Data: At What Age Do Students Graduate from College?

Data: At What Age Do Students Graduate from College?

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Students graduate from college at different ages depending on enrollment age, how many credits they take per semester, and how many classes they fail. For example, an Associates’ degree takes 2-3 years to complete on average, while a Bachelor’s degree is 120 credits and might take between 3-6 years. So, taking these factors into account, at what age does the average person graduate from college?

Data shows that most people graduate from college with a Bachelor’s degree at age 22-24. However, some students take a gap year after high school, which makes their graduating age 23-25. Furthermore, more than 15% of college students enroll when they are aged 25-35, those students graduate in their 30-40s.

It is common for high schoolers to start applying to colleges starting in their Junior year. Depending on how many credits these 17-year-olds take per semester, they can graduate sooner or later than the average.

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Graduating Statistics

We have gathered statistics about the time it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree and the age at which people enter college. Then, looking at a combination of these two statistics, we can describe the typical timeline of college graduates.

How much time does it take to complete a Bachelor’s degree?

According to the NCES, 44% of Bachelor’s degree graduates complete the degree in 48 months or less (4 years or less). Half of the students that are 23 or younger graduate in 45 months or less (3.75 years or less). Finally, students that start college at 30 or older take more time to get a Bachelor’s degree.

With this information, we can conclude that students who start college when they are 18 tend to graduate within four years, or drop out and continue college later in life. From the statistics, it is clear that the longer you wait to enroll in college, the more time you will take to graduate.

Differences between sex, age, and race

The time it takes to complete a degree can change depending on your sex, age, race, whether you are independent or dependant, and whether you attended a private or public school. Aside from that, in everyone’s personal lives, there are financial situations, health issues, families, and jobs that might delay the graduation date.

First of all, college graduation takes longer for females.

SexNumber of months to get a Bachelor’s degree
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Education statistics indicate that ethnicity significantly influences the number of months it takes to get a Bachelor’s degree.

Race/ethnicityNumber of months to get a Bachelor’s degree
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Finally, students enrolled in a for-profit institution take longer to get a college degree.

InstitutionNumber of months to get a Bachelor’s degree
Private nonprofit45
Private for-profit104
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Some students complete fewer credits per semesters

After high school graduation, some students decide to take fewer credits per semester. If you have health concerns, kids, or anything that can take away your time and concentration during one semester, then it makes sense to adjust to fewer credits for that time. And when there is a semester where your schedule looks light, you can consider taking 12 or more credits.

Taking school at a pace that works well for you to pass your classes is crucial. For instance, if you are getting married during a semester, you are probably busy planning and visiting family and attending different events, so taking 12 credits might be too much for you to handle. But, if you take only the classes you have time for, then you are still slowly but surely heading towards graduation.

Interesting statistics

  • 63.8% of college students who enroll in bachelor’s programs at age 18 years or younger graduate within 5 years (source:
  • The average age for students enrolled full-time in undergraduate programs is 21.8 years old; the average age of part-time students is 27.2 years (source:
  • 2 million college graduates earn bachelor’s degrees every year. About 1.8 million graduate students are enrolled in graduate certificate, master’s, or doctoral programs at U.S. graduate schools (source: National Center for Education Statistics).
  • 1 million college graduates earn associate’s degrees every year (source: National Center for Education Statistics).

Best Graduating Age

The best age for graduating from college is as soon as possible, which for most people is 23-25. The faster you finish college, the quicker you can get job opportunities to open up to you. Once you graduate, you can also apply to jobs you like in the field you studied.

Graduating from college as fast as you can also gives you more time to start paying off student loans. Depending on where you attend college and what programs you are in, you can rack up some hefty student loan debt. So, graduating in the average 4-6 years is a great time frame because the sooner you start paying off your student loans, the sooner you can be debt-free.

How to plan your college graduation speed

If you are a high schooler, and you want to go to college, then plan your semesters out in a way that works for you. For example, if you have a goal to graduate by a specific time or age, then work out how many credits you should take each semester. Planning will help you graduate when you want to.

If you are past the average graduation age and want to return to college, then graduating might take longer than 4-6 years for a Bachelor’s degree. Whether you have kids, a job, or anything else that takes up a lot of your time, you may only be able to take a few credits per semester.

Taking 12 credits is considered to be a full course load. Taking 12 or more credits per semester will get you graduated within 4-6 years. If you have to take around 3-6 credits per semester, then you will be graduating within a longer time frame. Again, for a Bachelor’s, you need 120 credits total, and by taking 3-6 credits every semester, it will take quite a while to hit that 120 credit mark.

Depending on when you start, the best graduating age is whatever gets you done in a timeframe that works for you. If you are straight out of high school and your focus is just on college, then you can graduate fast and have your Bachelor’s by the time you’re 23. If you are returning to college well into your adult life, then you might take fewer classes at a time and work on slowly getting your degree in your 30s, 40s, or 50s.

How to Graduate On Time

Graduating “on time” varies from person to person. Everyone has different things going on in their lives—there are different concerns and issues everyone is dealing with, so evaluate what a graduating goal looks like for you.

It would help if you looked at how much schooling you need to complete your degree. Some people have credits from AP classes in high school, and some have leftover college credits from when they attended years ago. Look at how many courses you need to take and plan out your semesters accordingly.

Figure out which classes you need to take and start arranging them. Most colleges have an online graduation planner that helps you plan your classes. If you do not know where to start, meet with the advising center. Academic advisers can help you schedule classes, make a graduation plan, and more. If you are not sure what you want to study, you can also meet with academic counselors who will be able to help you figure out a plan too.

Take your life into account and think about what occupies your time. How many credits will you be able to handle each semester? If you take too many at once, there is a chance you will not pass some or all of your classes because you are spreading yourself too thin. So, consider the year you want to graduate, the number of credits you will need, and the events in your life to plan out your classes and think about when you should try to graduate.

Remember that the amount of credits assigned to a class helps you determine the time and work needed to pass the class. The level of the class also helps you determine how much time you need to put into the class. A good way to make school easier is to take some 1 and 2 credit courses while taking 3 and 4 credit classes. Mixing up the more challenging and more accessible courses will help you have a mix of different difficulties.

Risks of taking too many courses

College graduation rate decreases for students who take too many courses.

If you fill your schedule with all hard courses, you will be spending all of your time on school and might end up failing some that you would normally be able to pass. Breaking up when you take hard classes can help you balance the workloads better. It can also be fun to take electives that are fun for you to learn about so that while you take hard classes, you have a fun one you can look forward to. Mixing in fun classes is a great way to stay invested in school when you have to study and do homework.

Make sure that any past credits you have taken are applied to your degree. If you have credits you took before starting college or while you were in college, make sure you can apply those to your degree. This can help you cut down the amount of work you need to do to graduate. However, sometimes credits can expire if they are too old, so talk with your university to see which of your past classes still count, and which ones you may need to retake.

If you have determined an appropriate time for you to graduate, then you are ready to get started. Enroll in the classes you picked out and work through them. Every semester you complete is another significant step towards your graduation goal.

If you stick with your classes, you can graduate on time. There is a drop deadline after the first week or two of each semester of college where you can drop classes without penalty. This varies from college to college, but typically there is a timeframe in which you can drop out of a class without it going on your transcript. Before that deadline, determine whether or not the classes you are taking are going to work out for you.

With the drop deadline, you have time to test out the classes you are enrolled in, and you can decide if one or more classes are too much for you. Sometimes the teacher is wrong, sometimes the homework load is too heavy, and sometimes new issues arise in your life that takes too much time away from school. Whatever the case may be, each semester, you can determine if your classes fit your schedule, and you can drop the ones that do not fit.

Final discussion about college graduation time

Life is a rollercoaster that takes you up and down, and it can throw things at you that you didn’t see coming. Because life is unpredictable, you can graduate sooner or later than you planned.

Most commonly, people change their majors at least once. However, it is recommended to take general education classes when you start college for several reasons. Firstly, it helps you get the courses that seem like repeats of high school out of the way. And secondly, it’s a good idea to take classes that aren’t specific to any major so that if you switch your major, you do not lose any credits.

Many people experience life changes during college that can affect the timetable for their graduation. These life changes can influence how much time you have to study, attend classes, and do homework. If you do not have enough time for a class, it is more likely that you will fail it.

If a life change comes up, talk with your teachers about accommodations you may need to help you pass the class. Some professors are more helpful than others but work with them and your school to complete your goal of graduating. When life takes you away from school, it can be hard to stick with it and stay motivated. Find ways to motivate you to succeed in school, and eventually, you will graduate.

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