My Journey to Graduating in Six Semesters

Going going… graduated!

I sat at a desk in front of my beloved 13 inch laptop, my companion through these past three years of college. With my cursor cautiously placed over the send button, I reconsidered my decision one last time. The email I hesitated to send contained a request to change something Berkeley calls your “Expected Graduation Term”, or “EGT” for short. More important than the words in the email was the attachment: a signed and dated form confirming my request to graduate in Spring of 2021, an entire school year early. A week later my request was confirmed.

Once in a while, students decide to graduate early from four-year universities like UC Berkeley. Oftentimes, people don’t know that this is possible! Interestingly, there are few rules about how many semesters you must complete to graduate from UC Berkeley. Instead, there is a set of more specific regulations about how much coursework you must complete to graduate– a subtle distinction. The structure of these regulations (and many major program’s class schedules) results in most UC Berkeley students graduating in four years, or eight semesters. Some a little more, some a little less.

I study Geography, which unlike some majors on campus doesn’t have many prerequisite courses. It also doesn’t require that you complete the three prerequisites it does have in any particular order. As a result, I was able to begin taking upper division courses intended for juniors and seniors in my third semester. For lots of majors, that’s just not possible. Many of my Geography courses not only count towards my major, but also towards distribution aka “breadth” requirements. I started at Cal with about a sixth of the total units (a metric for counting coursework completion) I needed to graduate, which also helped. Having these credits was a point of privilege, since students whose schools don’t offer the AP and International Baccalaureate courses I took lack the opportunity to obtain them.

However, if you are someone who comes in with extra credits and you pick a major where it’s possible, you could end up done with your graduation requirements before four years are up. For me, knowing I could was the biggest factor in deciding to graduate early. Another important reason was that while Berkeley has done an amazing job of helping students find communities online, missing my friends and housemates made me realize that I feel academically ready to graduate, and that leaving behind my friends is what deters me. That said, not everyone feels that way, and not everyone should graduate early! If you think it sounds like a crazy, bad idea for you, it probably is. This isn’t blanket advice, it’s just another option. I am incredibly lucky to have this opportunity, but I had to give up my dreams of double majoring, ascending to club president, and walking across the stage with my friends in order to do it. Still, I know that for me it was the best decision I could make. This Fall I’ve decided to apply to Master’s programs in Europe, where I have close family and have always wanted to attend school. I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I am of the opinion that no matter how many years you’ll spend at Berkeley, they’ll be years you won’t forget! read more