18 Month Bachelor Degree Programs – Fact or Fiction?
If you’ve seen advertisements for 18 month bachelor degree programs, you may be wondering if they are legit.
The short answer: sometimes
The longer answer: if you feel comfortable taking accelerated 6-week online classes, have life or work experience, or if you are comfortable taking 90-minute multiple choice exams to earn college credit, you can significantly reduce your time to completion by choosing universities that leverage these strengths to your advantage.
Latest update: How to get a bachelor’s degree fast
Fiction: 18 Month Start to Finish Programs
There are no zero to bachelors in 18 month programs offered by universities.
There are plenty of 18 month bachelor degree completion programs, but these are for students who already have quite a bit of college under their belt.
If you’re just starting your bachelor’s or have only taken a few classes, you will need to create your own accelerated degree plan to finish faster.
Fact: You Can Earn Your Bachelor’s in 18 Months
Although there are no official “zero to bachelors in 18 months” programs offered by universities, it can be done… you just have to create your own degree plan.
4 Fast-Track Strategies to Finish Your Degree Fast:
- Select a college that gives credit for prior learning (aka credit for life experience)
- Enroll in accelerated online classes
- Test out of as many classes as your college allows (Most colleges will let you test out of 5 to 10 classes)
- Submit a prior learning assessment portfolio to get college credit for what you already know
Accelerated classes are usually 8-weeks, but some universities offer 5-week or 6-week classes.
By enrolling in accelerated classes, you can significantly reduce the time it takes you to complete your degree.
How I used accelerated classes to graduate faster:
During my undergraduate studies, my college offered 8-week online classes. The maximum course load was two classes per 8-weeks. Although that was a pretty good pace, I asked the dean for permission to take three classes per term. This strategy alone will allow you to earn your entire bachelor’s degree from start to finish in about 2.5 years (30 months).
The keys to making this strategy work for you:
- Only consider universities offering accelerated classes
- Stay continuously enrolled
- Take the maximum course load allowed
Since most colleges and universities offer summer programs (many offer two mini semesters each summer), you can accelerate your degree by staying enrolled during the summer months.
Credit for Prior Learning
The primary ways in which incoming students with no prior college experience earn credits in accelerated programs is through work experience, military training, or certifications, as well as credit by examination.
If you served or currently serve in the military, many accredited universities will allow you to earn a certain number of credit hours for your service. This is possible even if you’ve only served for one year. Likewise, if you have fire, safety, or rescue training (as a police officer, EMT, or fireman), you can earn credit hours in courses like Criminal Justice.
The DSST and CLEP exams are the most common ways to earn college credit quickly.
Each exam costs about $80 per exam.
You can earn between three and 12 credits for each exam.
Again, make sure your target school will accept these credit hours before you invest your time and money in them.
Degree Completion Programs
If you’ve already completed a significant number of courses towards a degree, completion programs could easily be considered 18 month bachelor degree programs. These programs are designed for those of you with prior college experience who never finished your degree or who completed an associate degree.
You’ll need to supply a transcript proving you completed those courses and most institutions require you to have received a certain grade (a passing grade of C, for example) in order to receive transfer credit.
If you’ve completed almost all or all of your basic requirements (all of the classes besides those specific to your major and field), you should have no problem completing your degree in 18 months (or less). You will most likely have to enroll in summer classes in order to make this happen.
Sample plan for completing your bachelors in 18 months (with transfer credits)
Here’s a likely scenario: You already hold an associate degree (60 credit hours, which equates to about 20 classes) and the completion program you are researching accepts all of your credits for transfer. That means you need to take another 60 credit hours in order to complete your bachelor’s degree.
Scenario A (traditional, 16-week semesters)
If you begin your course work in the fall (August), you could take 15 credit hours (about five classes, depending on the program) per semester, including a summer semester, and finish the following December. You would then finish your bachelor’s degree in just under 18 months.
Scenario B (accelerated, 8-week semesters)
Most universities offering 8-week terms have five semesters per year. If you take two classes per 8-weeks, that’s 30 credit hours per year. So, you’ll complete your bachelor’s degree in 24 months, not 18 months. If you’re college will allow you to take three classes per term, you’ll easily finish your bachelors in 18 months.
Choosing a Reputable Program
Regardless of which program type best suits your educational needs, choosing a reputable college is essential on your path to a future career.
A few factors to consider when determining reputation:
Accreditation is essential in most fields. If you plan to apply for graduate school, sit for a licensing exam, or find a good job, you’ll need to have earned your degree from an accredited institution. Accreditation can be either national or regional. In most cases, regional accreditation is the preferred standard.
The experience and education of faculty members, as well as the student to faculty ratio is important. All things being equal, it is likely in your best interests to select a university with a lower student to faculty ratio. If your professor has a class of 20, you’re bound to have a better learning experience than if your professor has to divide his or her time with 35 other students.
Academic resources are an often overlooked, but vitally important factor when comparing programs. For example, does the university you plan to attend offer access to online research databases? Or do you have to visit your local library or purchase your own subscriptions to complete your research papers? If you are having issues in your English class, are writing labs available? Quality institutions offer these types of services as the norm, not the exception.
Finally, consider college rankings published by educational news sources and journals, such as the U.S. News National Universities Rankings. It’s not essential that you choose a top-ranked program, but if the institution is ranked, then it is a legitimate, reputable program. If the university is unranked (or has poor reviews), especially if it’s promising 18 month bachelor degree programs, proceed with extreme caution (or better yet, run)!
Make it happen!
Earning a bachelor’s degree takes time and dedication. And like most things in life, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.
While you may not be able to find 18 month bachelor degree programs at your first pick university, you can certainly find programs that will help you complete your degree in less time (and help you on your way to a fulfilling career or graduate school opportunities).