing a paper is way easier than taking an exam, especially one with 100 questions,” Pitzer College junior Maria Gázos said.
For both exams, make sure you take any required prerequisite beforehand. They sometimes require you to obtain certain credits before you even qualify to take the exam. One last thing to also remember, CLEP and DSST credits only provide you with just that, credits. These credits stand alone and don’t impact your GPA. If you’re looking to maintain your GPA or boost credits without the risk of lowering it, this is your option!
Take the Extra Course
I know, a 6-course semester seems dreadful. But it may be your only hope of finishing on time. If you fall behind, you can take 18 credits and still take exams for college credit while obtaining others from taking classes. It gets tough but, in the end, it proves very rewarding. In the long run, you’ll thank yourself for grinding it out instead of spreading it out and wasting more time and money.
“When I got to college, I could barely figure out what I wanted to do. I started with education, then I switched to English, then business then finally decided on criminal justice. Since I was changing my major practically every semester, I was focused on getting the requirements for that major out of the way. By the time senior year came I hadn’t taken a single art, music, or even an elective in my major. Taking them together my last semester was actually refreshing. I didn’t have to focus on heavy reading, and it was nice to explore my creative side,” St. John’s University graduate student Alicia Ramos said.
Most of the time, we pay so much attention to our required courses, we forget that our schools require electives. On the bright side, electives fall on the easier spectrum of courses. I recommend spreading them out throughout your undergrad. But in the case that you fall behind, remember to get your electives out of the way and you can test your way out of the heavier stuff!
Talk to Your Advisor
When it comes to finding answers about hacks in college, you truly never know what you’ll finesse. Don’t fear your advisors, they want to help you. Explain to them that you fell behind and now hold doubts about finishing on time. The earlier you talk to them, the better. Oftentimes, those silly courses you take your freshman year that have nothing to do with your major, can substitute your missing credits in other areas.
“Going to my advisor was one of the last ideas I had in my head when I was falling behind but it’s definitely the smartest choice I made. It turned out I had a bunch of credits that weren’t applicable to my major since I changed it my freshman year, but she was able to fulfill them as electives on my transcript. It was a such a sigh of relief being that I was already so burnt out and couldn’t imagine having to take extra courses my last semester,” Saint Peters University senior Kaitlyn Fernandez said.
If you changed your major halfway through your college career, some of your introductory courses can replace other introductory courses you’ll have to take. While not all advisors try to work with you, it will surprise you how many of them truly want to see you succeed. Definitely worth a shot!
Did You Take That Already?
We all know universities like being unique, so much so that they rename the simplest courses. Courses you probably took under a generic name at another university or even in high school. It’s important to check if any of your high school, or previous college credit transfer whenever attending a new school.
“I transferred schools my junior year and it was a really confusing time. My school didn’t really make it clear which of my credits would transfer and when it was time to register for classes I was lost because I didn’t know what I had to re-take. I visited the dean’s office and most, if not all, of my credits ended up transferring. I got lucky because it was the last day to switch classes and I could’ve gotten stuck retaking something I didn’t have to,” St. Francis College senior Mellissa Armoa said.
In case you feel lost, ask other upperclassmen or check in with your advisor to see which credits transfer. You can even see which credits you can combine to fulfill other requirements.
Look at the bright side of taking one or two summer courses—they get to the point way quicker! Especially if you fall behind on credits, you probably don’t like taking an overwhelming number of lengthy courses at once anyway. It’s also better than waiting an entire break to fulfill your missing credits. Summer and winter courses are also more condensed than regular courses, so they get to the point quicker.
“I prefer summer and winter courses especially now that they offer them online. They’re usually only about 3-4 weeks and most of the work is just understanding the material and proving that in some form of paper or exam. I like that there’s no midterm and final stress and burnout from being in class twice a week for over 12 weeks,” Lehman College junior Alexandra Alma said.
For those racing to the finish line, taking these extra courses certainly gives you a boost. It also helps if you want to space out your focus throughout your undergrad but remain full-time. Take four courses during the spring and fall semesters and just take one (or two if you just can’t wait to get out into the real world) over the summer or winter. Remain cautious though, these courses tend to cost more than the average fall or spring course.