Pros and cons of accelerated degree programs

Statistically, a majority of students won't be eligible for three-year degree programs, anyway. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that nearly 60 percent of all students transfer before graduating, and the National Research Center for College and University Admissions reports that more than half change majors at least once -- two options that are completely off the table for students with three-year graduation plans.

"This program doesn't allow any room for error," says Roberson. "(Students) cannot fail a course and graduate in three years."

More work, less time

Those dead-set on graduating in three years should be prepared for extra study hours. While some schools like UNC Greensboro only allow students with a certain number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate credits to enter the three-year program, other schools like Hartwick College in New York require three-year students to take more courses per semester.

"We do not require summer study or online study, but we do require (three-year) students to take one additional course in the fall and the spring, and they take our January term," says Hartwick President Margaret Drugovich. "(Three-year) students should be aware that to get a full degree, they're going to have to put in those hours somewhere."

Along with increased class time comes decreased time for outside jobs, internships and extracurricular activities, factors that could hurt students in the long run, says Gross.

"If you look at the skills that employers want -- critical thinking, problem solving, oral and written skills, teamwork and collaborative skills -- these also come from residential life experiences, community service, participating in athletics, developing into leadership roles within organizations," she says. "If you truncate your (college) experience, you may not develop these lifelong skill sets, which don't often appear overnight."

Before enrolling in a three-year program, students should investigate whether it requires summer courses, online study or additional courses each semester, and weigh that against their current career and extracurricular plans. Extra coursework also requires extra academic support, says Drugovich. Along with researching how to fit the required courses in, students should also examine whether the school offers early registration, specialized academic advising and a guarantee that three-year students will get the classes they need on time.

"If students are well-prepared, focused and thoughtful about their studies, this kind of program can be a great success," says Drugovich. "It's just not for everyone."

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